“Racing is the absolute antidote to work life, because it requires you to be in the moment. When I am on my race boat, helming upwind to the top mark, rounding it and setting the spinnaker, I cannot think about anything else. I can only fix on getting the best speed and wind angle, as there are 20 sailors on board, mostly professionals, expecting me to do my best. Some I have sailed with for quite a few years and they know when I’m not focused and will tell me.
I bought the Maxi 72 in 2017: she is a 16-tonne Judel/Vrolijk design and came with a great pedigree, having won the Fastnet twice and the Sydney-Hobart under her original owner, the Swedish sailor Niklas Zennström. I had been racing in the TP52 fleet, but a lot of America’s Cup teams became involved with big chequebooks and so I thought I would leave the circuit for a while and try something else. I wanted to do some offshore sailing and some regatta sailing and this Maxi ticked all the boxes. I renamed her Sorcha – my wife Claire is Irish and sorcha translates as “clear”. Sorcha is exciting – but not difficult – to sail. In a similar way to moving up from dinghy sailing to a TP52, it’s just an increase of power and you have to be a little bit more sensible.
I also have two French-built Tofinou boats (a classic design from the Ile de Ré); one is kept on the Isle of Wight and the other on Lake Geneva where we live. The latter is named Jolt – the initials of my children Jasper, Orla, Lucy and Tilly. We have raced Jolt in the Bol d’Or on Lake Geneva, and in the Tofinou fleet in Mediterranean classics like Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez. My daughter Tilly raced Jolt last year and won her class in the Régates Royales de Cannes and in the Saint-Tropez. I have never won either of them.
I love being on the water: I started windsurfing in my teens and always had boats for fishing, wakeboarding or waterskiing. Then a friend visited us on the Isle of Wight where I have a house, sailing over from Hamble in a Tofinou. Two weeks later I bought one and started sailing. I bought a Baltic 45 in 2012 because I had a dream that I could cruise and race successfully, but you can’t – it’s a compromise. It was a nice introduction to the bigger boat fleet, but I realised the only way to race is on out-and-out race boats, so I moved on to a TP52 in 2014.
Last year, we came third in the inshore race of the Giraglia at St Tropez on the 72. Best, though, was this year at St Barth, where Sorcha was the winner of both Maxi classes and overall winner of the whole regatta. We had ex-Olympians and America’s Cup sailors on board and at the end of the final race, everyone said: ‘It ain’t going to get better than that’.”