What drives Phil Sharp?


Ted Heath memorably described ocean racing as being like standing under a cold shower tearing up £10 notes. What’s the appeal for yachtsman Phil Sharp?

‘I guess it’s the challenge of setting out into the middle of an ocean and taking on whatever nature throws at you. The satisfaction of travelling the globe powered by nothing but the wind.

‘But it does cost money. I think the only thing I’d change in Ted Heath’s analogy is that these days the notes need to be £50!

‘And competing in The Transat bakerly felt like being in a boxing ring under Ted’s cold shower. I was beaten black and blue for three weeks! I had to sail through a serious storm as well as two full gales.

‘It was extremely wet on board. There were waves constantly crashing over the decks and the motion was just horrendous. The boat was slamming so violently that the shockwaves made sleeping difficult.

‘I was very anxious about ‘Imerys’ breaking up. Several competitors in the Transat bakerly unfortunately didn’t make it to New York because their boats suffered structural problems.

‘I am an ultra-competitive person. I can’t stand being second place. I have to go out there and try and win and it’s that hunger to be faster on the water than everyone else that really I thrive off. There’s nothing better than pulling away from a competitor or reeling someone in. That’s what pushes me out onto the foredeck in the middle of the night to change a sail. In any other circumstance you wouldn’t dream of doing it.

‘But there’s also the adventure. It’s enormously satisfying to sail solo across the Atlantic but I love to get back to humanity after such a challenge. The closer you get to the finish the more driven you become to reach your destination quickly.

‘The ocean is an incredible thing. One day it can be unleashing its terrifying fury over you and the next, it can be the most calm, serene and relaxing place on the planet. It provides some unforgettable experiences. Sailing down the St Lawrence Seaway recently, I had a whale following me for about 20 minutes. He was swimming right next to the boat, surfacing occasionally and releasing his spray before diving under the boat. There was just this amazing affinity. It was as if he was looking for some external stimulation, to have some connection with another mammal. And that is incredibly comforting and a very, very stimulating experience.

‘Probably the most beautiful thing I’ve seen on the ocean are dolphins swimming around the boat in highly phosphorescent water. They light up these incredible trails. Streams of light, underwater fireworks almost. You can see not only the whole outline of their bodies but also their wake. Incredible, magical, natural beauty.’

The above is a precis of a conversation with Phil following his completion of The Transat bakerly and The Transat Quebec-St. Malo.

Hear the whole interview here

Our photo shows Phil Sharp with partner Rebecca Linder enjoying a dram aboard his Class 40 yacht ‘Imerys’.

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