Hi Charlie! Welcome back to the race! You did your first Volvo Ocean Race in 2014-15, as skipper of Team Alvimedica. What have you learned from that experience to take into your next campaign?
Well, last edition, we had no clue what we were doing. We didn’t know what we didn’t know. We learned a ton going around the world, and we’ve also learned a lot since the race ended and we’ve had time to reflect on what happened.
Sometimes the only way to learn is through doing. I think last race we did really well, but there are certainly many things we can do better. Whether that’s in terms of team organisation, budget and spending, or just on the performance side, we can make little improvements in many places, and I think the results will go a long way.
You achieved a childhood dream by making it to the start line last race. Has your outlook on the race – or the world – changed, having completed one lap of the planet?
Sailing around the world is very interesting – on some fronts, it makes you feel like the world is very big, but on others, you realise just how small it is. Some of the things you get to see first hand, both good and bad, are really eye-opening.
You get a lot of time to reflect on what’s important to you as a person. We’ll carry those things forward into this second campaign – for example, there’s a lot of waste created in sailing, and to have a second opportunity to improve that means a lot to us personally. Whether it’s the cause of marine debris, or the reduction of single-use plastics, there are lot of things that we’re passionate about which we can’t wait to bring to people.
You’re backed by two major sponsors this time around – Vestas and 11th Hour Racing. They have shared values, which reflect
One of the things we’re trying to do is to leave an impact on the race, and the sport as a whole. There are lots of things we take for granted in our every day lives which can be quite easily improved upon, but have huge environmental consequences.
The things we see in the places we go to need to be seen and documented. They’re natural and full of intrinsic beauty, and we’re obliged to help save them.
11th Hour Racing has a very unique name, it references the 11th hour, and it's clear what that means. The fact is, we're in it right now, if we don't change our way of thinking, the planet is going to be a very different place in the not too distant future.
How good is the Volvo Ocean Race as a platform to highlight issues like sustainability?
I think this race is an amazing microphone. It’s a unique platform to tell the world about your messages – and what better message than sustainability?
We seek to promote sustainable practices in the sport of sailing – whether that's championing the causes of marine debris, whether it's eliminating single-use plastics, or a general reduction in a team's carbon footprint, it's a strong message and an easy message to get behind.
Aside from driving awareness by putting in a great performance on the water, how are you planning to activate around the area of sustainability?
It’s early days, but we’ve discussed Exploration Zones in Host Cities, which are hands-on experiences for younger visitors to the Race Villages. There'll be a lot of interaction with classrooms around the world, and we’re aiming to have Ocean Summits at a variety of stopovers and broadcast our messaging to different parts of the world. We’re looking to inspire future generations. It's only natural to gravitate towards a younger audience and fan base, and that is something that excites us.
Personally, you’ve changed a lot since you announced your participation with Team Alvimedica. You’re now over 30, a father, with another baby on the way. Does that affect your motivation to return to the race?
No, not at all. A lot of people talk about the Volvo Ocean Race drug, and it’s a bit cliché, but in my experience, it's not far off that. It's definitely an addiction. Competitive people are always looking for ways to improve, and we think that to not have another crack at it would be an injustice. But for sure, the Volvo Ocean Race has changed me. I've learned a lot, not only on the water, but off the water – interacting with people, the importance of family. This race changes your perspective on things, and all in a good way.
You guys won the final leg of the 2014-15 edition into Gothenburg, and then it was all over. Did you feel like you got going too late?
We definitely feel like we have unfinished business. We still have a lot to prove, and we can improve on the performance of last time. For me it's about waking up every day with one goal. That's important, and the Volvo Ocean Race presents that opportunity.
In your opinion, what’s the key to Volvo Ocean Race success?
To win this race takes a good group of people, experience, a bit of luck, and a lot of time invested. You have to be willing to give every inch of yourself for nine months at a time. For sure, it’s one of the best tests of a team out there.
What’s the one thing that you would change about your approach this time?
Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing did an amazing job last time, and that’s because they were really efficient, they had a great group of guys, and they didn’t waste a second. I think they sailed pretty conservatively, had faith in their skill set, and put themselves in relatively low-risk situations. They were consistently there, leg in, and leg out. For me, it’s all about process – if you get that right, then the results will come.
You’ll shortly be setting out to build a squad which is capable of challenging for the Volvo Ocean Race trophy. What would you say to other world-class sailors who might join your campaign?
I think the pitch is simple: we did a lot with a little last time, we turned enough heads given our inexperience, and we’re trending in an upwards direction. We want the best sailors to hop on board.
We're coming at this race from a totally different perspective. We have one under our belts, we have a more seasoned group of title sponsors, and we have shifted the goalposts in terms of expectation. We're trying to surround ourselves with fast, experienced sailors – we know that nothing in the Volvo Ocean Race is more important than the team. Our result is going to be a direct result of the people we surround ourselves with.