Canadian spirit builds Spirit of Canada.

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CARINA PRAKKE TALKS TO DEREK HATFIELD

I attended the launch of Spirit of Canada and, recently, had the opportunity to sit down again with Derek Hatfield and catch up with how progress of the campaign is coming on. The Toronto International Boat Show was about to start, when I met up with Derek, and he believed this would be prime time to let the public see the boat and get their Name on the Hull. 

The Name on the Hull campaign is the successful sponsorship venue that allowed more than 2,500 individuals and corporations to offer financial and moral support, as they sailed around the world with Derek and the Spirit of Canada, in the 2002/2003 Around Alone race.  It’s back in full force, with a goal of 10,000 names for the current Vendee campaign.


I asked Derek how he goes about reaching out to communities outside of the Greater Toronto area where the boat is currently located and being worked on; specifically from the West Coast of Canada.

“We get great exposure from the Vancouver Boat show.  There is a very active dinghy and racing venue in Calgary and they travel to Vancouver for the Show and see us there, as do many people from sailing communities across the Prairies.  Also, while we’re in Vancouver, we do talks at various locations in the area.  Pacific Yachting magazine has helped us get the word out, too.  We are unable to bring the boat with us to the Vancouver Show, and as a result, there’s a lot more talking and explaining that goes on. We reach a great number of people that way.”

Ongoing support is provided by Canadian Yachting magazine with articles and advertising to keep the program in the public eye.  The Toronto Boat Show (National Marine Manufacturer’s Association) also ensures that Spirit of Canada receives prominent positioning within the exhibition space for the Toronto Boat Show.  Support for the campaign does not only come from Canadians, though. 

Our neighbours to the south have been generous in their contributions as well.  Many Americans make the short trip across the border to Canadian boat shows – a popular exposure site for Spirit of Canada.  They also come to the Port Credit Yacht Club where she is currently located, or previously to the build site in Cobourg, Ontario.  Many people are following and supporting the progress of this Owens-Clarke designed Open 60. 

I asked how corporations and the big-dollar sponsors have responded to the Spirit of Canada campaign.  After all, it’s not an inexpensive proposition to get a state-of-the-art boat built, outfitted and to the start line of a race. 

“It’s Sports Marketing,” Hatfield responds.  “We go and talk to as many CEO’s, Presidents, Directors of Marketing, and such, as we possibly can.  We do motivational talks at various organizations, too.  At this point, we’re so busy with talks that the calendar’s practically full, but we’re still missing that one big supporter.” 

He admits that it can be a struggle to get people to see past the individual to the team.  The Spirit of Canada team is made up of everyone who has donated financially, in-kind, or in time to the furthering of the build.  Derek’s just the lucky one who gets to helm the boat.  Even at that, we laughed about whether that truly was lucky or not, given the demands of the job!  Derek’s very matter-of-fact about it – it’s a team effort and yet, for some reason, it’s easier for people to grasp that no CEO is single handedly responsible for the success of his organization; that even if he’s the one with his name in the headlines, it’s everyone’s contribution, large and small, that gets them to the achieving of the goal.  This team is no different.

Derek readily admits that this is the hardest career he’s ever had. From the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to Toronto’s financial district, to the Spirit of Canada, this is “definitely the most stressful and yet the most rewarding career choice” he has made.  “The sense of accomplishment is tremendous, and we’re not even at the start line yet.”

It’s getting to the start line that is the hardest part of any race.  Once the race starts, it’s relatively easy in comparison to the frenetic activity of getting sponsors to provide financial and in-kind donations to outfit the boat with electronics, sails, rigging, cordage, shackles, blocks, and the like. It’s not just the big shell that needs to get there – it needs to have the inside filled too – all the data components that support Derek’s efforts with educating school children, his ability to do interviews while underway, to receive weather data and notifications. 

Most of these pieces are inside the boat, thus easily forgotten or overlooked by those of us who will see it at the Toronto International Boat Show, where the boat will be on display.  The outside is ready, now they need the push to get the inside filled and get her race-ready for trials this summer leading to the ultimate goal of getting to the start line of the 2008 Vendee at les Sables d’Olonne in France. 

At that point, as the Vendee slogan says, he’ll be headed “Around the world, single handed, non stop, without assistance”, but until then, it’s many hands, non stop, and tremendous assistance from both individuals and corporations.

www.spiritofcanada.net