Pursuing the dream

Landon Cormie talks about what it’s going to take to get to the Olympics.


I first met Landon Cormie when I was researching a story on Vineyard kids going to school at Falmouth Academy. Landon, a senior from Tisbury, stood out for a couple of reasons. He had taken time off from F.A., and was just returning from studying in Sweden, plus he was campaigning for a spot on the U.S. Olympic sailing team.

On a frigid January afternoon, Landon walked over to The Times office from the ferry terminal in Vineyard Haven wearing a fleece jacket and a stocking cap pulled snugly over his ears to protect him from the wind, and told me that for about as long as he could remember, his life has revolved around sailing.

Growing up on the Island, he had always had a fascination with boating, fishing, surfing, and all things aquatic. But a turning point in his life came when at the age of 5 his parents enrolled him in sailing classes at the Vineyard Haven Yacht Club, and Landon took to it in a big way.

He not only loved being on the water, he loved the competitiveness of racing, and from the minute he first set foot on a sailboat, he knew that ultimately he wanted to sail for the U.S. Olympic team. Admittedly, it was a presumptuous dream for young Landon, but that’s the thing about dreams — you just never know where they might take you.

Landon had some friends at the Yacht Club who were excellent sailors, and he went to his parents and asked them how he too could raise his sailing game. His mother, Bernadette, runs food services at the high school and his father, Leigh, is an agent for the Steamship Authority, so it’s not exactly like they were to the manor born.

But the family did some research, and found a team of kids in Portsmouth, R.I., called FAST (Fort Adams Sailing Team), who, Landon said, “were on another level than the kids at the yacht club,” and when Landon asked if he could join the team, his parents said, “Sure, why not?”

“My parents have always been committed to helping my brother and I however they could in any of our pursuits,” Landon said. Landon’s older brother, Lachlan, is equally passionate about crewing, and has competed in England’s Henley Regatta, sometimes called the Super Bowl of crewing.

Landon remembers the first time he worked out with the Portsmouth kids. “They eventually just gave me that spark on how to race and read the water, and how much I could learn simply by being on the water, whether I was free-sailing, fishing, surfing, or simply being on the deck of the ferry and seeing the way the ‘albies’ [false albacore] were breaking on the shoals — all these things can teach you and push you on a more competitive path,” he said.

At the Vineyard Haven Yacht Club, Landon had been racing Optimists, a small, single-handed one-design sailing dinghy intended for use by young people up to the age of 15. And he continued racing Opties in Portsmouth, but as he got older and his racing world expanded globally, he became proficient in more racing classes as well.

His first internationally competitive race was when he was 8 and he competed in the O’pen BIC Worlds in Miami. Today, Landon is 19, and he told me that he’s probably been to 25 or 26 countries at this point in his life, not to mention regular trips to Miami to compete with sailors at the U.S. Sailing Center. All this travel has not only added to his sailing résumé, it’s added to his life résumé as well, as he was often thrust into situations beyond his years. “When I was younger I would travel with my parents,” he said, “but recently, whenever I go out of the country, it’s like, I’m just on my own.”

When he was 12, Landon sailed in the 2016 O’pen BIC World championships at Saint-Pierre-Quiberon on the coast of France. “I went to France by myself, and I stayed with a family I’d never met before,” Landon said.

When he was 14, Landon was chosen to represent the U.S. in the 29th International Palamos Optimist Trophy Championship in Catalonia, and he was offered a spot on the 38-member U.S. Olympic Development Team.

Landon also spent a good deal of time sailing in New South Wales, which in a way felt like a second home to him since his father was from Australia, and had competed in sailing and rowing while he was growing up. And then there was the time that Landon was introduced to the 49er and 49er FX class boats in Oyster Bay, Long Island, that would change the way he looked at sailing.

“That, in my personal opinion,” Landon said, “is like the pinnacle of high-performance sailing — it’s like a sleigh ride.” It’s also very athletic, almost gymnastic, with the sailors hanging over the side of the boat from trapezes to balance the boat. The 49er would also be the boat that Landon would choose to pursue in his quest for the Olympics. But making the Olympic team wasn’t going to happen without a good deal of preparation, and when Landon was 17, he and his family came up with a plan.

Their original plan was to use Sweden as a home base and take advantage of the superior competition for 49ers in Europe, reaching out to race in Greece, Spain, Germany, and the Czech Republic, and he became a member of the Royal Gothenburg Yacht Club, where he sailed 49ers on the weekends.

Landon enjoyed living in Sweden, but it was not without its challenges. He got there and Sweden closed their borders because of COVID, so he couldn’t leave Sweden and come back into the country unless he went through Iceland, Norway, or Denmark.

Landon enrolled in a Swedish high school; he was the only American English-speaking kid there. Among his greatest challenges was having to learn calculus in Swedish, which, he said, “was a nightmare.”

Landon returned to Falmouth Academy in the fall, and will graduate this spring. But Landon explained the road ahead is still very much a work in progress.

“I’m still a toddler in terms of sailing,” Landon said. “I’ve definitely accomplished a lot in my career, but I’m still just nipping at the heels of my competitors. Most of these guys are older, have advanced through college sailing programs, and are physically bigger and stronger.” But don’t count Landon out. In the fall he’s enrolling at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, and they’re ranked fifth in the country for sailing, just behind Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth, and Brown.

The immediate plan is for Landon to bring his 49er down (It’s currently in his backyard) to the U.S. Sailing Center in Miami to compete in the spring, and then bring the boat back to the Vineyard, where he will compete in the summer. “I’ll be joined on the Vineyard by my crew, Rodrigo Prado,” he said. “His dad owns a respected yacht brokerage company in Monaco, and he has offered me a temporary job selling yachts for him, which should help with expenses.”

Beyond this summer, the Summer Olympics will be held in Paris in 2024. “But most likely I’ll skip that,” Landon said; “It’s just too much too fast.”

A more realistic goal is Los Angeles, where the Olympics will be held in 2028. Timing-wise, that will fall right after his graduation from St. Mary’s, and give Landon four more years of preparation. But as Landon is quick to emphasize, “This is not going to be easy — the competition is just too fierce.” But as a fallback, the next Olympics will be held in Brisbane, Australia, in 2032, which gives him another shot. Just saying.