Five-time Volvo Ocean Race veteran and passionate ocean conservationist Damian Foxall.
Damian has completed nine round the world races and won first place in four. He has seen a lot of changes to our oceans over the years and is helping to create awareness of ocean conservation and how to make sailing environmentally sustainable.
What is your official title with the Volvo Ocean Race?
Sailor and Sustainability manager
What does that mean? What do you do?
Sail – We have a team of 10 sailors for 8 slots. As well as allowing us to strategically rotate crew leg to leg, it gives us redundancy in case of injury or other unforeseen circumstances. As an example: Phil Harmer was replaced by myself on Leg 1 and by Roberto Chuny Bermudez on Legs 2 and 3.
Sustainability manager - With Vestas (Renewable energy) and 11th Hour Racing (an organisation that promotes Ocean Health) as partners we have a strong environmental ethic through our team and operations. This includes a range of specific sustainability goals. My role on the shoreside is to make sure we are operating sustainably by minimizing our footprint, but also maximising our impact and outreach. Sustainability is a challenge that our industry and sport must address, and I’m proud to help lead Team Vestas 11th Hour Racing in leading the way. It is also worth noting that at the recent World Sailing conference sustainability was high on the agenda and a range of ambitious objectives were presented. This approach will start to have a really meaningful impact on our sport at all levels both afloat and ashore.
How did you get to this stage in your career ?
This is my 10th round the world event. We are probably but a few sailors in the world to have so many miles under the belt, literally to the moon and back !! But it all start sailing dinghies and windsurfing in Derrynane, Co Kerry. No yacht club, no coaching, no structured sailing; hail, rain, sun, wind or storm we were out there on our homemade boards, sometimes racing but mostly adventure or speed sailing.
The freedom that our sport brings is what drew us to the water. My heroes were Crean, Messner, Moittisier, Bonnington and while I am lucky to have made a life career out of my passion and competitive sailing, I am well aware that more often than not we are losing young sailors from our sport because of over emphasis on competition and performance.
What type of path did you follow to develop your sailing skills? Training, Racing, Crewing, College …..
Windsurfing; Overseas deliveries; Charter work; Windsurfing; Dinghy racing (F18); Big boat circuit – USA, Europe; Singlehanded circuit – Figaro; ORMA 60 Trimaran circuit; VOR; Americas cup; Jules Verne; Olympic Tornado prep; VOR(6 Total) ... the list goes on.
What type of sailing do enjoy the most now? Do you race and cruise?
Cruising with my kids
How does sailing / supporting sailing make you feel?
Do you have a message you would like to give to the young sailors of Ireland?
Enjoy it, there are no boundaries only what you or other people will try to put there, look and push past those boundaries – perceived or real – That is how man got to the Poles, the top of Everest and the Moon.
If you are inspired by Damien go to trysailing.ie to find out more on how you can get out on the water.
Damian also works to create awareness of marine mammals and the problems of collisions at sea. See - When whales meet sails. To read more about Damian go to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Damian_Foxall