Pedalling my wares at the boat show
In a recent blog by Zetteler I was called out as bonkers. It’ll come as no surprise that I get this a lot – and that was before I started funding my race with bottles of sweat!
I spent a day last week selling my bottles of Une Heure at the Southampton boat show. It would have been rude to try and sell to visitors so I was pedalling my wares to the stall holders and the boat manufacturers. Approaching hard nosed salesmen who sell boats for a living wasn’t at all easy. I was called bonkers a fair number of times that day. Not least because the race I am doing doesn’t permit their boats to enter (with the exception of Rustler) and we aren’t allowed any electronics. This probably ruled out over half of the businesses there. But what I am trying to do with my race can apply to any business so I wasn’t going to let this stop me.
The regular casual accusation that I’m mad does make me a little uneasy. A couple of people very close to me have suffered from mental health difficulties. Also I am faced with the very real problem of how to stay sane for 9 months on my own at sea. I have recognised this as one of the biggest challenges of the GGR from the outset – rudder failure, keel failure, rig failure and crew failure! It’s why I decided to use this race to advocate how important fulfilling work is to our health. My GGR is about staying healthy because I can get some satisfaction from sailing the boat – doing my job – well. It connects to some simple things that we all need. The GGR isn’t going to be easy or pleasant. Cycling in the Labour Harvester is pretty grim work as well. I admit that I’m putting myself under considerable psychological strain. That doesn’t mean I’m mad – it just means there is a risk. One that I am acutely aware of and that is very much part of my campaign.
Sometimes when I’m called bonkers (especially when it’s accompanied by a raised eyebrow) I suspect it’s because they don’t relate to what I’m doing and are keen to quickly file me away under the category of crazy. Sadly my fellow countrymen at Southampton reliably gave this response. First of all the concept of the GGR was completely alien to many of the reps I spoke to. It clearly grated against the values of the modern cruising/racing industry. It was regularly dismissed as a rally rather than a race, one salesman called it the Jester Challenge on steroids! When I pulled out my handmade bottle of sweat I feared I was about to try to put out these flames with gasoline.
None were impolite though (apart from the occasional glances at their watches while I was talking). All gave me contacts for their marketing departments or their CEO and wished me well. What audible mutterings they had amongst themselves afterwards is of little concern. There is something typically English about recoiling from enthusiasm, especially enthusiasm for something unfamiliar.
Any company that sold serious offshore sailing kit, and weren’t huge (which by definition is most of them as not very many people actually sail offshore), were immediately on board and encouraging. They got the race straight away. The bottles of Une Heure were part of that and were usually considered and respected as symbols of my determination to participate in this event. US manufactures at the show were generally a lot more enthusiastic than the locals. Americans do just seem to be way more up for new ideas and ventures compared to us – it’s something I’ve often admired them for.
The other obvious demographic were the French sailors and boat builders I talked to. I don’t wish to make generalisations but really without exception their attitude towards the GGR couldn’t have been more different to the British. I was not called bonkers. They immediately sat up and listened to what I wanted to say. It seems that the French still have a lot of respect for their adventurers and for the spirit of adventure.
There was one especially boisterous UK marketing manager. After we went through the ritualistic labelling of me as crazy I was actually quite impressed by his candour. He clearly took some delight in explaining to me that the yacht market really isn’t about adventure any longer and that asking these companies to be part of my race was a hiding to nothing. We were standing on a 45 foot sailboat with massive patio windows, so I could see what he was getting at. He went on to say that most of the yacht market is really just about lifestyle. It doesn’t even rely on the buyers delusion that they are adventurers. He was happy to confirm what I have suspected for a while – that there is a tacit acceptance that the useful lifespan for these yachts is designed to be 15 to 20 years and they will spend the vast majority of this time in marinas being cleaned.
“So there is a whole market, a whole group of people out there who are prepared to spend half a million on a boat that is designed first and foremost to look good floating in a marina! And you think I’m bonkers” I replied with some exasperation.
I am reminded of the quote from Beyond Good and Evil, Friedrich Nietzsche:
“Madness is something rare in individuals — but in groups, parties, peoples, and ages, it is the rule.”