40,000 miles Around the World
I’ve never been much of a sailor – motorsports, cricket, hiking and running have been my passions, and always shading to the long-distance endurance side of things rather than a quick sprint. The 24 hours of Le Mans, a five-day test match binge or long distance footpath perhaps, but now I find myself committed to 40,000 nautical miles over 11 months. Gliding across blissful tropical seas, getting tossed through typhoons and hurricanes, leaping over mountainous waves as the boat soars like an eagle followed by the dreadful weightlessness and the inevitable slap back onto the ocean surface. Again, and again and again and again for months on end while you try to sleep, to cook, to navigate, to steer, to trim the sails and keep ahead of the other ten boats.
The Clipper Round the World race isn’t a cruise, it’s a 70-foot boat with a crew of around 20 circumnavigating the globe, from Europe to South America, to South Africa to Australia, to China to the US and back to Europe. All of this while facing constant physical and mental challenges that make almost everything we face in our daily lives seem insignificant.
You might expect this to be a race for grizzled old sea dogs with nothing better to do, but the truth couldn’t be any different. Housewives, bankers, CEOs and students have all risen to the challenge, some taking on a single leg such as Portugal to Uruguay, others committed to the entire circumnavigation, around the world and back again.
After meeting the skipper of our boat, Dare to Lead, and the rest of his crew last week I’m glad I’m not actually sailing onboard. Despite being a grizzled boardroom warrior, our crew are made of far sterner stuff than me so along with Hailing Yu and Dirk van Daele we’ll be cheering our boat from dry land this year.
Daring to Lead
But why Dare to Lead? Because you have to dare to lead, in business, in technology and in round the world races. And after spending time with the crew last week I realised that there not much difference between their challenges and mine.
Leadership takes courage and daring – whether leaving a well paid job to set up a new business or persevering with a technology that no one else can see the potential of. Just like on an ocean-going yacht there are tremendous highs and lows in leadership, basking in the glory one minute, or shrivelling with shame at the opprobrium of your colleagues when it all goes wrong.
But if there’s just one thing I’ve learned from all my time in business it’s that there’s nothing more important than people. Not just having the right people, but being able to lead and inspire them, to give them responsibility and allow them to fulfil their potential regardless of background.
And just like most entrepreneurs, our skipper, Guy Waite, is inspired by all the people who say ‘no’.