Crew Catchup: Phil Orford - Life of the CEO turned ‘belated gap yearer’

22 February 2016

Phil Orford is a round the world crew member on board GREAT Britain. Before starting the Clipper Race, he was the leader of the Forum of Private Business in the UK.

Phil, who describes himself as a ‘belated gap yearer’ whilst away on the race, had been Chief Executive of the leading small business group for seven years. Here he tells us how he is adapting to life on the ocean and details how his race experience has been going so far.

What made you decide to do the Clipper Race in the first place?
As a CEO I have always led a busy life. Having felt I had achieved a lot of my business goals, I started to think more about taking time out of work to travel and do something for myself. This is something I will continue to do after the race.

The Clipper Race has given me the opportunity to visit places around the world whilst taking part in one of the biggest endurance challenges there is. It also gives me the opportunity to understand the scope and scale of the planet we live on, which is amazing

Tell us about some of your most memorable moments on board since you left London.
The most memorable moments are a combination of amazing seascapes and the raw power of the ocean together with the stopovers. I never expected the stopovers to be such an integral part of the whole round the world experience and I now treat each as a little holiday, an added bonus

GREAT Britain is second in the overall race standings. What is it about the team culture on board GREAT Britain that is creating this success?
We have a GREAT team most of whom are driven and competitive. We want to do well and we will do whatever needs to be done to succeed, even if that means repetitive and difficult sail changes to give us an edge.

We also undertake intense maintenance work at each stopover which keeps our yacht in great working order. Whilst it is time consuming and seems arduous at the time, I think it makes a big difference so we know it is worth our time in the long run.

What aspects of the race and life on board have you found the biggest challenge?
On the whole I feel that I have adapted pretty well, but the long races and living at 45 degrees for days and weeks at a time is mentally and physically exhausting. As a result our bodies waste and we don't recover quickly from minor injury or illness.

The time in port is a relief when you can get a nice hotel room and eat and sleep at normal times. It can take a while to adapt to life back on land again and not being in the watch system. You often wake up at funny times. Our team gets on very well but it’s also nice to see the friendly faces of the Race Office staff and other crew when you get into port.

What have you learnt about yourself during the race? Anything that has surprised you?
I'm not sure I've learnt anything new about myself. I think I knew myself and my limits pretty well after 53 years, though I wanted to learn to be a little more patient and tolerant, which I've done to some degree, but I think I've also learnt that I may be a little old to change that much!

What did you think about your arrival into Vietnam, and how have you found Da Nang so far?
Our arrival in Da Nang was amazing. The organisers here have gone into great detail to ensure the Clipper Race fleet is well looked after. Everyday I'm more impressed with the city, Vietnam and the people. It's a place I'll return to when I do more land travel.

What has been your favourite stopover so far and why?
Wow, that's a difficult one. I loved Hobart at New Year and Airlie Beach was like being in the Caribbean, but I'm going to pitch for Da Nang, purely for the variety of things to do plus the events that have been organised to celebrate our arrival. Luckily, we still have a number of days left for finishing boat maintenance and seeing the city.

Fancy following in Phil’s footsteps and taking on the Clipper Race gap year for yourself? We are now recruiting crew for the 2017-18 and 2019-20 race editions. Click here to apply.

Apply now