William Ward - CEO, Clipper Ventures Share PDF Print E-mail
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WilliamWard1William Ward is the CEO of Clipper Ventures and has been in the position since 1996 when he bought the company.

He helped create the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race in 1995 with Sir Robin Knox-Johnston with the aim of allowing regular sailors the chance to race with professionals around the world.

The first race set-off in 1996 and the 2013-14 event will be the ninth edition, starting and finishing in London for the first time.

By Steve Moorhouse & Ismail Uddin

You helped create the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race in 1995 with Sir Robin Knox-Johnston. What were your aims back then and have you achieved them?

I am from the non-sailing side of things and I got interested in it from a business perspective. The business was part being formed with people wading in and I was on the money side of things. What interested me the most was the passion that was there from all sorts of people; doctors, dentists, housewives, you name it. People wanted to go on that race and that was the underlining element that got me in to it. Sir Robin’s was a different approach in so much that he had been climbing with Sir Chris Bobbington and he was talking about taking people up Everest. That made Sir Robin think about the alternative for sailing and that got me interested too. It was something unique. It has developed and changed an awful lot since then.

What were your expectations when the first race started in 1996?

When I first started it was a case of I didn’t really have an end goal. To be honest it was quite a risk for me, but I felt the passion there and I thought if you have something that people want, that is a good basis for any business, it does not matter what your standing is. Then we developed it considerably in the last three or four races it has grown to a whole new feel. We are on another stepping stone now to make it better in the next race.

You recently added a Swiss boat to this year’s race, marking the first from that country and inland Europe. Does this highlight how the race is growing?

I think if people understand what the race can produce in as far as it is not just a billboard, where you can stick your name on and hope that you get considerable value for the media perspective, although it does give a six or seven fold from the media value alone, but I don’t think that on its own is good enough these days. Anybody who does that is wrong. It is all about what it can do, business to business when there is a meeting of like-minded governments and sailing bodies. There is a mixed bag of benefits that last for a considerable amount of time, on average about 18 months. People should use the whole gambit of things rather than purely the advertising side of things. From our point of view I can see a day when there are four or five boats from Europe. You don’t necessarily have to have a stopover to sell off your awares to other countries. When the Swiss sailing Federation are in New York they can entertain their like-minded partners or people they talk to in sailing terms and they can entertain them on their boat on the Hudson River for instance. It is a way of getting recognition and creating that awareness for your product or your brand.

How many similar deals are you expecting in the future and what sort of markets in particular are you looking to attract?

We go to Brazil and we are still looking for a Brazilian entry for this race, although I think it may be too late now. I would certainly like to see a Brazilian or Argentinian entry at some point. I would really like to see more from North America, although we look like we will have two North American-based businesses that will go to our San Francisco and New York plans. I would also like to see a Russian entry in there because I think that would be very good for the sport. Whether or not we would stop in Russia or carry on I’m not sure. There is also the possibility of bringing one more Scandinavian country into the race, someone like Denmark.

How many more participants and sponsors do you have for this race and how many more do you need?

In total there are about 650 participants. Some 120 of those will go around the world and do the circuit navigation, while 530 do one or two segments of the race. We split the race into eight parts so 120 will do all eight parts and the others do a couple of segments. On average there are about 55 people to a boat, not at one time and we are full for that.

For boat sponsors we have announced three and will be announcing another two or three in the next month and the rest will be announced in August.

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