Sailing away – crossing the Atlantic to make life happen!
Michel Ghys, Group IS, Shared Services Principal Director and #AtlanticOdyssey Participant
On 18 November, I set sail from Lanzarote in the Canary Islands to take part in the Atlantic Odyssey, a transatlantic rally organised by Cornell Sailing. Along with almost 50 other sailboats, I’ll spend eight weeks crossing the Atlantic to reach Le Marins harbour in Martinique. It promises to be the journey of a lifetime.
It took a lot of careful planning but, together with my family, we finally made this trip happen. The biggest challenge was making sure that my team at work was equipped to thrive while I spent time away. With a global leadership role at Dimension Data, I had to ensure my senior directors knew of my plans early on. Through this process, they’ve been supportive, flexible, and encouraging of this trip.
Sails to the wind: Dimension Data has sponsored the main sails of our sailboat
The second challenge was working with my daughter’s teachers at her school to ensure she wouldn’t miss out on her schooling while the family was away and that we’d be able to tutor and assist her during the trip.
School at sea: Our daughter, Alienor, is her second year of secondary school.
Chasing a new challenge …
Dimension Data offers me the career challenges I thrive on — it’s an ambitious, fast-paced environment that stimulates me every day and allows me to grow year after year. That’s what attracted me to this adventure — the excitement of a challenge. What Mountain Everest is to climbers, crossing the Atlantic is to sailors. It’s always been something I’ve wanted to pursue personally, and I believe it will reinvigorate me to achieve even more at work when I return. More important, it’s about dedicating time to strengthening the bonds of family with my wife and daughter.
The times we’ve spent as a family on the boat are the ones we cherish the most; the sailboat will be the Ghys family ‘home’ for the coming months
Contributing to change …
Our Atlantic crossing is not a commercial route and there’s a limited amount of information about the impact global warming has on ocean life and currents in these more remote areas.
The rally organisers will not only be helping us satisfy our sense of adventure, but they’ve also invited all the participants to be part of exciting research into climate change. My family will take part in amateur scientific research as we make the crossing. Atlantic Odyssey, in conjunction with the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission-UNESCO, will train us to collect water samples at different points of the crossing.
We’ll also be dropping autonomous drifter buoys at regular intervals on the voyage; these buoys will activate automatically and transmit, via satellite, data on salinity, ocean currents and temperature. We’ll also be observing ocean life as part of the project, such as fish, birds, mammals, as well as jellyfish and algae.
Our family is excited about this element of the trip. This is will be our small contribution as ordinary citizens, of making a difference to how we understand the impact climate change has on our oceans and what that means for our planet.
Preparing for a sea adventure … starts on dry land
There are so many things you have to think about before you get the sailboat off dry land — from learning the basic mechanics of repairing the sailboat’s diesel engine to first-aid-at-sea training.
Months of training go into a trip like this — here is a simulated a sea rescue
My wife, a qualified pharmacist, has put together a well-defined pharmacy for the trip. We had to declare our medical history and the medicines we’re taking on the trip to authorities and, should something go wrong, they can refer to our records and offer remote guidance via our satellite phone.
A lot of our electricity will be provided by solar panels on the boat, as we’ll need this to power electronics, refrigerator, and the navigational auto pilot. While the boat can carry 800 litres of fresh water, we’ve also installed a diesel-powered desalination maker to make fresh water while on the voyage.
Make your life happen
I see so many people around me — family or friends — who want to achieve great things, but struggle to make it happen. I understand this because it’s not easy.
A new perspective: This trip is sure to change the way our family sees the world around us
For me greatness is when you do what it takes to make your life happen. It’s about making tough decisions to stop something that doesn’t work and do something that will work. It’s not thinking about what greatness could be — but putting in the steps, and finding the energy, to make it happen.
About the Author:
Michel Ghys has progressed his career with Dimension Data over 18 years. Today he is a Group Information Services: Services Systems Principal Director – Dimension Data. He is taking part in the transatlantic rally with his wife, Florence, and 12-year-old daughter, Alienor, brother-in-law, Olivier, and skipper, Michel. Follow his journey: #AtlanticOdyssey