Canada Ocean Racing is a newly founded offshore racing venture by former tech-engineering CEO Scott Shawyer. He is aiming to be the first Canadian to complete the Vendee Globe – a solo, round the world race. To help him on this endeavour will be 5x Vendee Globe competitor Alex Thomson.
Part of this initiative includes STEM programs which will teach youth all about the weather, navigation, life monitoring systems as well as how the boat works. They will also be working with The Magenta Project (an advocacy organization that raises awareness for women involved with the performance sailing), sea cadets and local yacht clubs to build a community around this campaign.
We got a chance to speak with Scott to find out more.
What does it take to compete in the Vendée Globe and why is it so tough? What kinds of preparation does it require?
I would argue the Vendee Globe as the toughest sporting competition on the planet because you’re completely alone, in a non-stop race around the world for 3-4 months, battling the elements. There’s no other competition that tests your physical and mental stamina and endurance like the Vendee Globe.
The rules are simple, you take everything you need, you can’t step foot on land and can’t take any assistance, and once you leave France you have to get back on your own. The preparation however, well that’s another story! I’m taking the next 6 years to prepare and learn everything I need- from experience to safety and technical protocols, 2028 is just the right amount of time. It’s also not just about the end goal, it’s about the journey for me. I’m starting out as a true novice and hope to come out of this as the first Canadian to complete the race! Training started with my first transatlantic crossing this past summer- it was thrilling to say the least, when you’re faced with swells of 4 meter waves. Beyond spending time on the water working on my sailing skills I’m also working on a number of mental tools to deal with anxiety, isolation and even sea sickness.
What has been your toughest race to date?
At this point, I’m an amateur sailor. I have sailed dinghies and small keel boats since I was a kid, but this is a new realm for me. I am entering my first double handed race in the IMOCA early next year. From there, I’m going to enter a few of the doublehanded and solo IMOCA Globe series races leading up to Vendee Globe 2024 so I get accustomed to the fleet and the competition before it starts to count.
Tell us about some of the ways you are engaging youth and introducing them to sailing.
When I was eight years old, I developed my passion for sailing- I used to sail dinghies at my family’s cottage. Before I knew it, I was sailing catamarans and even competing on Antrim 27 sports boats.
Because of my exposure to sailing as a child, I can confidently say that I have found my life’s passion. I want to provide the same experiences for other children and inspire the next generation to take on their own adventure. We offer young people the opportunity to step onboard the IMOCA 60 yacht and understand the opportunities available to them. For example, we will invite students to attend boat tours and STEM sessions as an after-school activity. I have always been passionate about investing in children it’s one of the reasons why I co-authored the “Go Outside Activity Challenge Book” which encourages children to engage in outdoor exploration.
Where will the Canada Ocean Racing team be based and where will they train?
We will train mainly out of Europe. Most of the races in the series leading up to the Vendee Globe start in France, so it makes geographic sense for us to be there. It is also not currently practical for us to train out of Canada, but we’d love to do this once the infrastructure is in place to service a racing boat likes ours.
Our long-term goal is that the team is based out of Canada and that we — even if the boat is not physically here — will be working with organization to develop the skills required to work in an ocean racing team.
How can youth get involved with the various programs being offered?
We have engaged with a number of youth programs during our time in Canada this year and we will continue to do this. These range from very enthusiastic sea cadets to university sailing teams and youth sailors from local sailing clubs. Each group was given an in-depth technical tour of the boat. When we set up the team, we realized that we needed to work hard to develop and inspire the next generation, to show them that there are real careers in a team like ours, it’s not all about being a sailor – we also need engineers, riggers, painters, social media, designers, finance and many other roles. Sailing brings to life many of the science, math’s and environmental subjects and it’s also great for your geography! For example, how do you get a 60-foot race boat from the Atlantic to Toronto? What are the forces at work on sailing boat? How does the carbon cycle work in the ocean? These are just a few of the topics on offer.
Whilst we were here in Toronto we also ran a session for the Magenta Project which champions getting more females into our sport, a group of 8 female sailors spent two days with us and they took part in workshops on rigging, weather, sponsorship and spent a day out training with us in over 25 knots of wind!
How did you team up with Alex Thomson? How did the relationship come about?
I’m looking to build a successful business that thrives long after I’ve raced, so who better to get onboard than a legend like Alex Thomson, who has run a very professional organization in this field for over 20 years. I do want to fast track and Alex has completed 5x vendee globes which is more than half of the Vendee Globes that have existed! Alex’s team are what many would consider the most successful, long running IMOCA team in the world. There is so much to putting together a campaign like this that I thought it would be good to get a head start and learn from the best so I have contracted Alex and his team to help us build a team for Canada. Our goal is to not only be successful in the Vendee Globe 2028 but to build and operate a professionally run IMOCA program here in Canada for many years to come.