Created: 24 Nov 2010 15:53
Updated: 24 Nov 2010 18:21

Alex's account of his trip round the world as part of the 2004-05 World Global Challenge aboard team Stelmar a 70 foot steel boat was both inspiring and awe-inspiring. He was speaking at the Clubnight lecture on Tuesday 23 November. His next campaign involves an innovative sponsorship idea in which the 'man in the street' funds the boat ( Read the full story and watch a video clip of the People's Boat campaign here...Starting with a crew of 18 strangers after 10 months of discomfort, hardship and danger they gelled, he said, by the end of their voyage into a tightly knit team of close friends  After an initial introduction to the team which included LSC member Susan Lyons, a physio and a GP, Interestingly Alex only mentioned in passing that they won the leg from Boston to La Rochelle and hold the world speed record, but gave a graphically detailed account of the second leg of their voyage from Buenos Aires, Argentina,  to Wellington, New Zealand; where they faced the most challenges round the Horn.

Just before they left BA one of the watchleaders unexpectedly gave up and returned home, leaving them one man down.  They set off with and had high hopes of winning the leg as they approached Cape horn as one of the leading 3 boats.  Unfortunately another crew member fell ill, so they had to return to Puerta William  to transfer her to hospital.  They returned to the race, this time short of 2 crew and at the back of the fleet of 12 boats.  They continued through the icy waters and air temperatures of – 20 and were hugely encouraged as they clawed their way up the fleet to 5th position after 5 days only to suffer to a third set back.  This time one of the guys on the foredeck had been flung across the deck by a huge wave and had virtually snapped his arm in two.  They could only make him “comfortable” on board and were advised over the radio that he would need an operation within a week.  Wellington was at least 2 weeks ahead of them, so they we obliged to return to South America yet again.

At this point,with only 15 crew, they knew they had no hope of completing the leg in a competitive position and were now separated from the rest of the boats.  The race oganisers advised them  to retire from the leg and to motor sail north to warmer, safer waters.  However, to retire would leave them unplaced and , effectively in 13th position.  So they decided to sail the course.  A good decision it turned out.  One of the lead boats, within 2 days of the finish retired as one of their crew had to be helicoptered off with suspected suspected appendicitis.  Stelmar was placed 11th on that leg and came 7th over all.

Alex and Paula's book Boat to Boardroom describe what they learned on the trip and how lessons learned at sea can be transferred to an office environment. They cover logistics, team and challenge psychology amongst a host of other matters.  Example on Stelmar they had a team mantra:  Safe Happy and Fast.

Alex is a professional sailor and up for more challenges.  This time he is looking at competing in Josh Hall's Class 40  challenge going west to east.  The boats look like oversized laser dinghies with a tiller. They are very, very light with transferable water ballast.  This time there will be just two of them, Alex and Dave Thompson so the emphasis will be on fast. They plan to hand steer for much of the time, as it will be faster. They are looking for sponsorship and devised a new way which explains “The People's Boat” title. They hope to get a third of the funding from the 'man or woman in the street', as it were.  The hull has been divided up into 2 inch squares which they are selling at  £25 each.  If you buy one, your photo will go on the hull. The Club has already booked some space and on Tuesday evening individual members were buying at the end of the evening.  They are also looking for a commercial sponsor for the remaining two-thirds of around £450,000. and will sell the boat upon completion of the race with a view to donating most of the proceeds to a charity.


If you want to know more go to the People's boat website: