In the first of a new, regular series, ‘At the Helm’ charts the latest developments from across The Race Around as it continues to build towards its first global Class40 yacht race in September 2023.
Co-Founder and Managing Director Sam Holliday lifts the lid on life preparing for such an event, discussing the latest movements across all aspects of race organisation, sustainability, commercial activity and more.
It may be just over two years out from The Race Around’s inaugural staging, but there’s no let-up from the team as they move towards the final third of 2021…
THE LAY OF THE LAND
Two years down, two to go. It never ceases to amaze me how time flies when you’re having fun, and just how little there is left when you’re responsible for staging a new race that’ll be the pinnacle of the Class40 Championship whilst faced with the uncertainties of life!
That said, the excitement doesn’t dwindle. We’ve got it all to look forward to, with Class40 absolutely booming at the moment. Right now, a record number of boats are being launched, designed and put on the water, and it’s giving us a real buzz for what’s to come.
From a race preparation point of view, we at The Race Around couldn't be much happier. We can always be further ahead, but we’ve used our time wisely amid the backdrop of a pandemic to build out the most intuitive, worldly behind-the-scenes team – across marketing, sustainability and race direction. We’ve been planning, building and understanding as much as we can.
Organisaton wise, we’ll be in a position to confirm a lot of details over the next few months. Be that host cities, full course confirmation and the notice of race, which will be published on 24th September with two years to go until The Race Around. We’ve had lots of meetings in the last month with the various bodies and officials and, while there’s still a bit to confirm, we can rest assured we are going to be an event that elevates the Class to a new level internationally whilst continuing the upward trajectory of bringing new and innovate ideas to our sport.
Alongside announcing and publishing the Notice of Race, we’ll be officially opening our registration. Competitors looking to enter and compete in The Race Around will be able to officially do so, and I think it's safe to say that upon releasing we will be able to announce a couple of key teams who’re entering. We’ve got a significant amount of interest from some big players in our sport and it’s only getting stronger as we prepare to have an internationally competitive fleet of sailors across our solo and double-handed categories – totalling 35 boats.
Those who know us will also know the efforts that go in across our sustainability vertical, too, where things have certainly ramped up of late.
We’re delighted to confirm we’ve just signed an agreement with a Swiss-based company called Quantis (more on that very soon!) who will really bring to life our sustainability plan through preemptive lifecycle analysis. They’ll help us firstly with the race itself and its impact as we go around the world – be that across logistics, hotels, flights and sponsor activations, right down to looking at current Class40 boat builds – and benchmarking against where we are today, so we can understand eco design and eco conception to build the boats of tomorrow in a fully cradle-to-cradle recyclable way.
In short, it’s all very exciting. That’s not to say it doesn’t take it out of you – more on that shortly – but it’s all part of the fun. Or so I’m told!
YOU NEVER LOSE IT
Upon writing, I've just come back from almost a month in France where I've been working alongside Emmanuel Versace, The Race Around's French representative, as a co-organiser of the PURU Challenge Race.
It's a new race for Classe Mini which starts in Port Bourgenay and heads to Getxo in Spain and back – around 600 miles all up. We had 74 boats in total and it was just fantastic to get involved with the Class, which really is becoming a feeder to Class40.
It was great to make some good connections with younger skippers out there looking to really progress in their careers and fantastic to build relationships with other ocean racing classes. The Race Around is our figurehead event, but we can't forget that we run other offshore racing events too.
I think the other thing that was really important for us was getting back to the bread and butter of our race organisation lives. We've been sat behind a desk for far too long, but we've now remembered that we're actually pretty good at what we do. To be honest, it's been a little bit of a confidence booster!
With 74 boats and 110 competitors across 600 miles – even though not a round-the-world race – it’s just as complicated and, in many respects, somewhat more so given the little intricacies associated to a class with no engines or real form of communications whilst at sea. But Classe Mini and its spirit is fantastic. We've made some friends for life and been reminded why we do this. The tapas was good in Spain as well!
With our Race Around hats back on, it was certainly good to use the time in France to our advantage. We met with two cities to discuss the hosting of The Race Around and conversations are continually moving forward albeit under the continual yet improving cloud of the pandemic.
The other thing we were able to do was sit down and have a few conversations with several of the different governing bodies about how things are going and different developments, with us looking to secure ourselves as the pinnacle of the Championship. We're very lucky that Class40 has known us for 10 or 11 years now. That relationship, as it is with World Sailing, is established and well understood, but with the likes of the French Federation it's a relationship that's new and is developing. I think proving to them through the successful running of a Mini Gasconga presents an opportunity to show that although we’re ‘the new kids on the block’ we know what we're doing and that we've got good people doing great things.
EXPANDING THE FAMILY
The sailing commercial market is in an interesting place at the moment. You certainly want to be a sponsor as opposed to a rights holder, in my opinion. There are deals to be done out there but more than ever you’re pitching for the same budgets.
There seems to be a lot of sponsors looking to invest. The Vendée Globe was a huge help with regard to highlighting what we as a sport can do and the move towards more digital activation is one that suits a sport that spends 95% of its time out of sight of its global fan base. It was one of the only international sporting events to continue during the height of the second lockdown. It allowed a lot of people to dream and brought a lot of eyeballs to the sport.
As for us, we’re in a pretty good place. Earlier this summer we were able to announce a partnership with Ocean Bottle, who perfectly align to what we do. They're an innovative company that looks for solutions to problems. They have a very similar mindset to us with regard to what they're doing with real sustainability that can be measured, understood and touched. It's a partnership we're really excited about and one that will only grow.
We've also signed an agreement with a lifestyle apparel company called Uncommon Ltd, who again specialise in genuinely sustainable creation of its products – replica kits, lifestyle and event-based clothing. Their approach to sustainability and to cross-sector relationships is unparalleled. From the moment we got talking to them, we knew this was going to be something that we absolutely wanted to do. They have a fantastic policy with regards to the sourcing of any textiles used and eco design is implemented from day one. There's a real understanding around the issues that the fashion and textiles industry has faced and they have a completely transparent process.
This partnership also allows us to continue that message of genuine circularity throughout all that we do. We can't talk about circular events or circular boats without going the whole hog. In Uncommon, we continue that as they get set to provide lifestyle and equipment for The Race Around. Our other partners will also work with Uncommon for the supply of materials and fabrics. It’s a real partnership family that are coming together to produce things of significant note in a sustainable and transparent way.
Last but certainly not least on partnerships and sponsorships, we're delighted to have confirmed an innovative partnership with Connecting Talents (again, more info dropping shortly!) – a talent-sharing platform based upon understanding who people are, their natural drives, what makes them tick and pairing them with opportunities with like-minded people.
This will allow us to really concentrate on several of our key Futures Programme pillars, particularly diversity, as we not only aim to diversify who is involved in off-shore yacht racing, but look to find more people for new and innovative sustainability roles across the job market.
One of the things we'll be doing through Connecting Talents is linking university students and other interested parties with the ability to collect data for our lifecycle assessments of competing boats, to really understand where we are. From that, we'll be able to work with them to engage experts on a global scale to look at how we extrapolate that data, how we break it down from procurement, build and recycle phase.
On a wider scale, Connecting Talents will help us to reach a new audience, successfully manage volunteers as we move around the world and be key to people actively engaging with a race beyond being a fan or living The Race Around experience at home.
Over the coming weeks and months, we’ll be continuing to develop and find tangible new commercial relationships similar to this. We're very much open for business and committed to building the foundations of a commercially successful global sporting event.
Images: Thomas Deregnieaux Photography