If you’ve been following our news stories and blogs over the past few months, you’ll be aware that Boatshed founder Neil Chapman has been sailing the 41’ Supertaff more than usual just lately. And not without good cause!

Two Atlantic crossings later – as part of the Atlantic Rally Challenge – Neil has successfully completed the various legs of the rally, including Las Palmas to St Lucia, subsequent sailing in the Caribbean and most recently the return trip from the Caribbean via Bermuda to the Azores – before heading back to Boatshed HQ in Gosport.

‘Trying to make a business case for going sailing is always a challenging one,’ says Neil. But as he explains, there have been a significant number of situations that will really benefit the Boatshed business in the both the medium and long terms.

Social networking and sailing are entwined

The first thing I want to talk about is the relationships that I have built with the other sailors on my travels. Involved in an event like the ARC, people talk a lot about the support systems and the fact that you get better weather forecasting, for example.

But the big thing, I think, is the social-relationship side. Because when you’re talking about a lot of people all focusing on a particular event, then the social aspect and relationship aspect becomes very important.

You spend a lot of time with people discussing the sailing strategy that you’re going to use – and of course the weather, routing, provisioning and all the normal stuff that you have to do on a sailing trip. And the best thing is that you’re sharing those elements with other individuals.

That sets up quite close relationships across the board. The people in this event are from all corners of the world; many from the US, but equally from European countries such as Denmark, Spain, Portugal and a whole host of other international locations.

Building the brand and getting involved

As a crew, not only have we done the normal things that we would do – wearing our branded clothing and getting involved with all of the events – but also it’s been interesting how many people, having worked out who we are, are really interested in how we manage to do the event.

Some people are retired, some people have saved up money and others are doing it as a sabbatical. So many of them became intrigued and interested in the fact that Boatshed – as a business – and Neil Chapman and the crew were undertaking this ‘work’...even though it doesn’t feel like work, but more as a vehicle to be able to promote the Boatshed business.

This has triggered many, many conversations with individuals. There are people who are familiar with the Boatshed organization but there are others, particularly in the US and other non-European countries where they’re not so familiar with the Boatshed brand.

Explaining how Boatshed works

So it’s been really good to have the time to spend sitting down, having a coffee, a beer, lunch or dinner and talk about the vision for the Boatshed organization with them as well as what it actually does.

Without fail, I think everyone has been very surprised and encouraged by the way that the organization works and I think everyone comments that it seems very different from the traditional approach with regards to yacht brokerage and – to a certain degree – business itself.

The fact that it’s very mobile, the fact that it’s very transparent, the fact that it’s technology based – all of those are the points that people want to know more of when we’re talking about the business. As I say, that’s the bit that they are surprised about.

Celebrity status grows

Supertaff as a boat is one of the smallest and certainly the oldest boats in the fleet, but she has become somewhat of a celebrity. Because of the classic looks she’s attracted a great deal of interest from the other participants and we were joking this morning saying that actually we think we should start charging for tours: I think I’ve now probably done in the region of 30 separate tours of the boat!

People really like the simple approach that we take on the boat in terms of systems –and it’s a great platform to present what we do as an organization. Our very straightforward approach, if you like, is very much reflected in how they see Supertaff and everyone seems to admire the boat, which is great.

On the last leg we sailed just under 2,000 nautical miles from Bermuda to Horta in the Azores. It’s not a race, strictly, but there is a significant competitive element to it, so all of the times, distances and engine hours that we go through are recorded by the World Cruising Club organization and, subsequently, at the end of each leg there is a prize giving for the boats in third, second and first place.

And the winner is...

I’m thrilled to announce that at the prize-giving in Horta, due to the fact that we showed a limited number of hours motoring – and also because of our handicap – we were presented with First Place for the ARC Europe Bermuda to Azores leg!

What was really nice – because as you can imagine, we’ve made lots of friends and there were a lot of Supertaff followers – is that I don’t think anyone, including ourselves, expected us to be placed. The awards were held at an event sponsored by the Azores Tourist Board.

I’m really happy to say that when Supertaff was announced as the winner, the room erupted in applause and cheers. So, as I say, we appear to be making lots of friends.

It’s all about the business model

Many people at this event were interested in the boat sales aspect of what we do. Some are now thinking about using Boatshed for either purchasing or selling a boat. But more importantly from the business aspect – particularly with the American sailors – once they understand what the business does the first question is, ‘Well, why isn’t there a Boatshed in the location where I am?’

So whether it might be the Chesapeake Bay area, Annapolis, Florida, California or so many other places around the US, I am having a number of ongoing conversations about franchising, licensing and modular. So I think from that aspect – and because it’s very much my remit in the organization – it has been the thing that I have been very pleasantly surprised about.

Hands on deck shows hands-on approach

As you may know, I have been publishing a series of blogs while we have been going along and reporting on some considerably challenging conditions, including a full gale in the middle of the Atlantic.

I understand from talking to people who have read the blogs that not only do they enjoy reading them but also it has added a great deal of credibility to the Boatshed organization in that we’re very much involved in sailing and the activity ourselves, rather than looking at it strictly from a business and sales perspective.

So the endorsement that this participation in the sport gives to us, I think, is an important part of what we’ve been trying to achieve with this trip and it puts a nice credibility badge onto the Boatshed organization as a group of people who are not only passionate about boats but are prepared to be involved at every level and can still do well in very difficult circumstances.

Those messages and feedback are very important for a business like ours. And I strongly believe that this trip has gone a long way in furthering our credibility by us being recognized for our hands-on approach and passion for the sport – as individuals and as a business.

It’s the credibility that counts

On that very point, we were doing a tour of Supertaff with some Americans yesterday and, having sat with these guys, it turned out that a lady in their group is actually one of the senior lecturers on entrepreneurship at an American university.

During our time together she was saying that the whole issue of credibility and companies trying to appear credible in terms of their audience is such an important part of developing a modern, forward-thinking business. I’ve been spending a lot of time talking to her: another great connection for our organization.

So there we go. That’s a quick round-up of some of the points that justify my belief that going sailing is good for business. Hopefully that will help all of us in getting a better impression of what are the strategically important components of sailing around on a boat – and that these thoughts will go some way to support this.

Thanks for reading. Back with another report soon. And remember, ‘life’s better on a boat’! All the best – Neil