CSM has a think about what really matters to Spartan.
Since the very first day I sat down to write the business plan for Spartan it has been my personal dream to find a way to ensure that what we do has a positive net result for the community- whether that is purely here in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, in the diverse environment of the world sailing community or on some larger international stage.
It has been difficult however, in the past few years to put aside my own guiding values and interests and be purely ‘the racer’ or ‘the business man’ and stay true to the plan of creating a solid framework on which to later build a company that could give equal consideration to financial and charitable goals.
In life the view of the finish from the start line is always quite hazy and how the day will be won is for me, often shrouded in doubt and misunderstanding. With any new development to our operating principles there are considerable real world risks and many logical reasons to ignore the winds of change and just stick to what we know and what pays the bills.
So, where does this insatiable desire to rock the boat come from? Well, before Spartan I worked for Outward Bound and anyone who knows me is at this point rolling their eyes because they have heard this tale a thousand times before. For the 1,001th time many moons ago I worked for Outward Bound in Hong Kong and despite the very low wage, incredibly long hours, lack of running water and often crappy food it was undoubtedly the best job I have ever had.
300 days a year come rain or shine (or in HK’s case come 100% humidity, 36 Celsius and mosquitoes by the swarm) we were out in the hills (HK is 43% National Park) or out on the coastal waters taking participants beyond their comfort zones, beyond their limitations and returning them to their lives at the end of the week, fortnight or month with a totally different view of what they were capable of. The fact that anyone put money in my account to cover beer and rent at the end of the month was only a secondary thought for me – I just worked like a dog and loved it.
But surely such things are not meant to last, right? One day you have to grow up and smell the bank manager’s plastic pot plants and get a real job that pays for everything and put away worrying about how it makes you feel to do your job- Right? Can you do something charitable and still keep the lights burning? Well yes, I think, sort of, maybe….
What I learnt in HK is that the key is to have solid economic foundations, built in longevity in your infrastructure and be wise to the forces that will act upon you once you are on your new course. Otherwise the charity aspect is a flash in the pan that soon fades and with it the positive effects it created.
If I am honest with myself I would love to find a way to be as passionate about work once again. I love working with Spartan I know I would have dramatically increased energy, creativity & time available to complete the multitude of tasks that running a business includes and that always seem to need completing right now and for which the day just does not seem to hold enough hours. More than that I think to survive as a ‘grown up’ what I can not afford to do is ignore my inherent need for passion in my work. As Sterling Hayden said,
“Which shall it be: bankruptcy of purse or bankruptcy of life?”
So, what’s the plan? A month or so ago we forged a new partnership with Sail 4 Cancer a UK based charity that gets people out on the water in all manner of craft- from dinghies to tallships and gives them an opprotunity to shake off the heavy cloud that is Cancer for a day, a week or maybe just a few hours and do something that reminds them that there was life before their diagnosis and that there is lots of fun and self discovery to be had in the here and now without worrying one bit about tomorrow.
Sailing is a pursuit that embodies the problem-solver spirit, the need to maintain a long term positive mental attitude, respect for the forces that push and pull you on the water and the grit that allows us to pass through the eye of the storm when logic dictates that we can not. Similarly living with cancer is about fostering a passion to endure; surviving bereavement is about problem-solving every damn day until one day it hurts just a little bit less. Caring long term for someone with cancer is about taking the breaks when you can get them and maintaining your sanity until the worst has passed.
Therefore to me cancer is like the ocean, the weather and the challenges that we face as sailors- we’re not always expecting to ‘win’ just survive by wit, wisdom or whimsy through to calmer waters. I believe sailing has lessons to impart to those for whom difficult personal circumstances are a challenge and as always sailing has much to gain from inviting new people out on to the water.
Sail for Cancer has made 56 YEARS of sailing available to cancer patients, survivors and carers in the past 18 years (if you add up all the individual days each individual beneficiary has experienced). That is absolutely incredible. The patrons of the charity are Sir Ben Ainslie, Andrew Pindar & Dee Caffari and the testimonials on the website speak for themeselves. Having lost my own father to brain cancer in 2012 and having seen the fun and the release of pressure even a few hours spent on the water meant to him I am certain that helping with this fantastic cause is the direction Spartan must go in 2018.
Our plan is that one boat will continue doing all of the voyages and races we already compete in – including the Atlantic Canada Discovery Voyages that are new this year. The other boat ‘Charger’ will complete the Vic-Maui Race in July and then return to the Atlantic where she will begin on a corporately sponsored charity program in partnership with Sail for Cancer that will put 500 people on the water in the first year alone. We already have two partners on board and have the enterprise half funded and anyone interested to learn more and receive a tax receipt for doing so can email me and read the proposal I put together that is already breathing life into this project.
Who knows what tomorrow holds for any company, individual or great idea? Who can divine the forces that may pitch pole our plans tomorrow? All I know is that to reach my own potential as a person I have to help in some way other people reaching theirs.