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Crazy Canadian Kids

Crazy Canadian Kids

Canadian Ocean Racing Co-Founder Meghan Reilly tells the story of an audacious attempt by a group of young ex-Clipper Race crew to put together a Vendée Globe campaign. 

We got a boat. An Open 60, to be exact. So all we had to do now was build a team, a fan base and the credibility and respect to mount a Vendee Globe campaign. How hard could it be?

Perhaps it was a residual high from our Clipper Round the World Race win just months earlier that made us think we could do it. Maybe it was that our skipper at the time was soon to be named Canadian Rolex Sailor of the Year. Or more likely it was that Millennial disease of unapologetic and unfounded optimism that warranted our shameless pursuit of such a lofty dream.

Whatever it was, we thought that a bunch of young Canadians could just show up to the IMOCA scene and be accepted. Oddly enough, we were, but not without a year of fighting to barely make it to the party at all.

At the beginning of 2015, John Curtis, the President of Wind Athletes Canada, presented us with the opportunity of a lifetime. The deal was simple: we could campaign the Open 60 O Canada, providing we fixed her up, delivered her safely from Vancouver to Toronto, and raised enough money by the end of the summer to race her. Sounds simple, but easier said than done.

We first saw our new boat at the end of February 2015.  The Open 60 looked out of place in the quiet, unassuming marina 20 km outside of Vancouver. She had sat there untouched for years after being mothballed at the end a random, second-chance Trans-Pacific campaign. A 2008 Vendee Globe retiree she was in the wrong decade and the wrong side of the planet to be considered viable for another IMOCA campaign. But you know what it’s like when you’re young and don’t know any better - you’ll take what you can get.

Our objective was to play the strengths of our youth and try to strategically cover our weaknesses. The success of the Mark Zuckerbergs of the world made us think we could shoot for a multi-million-dollar campaign. But what about those senior executives we would be hitting up for some hard cash? Would they respect our colloquial dialogue and casual ways, or get hung up on our youth and fail to take us seriously?

So we did what we knew best. We created an image. One that certainly portrayed a young team bootstrapping an IMOCA60 campaign, but also one that purposefully left out the quirks and pitfalls of a group of twenty-somethings trying to blindly run an international racing campaign. 

We launched with a bang. We had a professional looking website that said just enough about a campaign that really wasn’t much at all. We also somehow snagged one of the best web handles out there — @oceanracers — and off we went doing what us kids know how to do best: social media.... READ THE FULL ARTICLE

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