IT’s time to go sailing

Highland Marketing supports the Silicon Cup Regatta

Highland Marketing has stepped up as the communications and PR partner for the Moore Blatch Silicon Cup Regatta. But why should tech companies want to take part in a sailing event? Committee member Justin Langford explains.

Justin Langford is the co-founder and commercial director of Coeo, a provider of database support for the retail, finance and gaming industries, and a Microsoft partner.

He is also on the committee of the Moore Blatch Silicon Cup Regatta, for which Highland Marketing is the PR and communications partner. But why? Well, he argues, there are real parallels between business and sailing. Plus, it’s great fun; and an opportunity to raise money for three lifechanging charities.

How did you get involved with the Silicon Cup? 

I sailed when I was at school. Then, I worked for Microsoft for many years, and that gave me the chance to go on a boat that it entered. I saw the intersection between sailing and IT companies. Coeo has entered for about five years.

You mentioned the ‘intersection’ between IT companies and sailing. What’s the link?

In a business, there can be a lot of divisions and teams and to get the most out of them you need to get them working together. The boat replicates that, except that everything happens much faster.

Sailing a boat requires communication. During a race, there will be times when things don’t go quite right, and at the end of the race there will be a debriefing and discussion about how to do those things better; how to get the spinnaker up that bit quicker, or whatever.

There will be feedback on what went right and what went wrong. Sailing teaches people how to give and receive feedback and how to apply it with a common goal; making the boat go faster.

If teambuilding is one reason that companies enter the Silicon Cup, what are the others?

There are a number of dimensions around client entertainment and networking. For Coeo, it’s a great opportunity to meet channel partners. We work closely with Microsoft and several other partners, many of whom still take a boat, and for two days we will be racing with and against them.

It’s possible to sit opposite somebody for years, or to have them as a customer for years, and not to really know them. But on the boat, the bonds you build with people are amazing. Even years later, if there is an issue, it can be sorted out much more easily because of the relationship that has been built.

Do you need to be able to sail to take part?

Sunsail are the yacht providers and they manage everything necessary. A boat comes as a package for up to ten people, and that includes an experienced skipper and a mate who can race the boat if required, so it’s up to the people on board how involved they want to be.

Having said that, it’s quite physical. These boats lean, and these are high intensity races over short courses. One of the reasons that we work with Sunsail is that it has one of the largest matched fleets in the world. Most races have to use a handicap system, but all our boats are the same, so they can start from the same point and race on a level playing field.

Isn’t it expensive?

A boat costs £4,995, but when I talk to people about this, I often ask them what they would spend on a customer event or corporate hospitality. They could easily spend that on a trip to the rugby or even a good restaurant.

Plus, people use their boat for different things. We have one firm that invites customers for the first day and the evening party, and then invites staff for the second day. You can put different people on the boat on the two days and get different benefits from them. 

The event also raises money for charity. How does that work?

The founders of the Silicon Cup wanted to raise £1 million. To date, we have raised £900,000, so we are on a push to reach the target, because that will be real milestone for the people who have had a great time sailing, and for our nominated charities. The money comes from registrations and from the charity auction during the evening party, which always includes completely unique, money can’t buy, experiences.

So, you’d recommend it?!

I think the people who participate in the event have an awesome experience. There’s a broad spectrum of people. There are people stepping onto a boat for the first time and there are serious sailors who compete regularly. They all bring their teams and customers and they have a great time, while raising money for charity. There’s something great about doing something you enjoy for the benefit of everybody else.

About the Moore Blatch Silicon Cup Regatta:

The Silicon Cup is the largest sailing regatta for the IT industry and runs over the course of two days at the end of September from Cowes on the Isle of Wight. This year’s event takes place on 26 and 27 September and is supporting Dreams Come True, the Jubilee Sailing Trust, and the Andrew Simpson Foundation.

For full details and registration, visit the website:

You can also follow the event @thesiliconcup

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