Solo sailor Pip Hare, author of our Advanced Sailing Series, shares her experiences with Yachting World in this blog
A recurring question left on the comment page of my website
over the last year or so has been the question as to how I am funding this
Running a full time sailing campaign is something many of us
dream of doing, and only a hand full will ever make happen. It requires a
massive amount of dedication, organisation, an ability to globally manage a
project, sacrifice many other aspects of your life and of course in addition it
A mini campaign is an interesting case to study as there is
a sliding scale of funding with which to fund your campaign and I have a
spreadsheet with five different budgets labelled starting with ‘I’ll just make
it to the line’ and ranging to ‘full time racing campaign’.
Regardless of talent funding and management of your budget
do have an end effect on your performance and of course whether or not you even
make it to the line.
Money is not something that I have ever focussed on in my
blogs; I guess I have felt that it’s sort of a tainted subject, it affects us
all and raises most of our stress levels – I am lucky to be doing what I am
doing and no one wants to hear about my financial stresses and strains, they
want to read about sailing and for some it is an escape to a different world
for a couple of minutes.
However I am sure that there are those out there who would
like to make the jump; who dream of doing something else or who are just plain
curious about how I have made it happen. So here it is a guide to a series mini
First of all you need to have a boat; there are three
options here you can buy a boat, you can get a sponsor to buy, lend or give you
a boat or you could charter one.
The average cost of a racing mini all kitted out is between
55 and 62,000 Euros. I bought my boat using my life savings; I have always
lived on a boat rather than a house which has kept the cost of living down a
lot over my life time and enabled me to make this investment now.
I bought a boat that had not been raced so it was cheaper at
the outset but I needed to kit it out to racing spec. For this I have been
incredibly fortunate to work with some amazing trade sponsors who have helped
me equip the boat at minimal cost.
The boat of course will depreciate as you use it but with
racing mini’s of a high standard, as long as you look after them you should get
a chunk of your money back at the end.
Once you have the boat you need to decide where on the
sliding scale your campaign will fall, and this will determine your budget.
Over the two years it is possible to organise qualifying,
training and racing around a full time job, strategically using holidays and
getting extra time off for the big
event itself – the bonus of this of course is that you are able in some way to
keep afloat in everyday life and mortgages, phone bills, road tax can still all
be paid. However the down side is of course less sailing and you often need to
employ others to work on your boat and move it around if you cannot take the
At the complete opposite end of the scale are the full time
professionals, who dedicate their whole lives to training, working on and
racing the boat; this way of running a campaign naturally requires an income
from another source to pay for every day life; either private funds or a salary
from a sponsor. However it is giving the sailor the best chances of success, to
improve their skills, develop their boat; normal life just ticking along ,eyes
and mind focussed on the end goal – a result in the mini transat.
This is never cut and dry and though at the moment there are
quite a few full time campaigns on the track, most of whom I am currently
training with in Lorient; the mini circuit is huge, over 350 sailors took part
in events last year and all of those will have been managing their lives and
budgets in different ways.
For me at the start there was little choice about the work /
sailing balance; I had decided to run a campaign to the transat in 10 months
and that meant I had to qualify by competing in the first races of the season
or risk making all the investment in the boat but not getting to the race.
I had a great kick start training with the Artemis Academy
in La Grand Motte and then after that I was on my own, driving up and down
through Europe busting a gut to get qualified.
To give me the flexibility I needed to make this happen I
took out a personal loan against the value of ‘The Shed’ the Lightwave 395
which has been my home for the past ten years.
This process of qualification took three months and it was
three months where I could do nothing else. But it worked.
Once qualified I returned to the UK with the boat and then
attempted to balance the elements of working as a professional skipper and
sailing instructor, preparing the boat, training where possible and finding sponsorship
to get me through the transat itself.
It’s a fine balance and one which I am sure will ring true
with any other sailors trying to make it work. Do you invest all your time in
the search for a sponsor, so neglecting your training and if you come up with
the funds risking your performance? Or do you train and sail focussing on your
own performance but at the expense of finding the budget to actually get there?
Again it’s that sliding scale and in truth sponsors require
a lot more than just a good sailor to justify their investment in your
campaign, you need to start thinking of yourself and your campaign as a
business and the sailing is just a part of it; like with any business time and
resources need to be split between investing in the assets you already have and
speculating to find others who will invest in your campaign.
Last year I found my balance and until the summer kept
investing in my campaign by taking out further loans against my boat and
working as hard as I could in the interim. In the last two months in the lead
up to the race I was fortunate enough to sign three sponsors, whose injection
of cash enabled me to buy new sails, finish the refit of my boat and get to the
line in reasonably good form.
The trade off had been a complete lack of training over the
summer, in the absence of any programme in the UK I sailed alone in the
evenings and on days I had no work and though I turned up to the transat with a
reasonable mileage in the mini, through 2011 I had no boat on boat training with
other mini’s and this definitely affected my performance.
Fast forward to 2012 and I am now three months into my 2013
transat campaign. My personal funds are all run out; ‘The Shed’ is up for sale
to cover the loans from last years transat and the realms of what I can achieve
on personal funds are very curtailed.
Taking the positive outlook and believing I can make it work
I decided at the beginning of this year that the investment I would make in
myself would be early in the season in the form of training in Lorient with one
of the best mini coaches there is; this has already paid off in spades, my boat
speed has improved I have learned an enormous amount and am on the water with
guys who were in the top five last year; watching them, chasing them, aspiring
to sail like them.
To fund being here I have downsized my life. I rounded up
all of my possessions and identified the things I can live without and have
sold or am selling it all to pay for training and living expenses during the
months of March and April while I will be in France. I am living in my van or
on the mini and think hard about every mile I drive and every item I purchase.
This may seem a little extreme but early season training is
a set up for the whole of the rest of the year; my objective for this campaign
is to improve on the skill I already have, not just to do the miles but to
achieve better results, to increase my level of competition and move forward.
With that goal in mind, a good start to the season is high enough a priority to
demand such a sacrifice.
For the rest of the year the balance will adjust to reflect
the different needs of the ‘business’ adjusting to the circumstances I am in
and heavy on the hunt for sponsors. Without a sponsor I will not be able to
carry on, so strategically I am hoping this early boost to the training will
take me through any lean sailing months ahead where the demands of real life
may keep me off the water.
It’s a complicated equation and of course one that involves
risk. I have risked spending my life savings but at no point will I ever regret
the decisions I have made. One of the great pleasures in life has to be
developing a skill and attempting to excel in that field. Aside from the
immense pleasure I get from sailing in general; to push myself to the limits in
solo sailing and compete at an international level has been one of the greatest
achievements of my life to date, I am proud of what I have done and though I am
determined to carry on with this career if it does not work out I will have no
For anyone reading this blog and wondering when, how or if
they can make the jump in any sport or project my advice would be that actually
taking the jump is the biggest step of all; but it is only a tiny percentage of
people who will get offered a deal without making an initial investment
If you really want to do it then don’t hang around waiting
to be given something; go out and start on whatever terms you can, it may be a
small beginning but at least it is a beginning; your own circumstances and
personal goals will shape the course of your project and whether you succeed or
not, whether you find a sponsor who will invest in your campaign or you go as
far as you can on your own steam, the action of actually trying and investing in
yourself is something you will be proud of for the rest of your life.