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‘Sailing as a crew is a microcosm of how business works.’  

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Corporate sailing underway for the summer with Clipper Events   

Clipper Events recently kicked off its season of sailing with the first corporate event of the year, welcoming Mission Performance and Hult International Business School along with one of their multinational clients for a three-boat regatta. Clipper Events has collaborated with Mission Performance to create unique leadership coaching and development programmes for a number of years, and the first event of the 2024 season was a huge success with three teams taking to the water to test themselves, learn, develop but also have fun. 

Clipper Events focuses on bringing people away from the day-to-day corporate and home offices, and into a totally new environment with the goal of team building and development at its core. Drawing on the ethos of the Clipper Race in introducing people from a wide range of backgrounds to everything that sailing offers, our sail days, led by professional Skippers and Mates, are centred around getting the most out of your team. Whether that’s developing confidence, learning something new, re-engaging your colleagues or building on existing skills that can be translated back to the office environment.  

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Clipper Events tailors sailing experiences to meet the needs of a business. Creating a shared experience by utilising a unique and often challenging environment is the ideal mechanism to forge new conversations enabling both personal and team wide reflection.

Access to record-breaking offshore racing yachts, designed to be sailed by a diverse crew, puts the teamwork element at the centre of everything. Made to be raced around the world, it is impossible to sail these yachts single handedly. The boats act as a distinctive vehicle for businesses to develop their team’s collaborative skills and self-awareness in a group environment, with some extra factors like tide, weather conditions and sea state thrown into the mix. The ocean is a true equaliser, with age, gender or rank in the organisation being irrelevant on the water, meaning that sailing can break down barriers to enable teams to truly gel in a way that cannot be achieved inside an office building.  

Rob Lewis, Founding Director of Mission Performance sums up its programme with Clipper Events:

“With the appropriate facilitation these learning programs afloat can directly translate to a business environment. From the roles adopted to the teams required to sail the boat effectively. There is a direct and visceral connection between how well the team works and how well the boat sails. This live and dynamic real-play on board has led to some incredible learning and transformative experiences for our clients. No other vehicle can combine the inclusivity that sailing allows with the high pressure and performance afforded by Clipper yachts and their professional crew.”  

The sailing day for Mission Performance represents the end of a three day program where strategy formulation meets execution. Teams are taught the basic points of sail and navigation to enable them to plan a strategy that they must execute the following day. Rarely do things go to plan and change is a constant, so beautifully crafted plans are quickly changed in the face of the weather, tides and the reality of sailing a yacht.

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There is a Mission Performance Coach on board whose role is to facilitate the learning and to gently draw out the personal and performance lessons that relate to their leadership practices, beliefs and working environments.

Corporate sail days can be designed entirely by the client or using Clipper Events’ expertise. Mission Performance’s programme is an excellent illustration of how a sail day can be completely tailored to the objectives of the business. For example, their first event of the season aimed to achieve a synergy across a multinational company, with offices around the globe, with three yachts working together to reduce silo mentality between the offices and departments. 

David Briggs, a facilitator at Hult International Business School, who was on board as a Team Coach for the sail day:

“We want our clients to learn about themselves in a totally different environment, and sailing is a great tool for people in all walks of life, particularly within leadership, to practice how to collaborate, and what skills they can use and develop on the water, and bring back to their organisations.  

“The biggest thing for me is how people that don’t know an environment, learn how to lead when they don’t know what to do, e.g. when they are sailing for the first time. This enables them to learn how to lead in uncertainty. On the water, they must have a strategy, which they need to adjust when the real conditions and circumstances change. This translates back into business in so many ways. For example, we project years into the future within business, the degree of uncertainty is increasing, so how do we navigate when we don’t know what to do? We can ask ourselves as leaders, how do we stay resilient and present, as well as being adaptable? These are all things that can be practised on the water and translated back into the office.” 

Neil Twogood, another Coach on board said at the end of the event: “On board we have executive members of a multinational company, with many subsidiaries, that wanted to have a feeling of one company. It was really interesting to see how the three yachts worked together to form a collaborative strategy and then on the water that went into a more competitive spirit about beating the other yachts. There were lots of interesting analogies for organisational life that the participants can take away. It’s time for a beer and dinner before a long debrief tomorrow, and I think there will be a lot of reflection!” 

One of the participants commented: “We had a plan, and it didn’t succeed, so we actually decided to be a bit more adventurous, and it paid off. It was team-building for sure, good for self-awareness and a huge challenge.  

“It was an amazing day. We learnt a lot about team dynamics and each other and how to have your surroundings and task at hand in mind.” 

Whether you are looking to re-engage or reward employees, develop your team’s skillset, or provide a unique learning environment away from the computer screens and boardrooms, Clipper Events can assist. We have a busy calendar of corporate events this summer, book a staff development day with a difference and get in touch today.  

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