Why is an agency like a sailing boat?

Last week saw the first-ever AML sailing regatta on a glorious Solent day with sunshine, sparkling seas and just the right amount of wind. Very different to another day in the office – yet in some ways, just the same.

Like many of our clients’ businesses, yacht racing can be complicated. There’s lots of jargon to learn (it surprised some that there technically isn’t a single rope on a yacht, although they appear to be lying about everywhere), a host of unwritten rules to trap the unwary, and unpredictable and powerful opposing forces to be balanced. Yet the aim is quite simple – get your boat across the finish line before anyone else.

Even for those of us who’d never stepped on a yacht before, that objective brought out a competitive edge that led to some remarkably close racing. The three yachts – orange, green and blue – each had a pro skipper from charter company Sunsail who managed the day with great tact and enthusiasm. Apart from the skippers, a smattering of old salts from the agency was distributed equally across the three teams, ensuring there were enough seasoned sailors to balance out the AMLand-lubbers.

The first task was to turn up on time. But the sparrow’s proverbial of an early departure from St John St proved too much for some, including developer Johnny who answered his reminder call with “I’ll be there by 6am, no problem” only to get the response “Johnny, it’s twenty past six!” He made it, along with digital Daniel and Jon S professionally tooled up with GoPro cameras and selfie sticks (look out for edited highlights here soon), Chris’s watery playlist featuring Captain Pugwash and Titanic themes, and an interesting range of race wear choices.

The Green team kept the other boats entertained (or so they thought) with on-deck dance moves, although one or two of the crew’s faces soon turned the same colour as their shirts. The Orange team took the first race easily, partly thanks to having Race Officer Alex on board and with some deft starting manoeuvres that would have had Sir Ben Ainslie gasping like a freshly-landed sea bass. The Blue team had (Fletcher) Christian Barnes, our head of strategy, as navigator, which at least meant they knew where they were – and may be why they took home the overall winners’ trophy.

It’s said that one learns much about oneself at sea. Indeed, the AML crewmembers came away from the experience with some truly profound insights into the human condition, namely:

1. Financial Director, Xinna Wang loves tying knots even more than collecting timesheets
2. Digital Director, Jonathan Hirshler’s stomach is not marine responsive
3. Managing Director, Tim Lloyd’s knows his way around a yacht almost as well as he knows his way around a horse
4. Developer, Sonam Tsutsatsang is an Olympic standard sunbather
5. Executive Creative Director, Ian Henderson really hates losing

We also learned that Xinna, Tim and Hobie (our wonderful receptionist who many of you will know) organise a terrific day out; that Sunsail provides well-sorted boats and great skippers; and that occasionally the UK weather can be absolutely perfect.

Oh, and together we discovered just why an agency is like a boat. Because it takes a great crew, a lot of energy and the occasional piece of good fortune to make her sail.