Question and Answer Time with Team Concise
Team Concise was started 10 years ago, when Tony Lawson – Team Concise CEO – and Ned Collier Wakefield – Team Concise Skipper – wanted to introduce and train a team of young, dynamic and professional offshore sailors from the UK, who would become real competitors in some of the biggest and most extreme races in the world.
Team Concise Q&A, Ned Collier Wakefield
- Why was Team Concise started?
We wanted to provide an opportunity for young offshore sailors to compete in some of the biggest sailing races in the world, with a clear career path in front of them and individual development plans enabling them to achieve their dreams as professional sailors. We wanted to be able to compete in some of the most exciting classes (e.g. Class 40) on a solo and crewed basis, as well as dream big – for example, the MOD 70.
- What is it about Team Concise that makes you stand out from other teams?
Our team is made up of some of the most passionate and talented young sailors in the UK. Often our team members come from an inshore or dinghy sailing background – meaning they have the core skills and enthusiasm needed to become an offshore sailor.
When we take on new crew members, we have a structured programme to help them progress through the fleet – whether it’s competing on the Diam 24 or working their way up to the MOD 70 team, we give them the opportunities as young sailors that they may not get with other teams.
- How often do you train? Please give us some examples
Fitness is really important for sailing to ensure we have the strength and endurance to sail for long periods of time, at the top of our game. As a team, we try to train in the gym every day, as well as an aerobic session. It’s important to change it up and keep it exciting, so things like road cycling is great, it’s easy to take your bike along in the container when we’re away from home and it’s also a non-impact sport, which means I can do as much as I want without the risk of repetitive strain. We also do at least 3 hours of sailing specific training on the boat, every day. Whether it’s coming up to a big race or spending the winter training in Barbados, it’s so important to get time on the boat with the team.
- How do you prepare for races/peak seasons, mentally and physically?
You often lose weight in some of the longer offshore races as you’re often running a calorie deficit, both working hard and struggling to eat enough in the extreme environment. To account for this and maintain performance throughout the season, we aim to peak with body weight before a race, this also has benefits for strength.
- Do you have a daily routine?
Our daily routine changes depending on where we are geographically (e.g. at home in the UK or training in Barbados) and what we have coming up in the race calendar – so it changes every day. Wherever we are, we’re training and trying to spend as much time on the water as possible.
- How did you begin your professional sailing career?
My professional career started 10 years ago, when Tony and I decided to start Team Concise. I was 18 and had just finished school. Tony presented me with this opportunity and I’ve never looked back.
- Was there a Plan B?
In 2008, I decided that I should have a Plan B – not because I didn’t want to sail every day, because I absolutely did, but just as a backup. I went to university and trained as an Architect – however, I’ve never used my degree and don’t really plan to.
- When did you first start sailing?
I’m told my first experience of sailing was crossing the Channel when I was six months old, however my first memory was sailing when I was about 3 years old. My Dad has always been an enthusiast and a great sailor and has taken me on many adventures over the years. Needless to say, I got the bug.
- Do you have any scary stories to tell?
The 2011 Transat Jacques Vabre, I was racing to Costa Rica with my good friend and co-skipper, Sam Goodchild on our Class 40, Concise 2. After 7 days of racing, we had worked our way through 2 large low pressure systems and had taken the lead. By the time the third low pressure system hit us, the waves were about 8m and seriously confused. We gybed in the center of the low to make the most of the shift, but hours later hit a floating piece of debris and suffered serious hull failure. At the time of the incident we were 200 miles north of the Azores and had a 24-hour window before the next depression. The difficulty was that we had to sail the boat fast enough to get to the islands before the storm, but also try to keep the boat together, providing us with a fairly stressful 24 hours.
- What’s your personal career highlight? And for Team Concise as a team?
For me and the team, it’s got to be the MOD70 campaign. To successfully make the leap to racing such a powerful boat at such a high level against the best sailors in the world and to be competitive within a year of having the boat feels like a real achievement. Winning the round Barbados race by 12 seconds and breaking the record by just under 2 hours was a wonderful moment of realisation for us.
- Who’s your inspiration or what inspires you and why?
My inspiration lies with a friend, Rob Gauntlett. He’s the youngest Briton to ever climb to the summit of Mount Everest, at just 19. A year later, he completed the 180° expedition from the North Pole to South Pole, travelling by ski, dog sled and boat to finish the challenge. Sadly, in 2009 Rob died in a climbing accident, but his memory lives on and his memory still inspires me today.
- How long have you been training in Barbados?
We came out to Barbados in November 2015, so were been training there for about six months in total.
- Why do you enjoy training in Barbados, compared to the UK?
We just can’t sail as much or as easily in the UK over the winter. We don’t have the luxury of the beautiful weather and wind back home, so we’ve been very lucky to be there and to sail every day. We’ve been working with the Bajan Government to promote the accessibility and desirability of sailing in Barbados, so it’s a great fit for us.
- What are you looking forward to this year?
We’ve got a packed sailing/racing schedule for the summer, which is very exciting. We’ll be following the RORC season and obviously Cowes Week in August. We have the new Diam 24 which we’ll be training and racing as much as possible, focusing on the Tour de France a la Voile in July. Our two Class 40s will also complete a full season and of course we will be spending a lot of time on the MOD70. We’re very much looking forward to spending more time competing against the other big players, such as OMAN and Phaedo.
- What’s your favourite piece of sailing kit? Why?
Our Ægir Ocean Trousers are fantastic. The knee reinforcements have been a life saver on more than one occasion and anything that makes your life a little more comfortable is very highly valued! They’re super lightweight, but durable too – so it’s the perfect combination.
- What are some of your daily challenges? On and off the water?
One of the biggest problems is continuous hosing with salt water. When you’re racing for days and weeks on end, the salt in your eyes is really difficult to see.
- How do you pick yourself/your team up when times are tough?
Generally, we’re quite good at the mental aspect and keeping morale high, as that’s one of the big things that makes us good at what we do, but every now and then you have moments when you’re sleep deprived, hungry and huge waves are crashing over the boat… So it’s important that we all get on well and are empathetic to when other people are finding it tough. There’s a lot of banter on the boat which makes a big difference to keeping spirits high.
- Do you have any “good luck” rituals pre-race? What are they? Do they work?
We don’t really have any rituals before we race, we just go out and race. We’re very focused on winning but don’t find we need any rituals to ‘get in the zone’, we just make sure we are well prepared physically and mentally, and try to let our performance do the talking. However, I know a lot of other sailors do have rituals…
- What advice would you give to someone starting out in their sailing career/hobby?
Ask lots of questions! And try all the different types of sailing you can, being versatile is a valuable skill in whichever discipline you choose and there’s no substitute for time on the water. If you get the opportunity to sail with some of the biggest names and most successful guys, make the most of it, they’re always keen to pass on their advice and skills.
- What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given in your career?
Fitness is key. Fitness is so important as a sailor and it’s just as important to be training in the gym or out on your bike as it is to be sailing every day. Also, be smart about what sailing you are doing, make sure you are always progressing and pushing to sail with and against people who are better than you, people you will learn from.