‘Don’t waste time waiting for opportunities to come along – go find them and make them happen… Believe in yourself.’
Round the world Yachtsman and motivational speaker Alex Alley is a world champion sailor known for his work not only as a sportsman, but also as an author and business speaker. His aim is to set the Solo, non stop, round the world, in a boat 40′ and under. We got a quick lowdown from him on where it all started:
How did you get into sailing?
I’m not from a sailing family so for me to get in to sailing wasn’t a natural step. My father had spent a few years in the Merchant Navy and had always wanted to learn to sail but never got around to it. So when I was about 8 year sold, he bought ‘me’ a Mirror dinghy for my birthday so that ‘we’ could learn to sail together. Initially I wasn’t that interested in the idea of sailing, but once we got the boat out on the water I was captivated – the rest is history…
What is it you love about sailing?
I guess I enjoy the freedom it gives me. When I was 8, being out on the water and moving along almost silently, without an engine seemed like magic to a small boy – I guess I still get the same buzz, only with bigger more powerful boats going very much faster. Now it is just as much about adrenaline and the challenge.
What inspired you to take your sailing that step further and aim for the world records? Do you have any role models in the sport?
My early role model was a kiwi called Sir Peter Blake. An inspirational ocean racer, unfortunately tragically killed by pirates in the Amazon. I always wanted to emulate Peter by racing around the world. I did that in 2004/5. I then got in to solo and shorthanded racing and it was then a natural progression to put the two together and aim for a solo around the world race. I was an entrant in the ‘Global Ocean Race’ but unfortunately the race organisers couldn’t secure a title sponsor and the race fell by the way side. I felt I had unfinished business so started to look in to the round the world record for a 40’ yacht and decided to go for that. On the way and as part of my training I also decided to see what other records I could get.
Particular reason you chose single-handed sailing? What are the particular characteristics and challenges of single-handed sailing?
Solo sailing, I feel is the purest form of the sport – everything is down to you, nobody else to blame or rely on. You have to be meticulous in your preparation. Everything that happens is down to you. If it goes right, you did it, if it goes wrong, that is also down to you. Fatigue is obviously a big challenge with solo sailing and you have to manage that very carefully. It is as much, if not more, about the mental side of things as it is about the physical side.
What qualities do you think a solo sailor needs to have to be successful?
They have to like their own company for starters. Meticulous in their planning and understanding of the boat. Good at crisis management – things will not always go as planned and the ability to adapt to situations is a critical skill.
Presumably with a lot of sailing experience, you’ve been in some challenging situations. How best do you cope with difficult times at sea?
Again, much of it comes down to preparation. There are certain crisis situations that you can expect at sea, so you plan for them and practise what you would do in such a situation. Once you have that skill set and discipline in place, then you can cope with pretty much whatever gets thrown at you – the key is not to panic and have confidence in your ability to sort it out.
Finally, looking back, is there anything you’d tell your 21 year-old self?