TRANSITIONS - MOVING FORWARD IN JULY
In order to move forward with any task in this world, we must evolve and adapt to the changing circumstances around and within us. Adjusting to our environment, acknowledging learnings and setbacks but always looking forward to the next step.
In this way my Vendee Globe campaign has been moving forward and looking back now to the start of my journey I realise there have been some significant transitions over the last two months. I have turned some corners and entered a new phase of campaign.
From first sailing Superbigou in February this year I have been on a path of learning the basics, staying safe and just getting the job done. This ‘discovery’ phase ended with the 2000-mile single-handed Bermudes 1000 race in May. Not only did this race prove to me that I could handle and race an IMOCA alone, but it also showed I could deal with the problems during a race situation. With these foundations laid it was time to move up a gear in my sailing programme. Phase two is about pushing the boundaries, understanding how I can improve the boat, how I can achieve and maintain the best performance and finding the limits of when to push and when to back off.
This next phase of training will take me through to the end of 2019 and will include two races. One is the Fastnet which starts on 3rdAugust and the other the Transat-Jacques Vabre – one of the great Trans-Atlantic races, which leaves France at the end of October bound for Brazil. Both the remaining races this year will be double-handed and I have been lucky enough to team up with World Speed Sailing record holder Paul Larsen for the Fastnet in August.
Sharing this project with Paul has been incredible, just for the few days that we have spoken and sailed I have felt the weight lifted off my shoulders because he knows exactly what I am going through. Paul and his partner Helena strived for years to break the world speed sailing record, they designed and built their boat, they had to chase hard to find the funding, they lived every second of the project coped with disappointment and setbacks and knew that if it was going to succeed it would be through their own perseverance and hard work. It is great to spend time with someone who understands what it is like to be aspiring to compete at the highest level yet restricted by budget and to be constantly juggling many balls, my circumstances are explicitly understood and all solutions and developments made to measure. We are moving forward fast and I am really looking forward to racing in the Fastnet just three weeks from now.
So, what does all of this sail training look like? Because of my time constraints it has needed to be structured and always with a purpose, every time I leave the dock to train in Poole Bay I have a specific objective in mind. At the moment we are working specifically on learning more about sail cross overs and sailing to our theoretical best speeds for any given wind conditions (these are called polars). For the Fastnet I will be carrying eight sails in total – my mainsail and a selection of seven additional headsails all of which are of a different cut and material to suit different wind conditions and angles of sail. One of the key learnings on a new boat is to find out exactly when each sail should be changed and if two sails have an overlap (i.e. either both be used in certain conditions) it is important to learn which sail is faster or easier to handle. The only way these things can be learned is by trying, testing, recording speeds and angles and building a database of information which can be referred back to over time. Every time we go out, I log the data and in this way I am slowly putting together the a framework to really make Superbigou perform.
My sailing is not the only part of the campaign to come of age. Our funding strategy has also been through a significant transition in the last couple of weeks.
I promised when I started this newsletter I would share the whole story, the highs and the lows and I have to admit that pulling together the funding for this campaign really is challenging me in many ways. It’s the hardest thing I have ever had to do, it keeps me up at night, it’s a constantly stretching elastic band of hope and despair and it is brutal.
I am not a natural salesperson, I never have been. I prefer to be judged by my actions than my words and I find it difficult speaking to people I don’t know even more so when I have to sell myself. But I have had to come to terms with the fact that if my race is going to be a success I need to embrace this task and push myself to do these things I fear. Success depends on me learning to confidently pitch my campaign, to sell myself and step out of the shadows.
I have had some amazing help along this path, I’ve had some incredible coaching to help my verbal communication (I’ve got no problem with the written word) and am working tirelessly with my campaign director Chris Adams to create and deliver attractive opportunities to potential sponsors, with the emphasis on what we can offer them.
This process involves a lot of knock backs, of un-returned calls, fruitless meetings, unanswered emails. It’s hard and there are a million reasons to feel despondent. But on a weekly basis we are chipping away at my grand total, and I am discovering that people really do engage with and believe in this Vendee campaign. We are learning a lot about the British Business community and have discovered the most positive reactions come from vibrant, and enthusiastic SMEs (Small and Medium sized Enterprises) who understand what it is like to stick your neck out, and who can directly engage with all that my campaign represents.
And so, as my sailing skills have transitioned so has the funding strategy.
In May we launched my Business Syndicate – in recognition of the fact that there are smaller business’ out there who would love to support an international sporting campaign but do not have the capital to invest in one lump sum. The Business Syndicate allows business’ and individuals to invest in my Vendee Globe Campaign in monthly instalments, benefitting from a range of rewards delivered over the course of the campaign. The rate of return from the campaign matches the rate of investment, the monthly contributions can be made from income instead of capital and all members also benefit from being part of a network and will have multiple opportunities to meet and engage with other members over the course of the next 20 months.
We are offering syndicate members access to the boat, invites to talks and events (including a leaving and arrival party on Poole Quay on each side of the Vendee Globe Race) the chance to donate a talk from me to a youth group or charity via a bi-monthly prize draw, as well as the right to shout about how they are supporting an international British sporting campaign.
The more I thought about the Syndicate the more I like what it represents. I am all about inclusivity, I want to share what I am doing, to open up the world of offshore sailing which can at times seem overly elite and to inspire others to step up to their own challenges. Setting up my campaign I have faced the same challenges that are met every day by business striving to move forward in their own fields. There is a huge amount of synergy between what I am doing and the pathway taken by anyone who is setting up, growing and then excelling in the world of business. I love that this funding model allows me to offer more opportunities to more people, I love that it is the smaller business’ that are stepping up to get the job done. As someone who has never waited for the windfall to land in her lap and has always stepped up and made things happen and I love working with people who have done the same thing.
So, our funding strategy has transitioned and we are now rather audaciously looking to the Business Syndicate to bring in one third of my campaign budget – we aim to recruit 30 businesses by the end of September, we already have seven signed up and the excitement and positivity around creating this community is really infectious.
I am not doing the big sell in this newsletter – this is not what you signed up for - but as supporters of my campaign I would like you to spread the word about how people can get involved. We have launched a new page on my website with full details of memberships – there are two levels – Personal £100 + VAT per month and Premier £250 + VAT per month. Please go and take a look and share the details. I 100% believe this is a great opportunity to be part of something, exciting, positive and unique.
The road to the Vendee is not an easy path, but since launching this campaign just half a year ago we have achieved so much. I have sailed my first qualification race, the boat becomes in better condition every day, we have signed some incredible partners and syndicate members and through hard work and utter determination this campaign is really taking off. Will the next transition see me fly?