Transferable skills – lessons from the Atlantic in ‘normal life’.

Looking forward to speaking at the Silverstone University Technical College this evening for Part 2 of The Atlantic Experience for the Silverstone Business Forum. Each part is standalone and audience members will take a lot away with them whether they have seen Part 1 or not. Part 2 looks at how we handle setbacks and can use failure as a foundation for future success.

At the end of the day if we are not willing to get out of our comfort zone and do something different to what we have always done then how can we grow. This can perhaps be seen more in older members of the population – people who in their own minds have become ‘expert’ at what they do or believe they are good enough and use the excuse of ‘I am too old to change’ so as to avoid that change.

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What are you looking for in a speaker – inspiration or motivation?

DSCF1850Some great insights  into hiring a ‘motivational’ speaker by Steve Gilliland – although from my perspective I’m more comfortable with the word ‘inspirational’ speaker – at the end of the day our challenge was about failure and not success – the key was turning that failure into a success. It is not always about ‘The Win’.

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Fear, excitement, change – be prepared, it’s coming for you!


I am speaking at the Cambridge launch of the HubSpot User Group – HubSpot is an inbound marketing and sales software that helps companies attract visitors, convert leads, and close customers – so it will be something that I will be using in due course! I was asked to write a blog for them ahead of the event in November with a theme around change and how quickly things can divert from expectation and the plan we had carefully formulated…..this is it below:

We join Ian’s story as they leave the African coast behind…

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Big ocean, big challenge – the Atlantic Odyssey where it all began

Our ocean challenge was billed as ‘The Atlantic Odyssey’. We were 6 men brought together after an intensive 9 months of sea trials; some people dropped out, others could pay their way but looked unlikely to be able to row their way – there was a conflict between who had the funds to join the crew and who had the ability, physical and mental.

In the end, the crew, or so we thought – was selected on physical and mental merit – the one big gap in our testing being that we never tested the physical capability of all of the team; physical fitness comes from a simple willingness to train and train again. To train when we don’t feel like it, to train because we have our team-mates to support, to back ourselves and not least to have our eyes on the prize.

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If it looks good…….lessons from the ocean

Sport provides fantastic lessons for business – and life in general; not least if we stand still saying ‘Well we have always done it like that.’ then we can often find ourselves left behind, wondering where it all went wrong!

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One of the original ocean rowing boats…well, a boat, rowed across the ocean.

This applies by the bucketful in the sport of ocean rowing and I clearly remember some years ago now I watching in awe as a solo rower, Charlie Pitcher, so nearly broke the world record for rowing across the Atlantic Ocean – not the solo record, he smashed that, but the outright record held by the 6 man boat Sara G that I had also had our ocean attempt on board.

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Big, heavy, ungainly, underpowered – slow

Charlie, alone, crossed in 35 days, the outright world record is 33 – how on earth could he find that performance?

Without doubt part at least was the ocean experience of Charlie Pitcher from his huge sailing experience. Add in his own personal training, fitness and not least a thirst for knowledge on how to make the boat go faster; part of that resulted in the hugely innovative (yet to a large extent common-sensical) approach to designing an ocean rowing boat to do what it is meant to do – row across oceans!

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Traditional; fit for purpose, not built for speed.

There was much controversy around the design of Charlie’s boat and we have seen that through history when new designs come up – be it tennis rackets, mobile phones, weapons, racing cars, bicycles – the list is endless. Generally it is the ‘old guard’ attempting to protect their own products or beliefs and yet they often go the way of the dinosaurs!

Rannoch though have proven their expertise and their products time and again; now they are starting to be closely followed by other manufacturers and have fast become the ‘go to’ boats and the ‘go to’ people in the field of ocean rowing.

The lessons from their evolution in ocean rowing boats apply to any business – and clearly applied to theirs too! There is a saying in aviation that if it looks good, it flies good – without doubt Rannoch boats look good, and they absolutely fly out at sea – whichever ocean or route they take on. How does your business look – it’s products and it’s people?

Read more on Rannoch on their website by clicking here.

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‘If it looks good……

Sean Usher – ThamesRower2016

Not smiling so much anymore - yet this is where we earn our acheivement

It’s not easy to sum up two days on the Thames onboard Lisa Too with Ian Rowe and his team. Inspiring , challenging , educational , physical and fun all easily spring to mind however the experience is much more than that.

Offered the chance by Ian when an experienced rower had to pull out with an injury I jumped at the chance without really knowing what I was letting myself in for.  A  look at the (very detailed and planned) route showed Henley (home of rowing) , Windsor (home of a big castle) , Marlow (home of a big suspension bridge) and Boulters Lock (where I’d taken part in a sponsored walk previously) , These were all places I’d seen before but only from dry land.

At 5.30 in the morning on Day 2 of this years Thames Row I climbed on board with two very experienced rowers not knowing what the next two days would bring. We set off to the first lock , only a five minute row away but five minutes later I realised the reality of my “of course I’ll step in’ decision. I really wanted to pull my weight whilst onboard but very quickly knew that that would mean trying to learn a lot very fast.

Ian and Mark were brilliant , teaching, encouraging and pointing out improvements I could make and I was very determined to learn from both of them. I know they were being kind, I know my steering wasn’t particularly straight and it offered little encouragement knowing Julia and Simon (Read Simon’s account by clicking here) who’d rowed the day before were equally keen to see ALL of the river. At a lock somewhere before Henley things got even more serious with David joining us. Ian and Mark had spent the first couple of hours letting me know about ’the machine’ and he certainly lived up to the description. I really wanted to row Henley Straight and after a brief stop for coffee just under Henley Bridge, a cabin sleep for Mark (which gave us one of my favourite pictures) and a welcoming smile from Julia  the team were kind enough to give me the oars.

14080036_1146334592079737_3937758275970301686_nTeaming up with David we powered down the straight and to me rowing this bit of water in a boat that was rowed across the Atlantic whilst listening to Ian talk about his own amazing experience on the same ocean and being coached by Mark and David is something I’ll never forget. Many hours later , tired and in need of a beer with me on the oars we rowed into the Oakley Court Hotel moorings to more smiles and chance of a well earned rest.
Highlight of the evening had to be when I explained to the waitress about our challenge and the fact that I was sitting next to a man that had ‘rowed the Atlantic” . Very calmly and matter of fact she simply said ‘That’s great , my dad and grandad have done it too!’ This allowed us the opportunity for a great evening of gentle ribbing and constant wondering if we could find anyone else who’d done it too ,
needless to say we didn’t .
droneovercourseDay 3 (and my day 2) again saw us up at 5.30. The Thames was absolutely beautiful , misty but calm and bathed in the rising sunshine which by the end of the day we’d be cursing. We pushed on hard today, following Ian’s detailed timescale which he told us he’d written with a special antique river abacus.  I tried to keep the pace but also knew that the experienced amongst us were moving the boat much quicker (and straighter). I
have to say a huge thank you to Ian , Mark and David here. It would have been easier , quicker and more direct to only put me in the important seats when they had to but to their credit I was allowed to take my turn and again this allowed me to row up to the finishing line.

img_4903Rowing is hard , you use your legs a lot , you need to keep your arms straight ( no Sean STRAIGHT !!!), locks are narrower than extended oars , the seat moves backwards and forwards , experienced rowers like to row the shortest route ( no Sean STRAIGHT) and steering in a straight line is hard but wow it really is an experience I will never forget and one I haven’t stopped talking about since.

The whole experience with Ian and Lisa Too was an honour ,  it is almost impossible to begin to understand the physical and truly amazing challenge Ian set himself on the Atlantic but after a couple of days of being onboard you come away thinking what your next challenge could be.

Huge thanks to everyone , please invite me back next year.

Read the story of the whole trip by clicking here.

Below, Lisa Too in her original guise – being rowed across the Atlantic by double Olympic Rowing Champion James cracknell and TV adventurer Ben Fogle:


Gallery pics from the trip:

If you would like to be considered for part of all of a trip next year, let us know with the form below:

ThamesRow2016 – personal insight from Simon Draper, novice rower, ocean boat rower.


Coaching……’OK, row’.

I went to a charity do at a brewery and ended up rowing an ocean going boat down the River Thames. Strange how a Friday evening in the company of Ian Rowe can turn out.

I was so enthused by Ian’s inspirational speech that I bid a tidy sum in the charity auction to join the crew on Lisa Too for a day on the Thames. I would like to say it was purely Ian’s motivation but I think it also had something to do with the Charlie Wells craft lager I drank during the evening.

Julia, who was also equally inspired to bid and win, and I next met Ian and Lisa Too at the beginning of August to go over the proposed details of our row. My immediate thought that evening was does Ian ever stop talking. We eventually got some questions in and it transpired that the plan was for the two of us to join Ian and another able rower for the first day of the 2016 Thame Rowe with the option of a night on the river bank in a bivvy bag and a bit more rowing in the morning. Of course under Ian’s magic spell on that warm early August evening we both thought this a great idea. Unfortunately! Come the weekend to start the row towards the end of August the weather was not being kind and Ian hurriedly recalculated and rescheduled his plans and now we were to set off from Abingdon on Sunday 21st no bivvy required for me.

Now the rowing bit, talk about being dropped in at the deep end or in Lisa Too the stroke seat was where I found myself when we pushed off from Abingdon Marina. Ian was looking down at me from his steering position and behind me sat the Bedford Modern School Director of Rowing, Mark Bavington so I was expecting expert tuition. What I got was, “ok row”.

Ian’s inspirational phrase is “ordinary people doing extraordinary things” and he truly believes and expects it. Here was an ordinary 60+ guy rowing a boat that had crossed the Atlantic, down the river Thames with a real oarsman following my stroke. Brilliant.

Steering is far more pressured and difficult than you might think - and you really, really do not want to get it wrong!

Steering is far more pressured and difficult than you might think – and you really, really do not want to get it wrong! Note the refreshments!

We made good progress to the first lock where Julia took over Bav’s seat and us novices propelled Lisa Too down the river at a fair rate according to my GPS device of 3mph. The real rowers were by this time drinking beer and telling stories that can never be retold off board! The names Max and Sebastian come to mind. (Read their story on board here)

When the beer had been drunk the two professionals took over and under my rudder control manage a mile in eleven minutes which made Julia and my twenty minute miles look quite ordinary. Steering the boat is another task that you are expected to master instantly. I must have been doing a good job because I got lots of encouragement about straight lines, keeping to the windward side and avoiding overhanging obstruction.

The steering position is the best seat on the boat. You get to see all that is ahead of you down the beautiful river, have a feeling of control and get to hear the views of real rowers on their cox spelt with an X.

All too soon we were nearing our destination but not before Prosecco and cake on the river bank with a lovely family and heavy rain for the last mile.

The crew joined Sean (Read Sean’s account by clicking here) who had been supporting us down the river for a couple of rewarding beers before it was time for me to leave the party and make my way home.

It was a unique day I will not forget. My thanks to  Julia for sharing the experience with me, her boundless enthusiasm makes any time in her company a pleasure. Sean for his support and the biggest smile in Bedfordshire. Mark Bavington for his patience and humour and most of all to Ian Rowe who really can make ordinary people do extraordinary things. I rowed a boat that has crossed the Atlantic down the Thames.

For the full story, start to finish, of this year’s ThamesRow, click here.

Below, Lisa Too in her previous guise – rowed across the Atlantic by double Olympic rowign champion James Cracknell and TV adventurer Ben Fogle:


Check out the video below for more on the boat and James’ and Ben’s epic trip: