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All plain sailing; Chief feature writer Paul Groves gets motivated with yachtswoman Tracy Edwards.

Byline: Paul Groves

A t first glance, there is a world of difference between sitting in the boardroom of a large multi-national company and standing at the helm of a yacht sailing in the ocean 2,000 miles from land. But in making the move from professional yachtswoman to the world of business, Tracy Edwards is well placed to show how many similarities exist.

In her new and equally successful professional life, Tracy leads business seminars and motivation workshops aimed at companies of all sizes. Standing in a room full of 30 or 40 managers, directors and managing directors may offer different challenges to skippering a yacht around the world but lessons learned at sea are proving equally valuable to her now.

She believes professional athletes and sports people are well placed to offer sound and useful advice to the business world. Each has one key characteristic or skill that can transfer to the office environment.

For Tracy herself, it is communication. It is easy to see why, as she explains what she attempts to bring to the seminars she leads around the UK.

Sitting in the cafe at the newly-opened Orange Studio in Birmingham city centre -- where she had just spoken to a room full of local business people -- she talks animatedly about the importance of communication in everyday life. ``Communication is something we all take for granted and are not necessarily very good at,'' she said. ``Sailing is a very visible way of showing how important it can be.

``Failing to communicate on board can cause a lot of problems. Chinese whispers are very dangerous when you are stuck out in the middle of nowhere but office gossip is just as dangerous.

``People can sit alongside each other or opposite each other all day and talk but they don't communicate. Text messaging and e-mail has actually made things worse as now no-one speaks directly or get together for a face-to-face meeting.''

At the Birmingham event organised by the mobile phone company, Tracy stressed she was not there to lecture local firms on what they should and should not be doing.

The aim is to provide ideas for them to understand and possibly try out when faced by a particular situation.

This new role is something Tracy Edwards has taken on with gusto and which she is enjoying immensely.

``It is a totally different enjoyment to my professional sailing career and I cannot compare them,'' she added.

A third string to her bow has been added with the publication of a successful book earlier this year. She started writing Living Every Second last year and fell pregnant shortly afterwards.

``It started out as another sailing book but then became something totally different. It gave me the chance to one day show my baby (Mackenna) who I am, who I was and what I have done.''

In the book, Tracy describes her troubled and wayward adolescence and how her sailing career became the chance to prove herself.

A career as a writer also appeals and is something she enjoys, although Tracy is reluctant to divulge just yet what new books are in the pipeline.

Sailing remains part of her life. Tracy works with a trust which aims to provide opportunities for young people from all works of life.

``The disciplines of sailing can teach young people so much and is a great way to learn,'' she added. ``You cannot be anything other than yourself on a boat.''

The 39-year-old remains one of the most successful and inspirational sports women the UK has seen.

With so much now happening in her life and new opportunities presenting themselves all the time, the followup to her bestselling autobiography charting the next stage of her life will probably arrive sooner rather than later.

Communication is undoubtedly Tracy Edwards' key skill. However, her boundless energy and enthusiasm come a very close second.

Fact File

Tracy Edwards came to national prominence in 1990 when she skippered the first all-female crew in the Whitbread Round the World Race. Maiden won two legs and came second overall in her class, the best result for a British boat in 13 years and unbeaten to this day.

She became the first woman to receive the Yachtsman of the Year Trophy and was awarded the MBE. Five years earlier, she had become the first woman to crew aboard an Ocean racing Maxi for the Whitbread Round the World Race. Atlantic Privateer won the leg to Auckland and Tracy became the first woman to ever crew aboard a winning yacht in The Whitbread.

In 1994, Tracy set her sights on the Jules Verne Trophy and the non-stop circumnavigation record.

Another all-female crew was put together and with sponsorship secured Tracy headed up the first major multihull project in Britain. Tracy and her crew broke the female Trans Atlantic record and the male Australia to New Zealand record. They also smashed the Channel record with an average speed of 22.7 knots.

The round-the-world attempt was cut short when her catamaran ran into storm conditions and 2,300 miles from land, the yacht lost its rig. Determined not to bring anyone out to their rescue, they built a makeshift mast and took 16 days to sail to Chile.

Tracy is now managing director of Tracy Edwards Associates, which manages all her sailing

challenges, talks and seminars.


Adapting to the rigours of life at sea is great training for life back on land
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Dec 5, 2001
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