Making a Living as a Professional Sailor, Brian Hancock – original

“A Different Skillset On The Seas Distinguishes The Professional Sailor”

Highlights from this Segment

– Two requirements to be paid as a professional sailor in an ocean race

– If you are this type of sailor, do not apply

– Types of corporate sponsorship involved in these races

– The budget is how much?

(transcript for this segment)  

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Here’s what you’ll discover in this presentation…

  • What’s changed over the years to take sailing from an amateur sport to top of the game earning a decent living
  • One technique Captains use for setting their pay rate while cruising
  • Why racing wins over cruising
  • The truth about making money as a sailor
  • What qualifications racing boat owners look for in their lead sailor
  • The #1 drawback to making a living as a professional sailor 
  • Different ways to survive financially when crewing on a racing boat
  • What you need to know about being at sea during an ocean race
  • The major differences between racing as crew versus solo racing
  • How professional sailing affects your resume

About Brian Hancock

Brian Hancock is arguably one of the most experienced offshore sailors in the U.S. He has logged over a quarter million offshore miles racing both fully crewed as well as solo. Brian has competed in three Whitbread Round the World Races. In 2007, Brian co-founded his around-the-world race, The Portimao Global Ocean Race. He’s authored seven books including his latest memoir: “Grabbing the World”.


Robin: Ok, So what changed over the years to take sailing from an amateur sport, to one where those at the top of the game can earn a very decent living?

Brian: Well, back, way back that the 70’s was so long ago, it was a long time ago. There was no such thing as sort of professional sailing on any level. There were a couple of round-the-world races but they were really rag-tag events. You know, the 30 Whitbread races, Whitbread is now the Volvo Ocean Race, those races were sailed by sort of rich owners and a rag tag bunch of adventurers sailing the boats. Even my first Whitbread race, oddly enough that since we’re talking today that boat was owned by an American by the name of Neil Bergt it’s called Alaska Eagle. And, he took us down to Washington DC to meet Ronald Reagan and to meet the Senator from Alaska Ted Stevens who tragically died this week. And Ted Stevens, well, I was actually living in the US illegally. I was here with expired green card, with expired visa and there I was in Washington DC with Ted Stevens, Ted Kennedy and supposed to be Ronald Reagan but unfortunately, Ronald Reagan was shot a few days before so he didn’t show up. He was – John Hinckley had other plans for the president. But, that’s just by way of saying the owner of the boat was a rich Alaska businessman, hence his connections to a good Alaska Senator and he fronted the bills and the boat was called Alaskan Eagle and off it went. Four years later when I did my second race there were a bunch of sponsored entries in the race. There was – I was on a boat called Drum, which was owned and I guess sponsored in some respects by the rock group Duran Duran. They didn’t name the boat Duran Duran or anything like that but the owners of the boat were from the group. But there were other boats in the fleet that had sponsorship. Once you start to get money for an Around-The-World Race from a sponsor, then the sponsor wants something back in return. What they want really is not a bunch of rag tag sailors sailing around the world, they want results and they also want their names on the boat, they want the boat and the crew to reflect their brand. And ah, so that was ’85. By ’89, the Whitbread Race had become really a big deal and all the entries were sponsored. The budgets were such that one person or two people couldn’t put the budget together. You had to get corporate interest and big companies like Steinlager Beer and Fisherman Pico, they were plant makers from New Zealand. They had big budgets. Four or five or six million dollars for a boat and they didn’t want just anybody sailing the boats, they wanted people that could win and produce results and in order to get those people they were prepared to pay. So they went out and they sought the best and the best applied for the job and the money they were offering was good so that there would be some competitive competition amongst the crew to get on the boats, so it sort of escalated from there. I guess back in those days the budget was about, I suppose for a big maxi boat $6 million. Now to do a Volvo Ocean Race campaign you’re looking at $50m or even more.

Robin: Wow! …        


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