Sailing is incredibly dear to our hearts here at Southern Charter; our sponsorship and promotion of the sport is integral to who we are as a business too. Whether it’s dinghy racing, youth sailing, the Southern Charter Grand Slam Series or our work with the Race Ahead Foundation, we are committed to fostering the development and excellence of South African sailors, young and old. One of our proudest partnerships to date has been our long-standing relationship with two-time Olympians Roger Hudson and Asenathi Jim.
The Olympics are in Hudson’s genes. His father, Dave Hudson, represented South African sailing in 1992. Hoping to impart their talents and love for the sport, Dave Hudson founded the Race Ahead Foundation in 2008. Race Ahead partners up talented, motivated young sailors from underprivileged backgrounds with the experienced mentors and equipment that they need to succeed. It was through their work for Race Ahead that Roger first met Jim.
Having discovered sailing during a short trip to Cape Town, Jim’s love for the sport and natural ability were soon evident. Coming from the rural Eastern Cape, having struggled at school and eventually dropping out, Jim was no stranger to adversity. One day, out on the water, Hudson asked Jim what his dream was. His answer? “To be an Olympic sailor”, and they have been making that happen ever since. From being ranked 213 globally, in just a year and a half they managed to qualify for and compete in the last Olympics. Jim went from an informal settlement in South Africa to Olympic life in London with barely two years of experience at the helm, at the tender age of 20. And in just six months’ time they’re off to Rio to do it all over again. “It’s the most incredible story”, says Southern Charter CEO Mark Thompson.
“We were already sponsoring regattas at the time and Roger Hudson came to me with Asenathi Jim’s story, which really is incredible”. Thompson saw sponsoring South Africa’s first mixed race sailing team as invaluable not just for them, but the future of South Africa and sailing generally. He wanted to sponsor Jim particularly because it was a story that he could somewhat relate to, “coming from nothing”; “He’s got this energy, the time that he spends, his motivation… that’s something that you want to instil in everybody: if you put the hours in and you work hard, you get rewarded”, Thompson says.
In fact it’s not all that different from Southern Charter’s story. Through both the October 1987 crash and the trying times of 2007/2008, Thompson has managed to found a multi-award-winning business on the basis that “I knew enough to know that I knew nothing. Now, in the investment world, when you say that people generally laugh at you”, he says, but starting with ‘nothing’ was the best decision Thompson could have made. He ‘knew nothing’, took nothing for granted and designed investment funds and strategies which still managed to out-perform most other fund managers through some of the toughest financial periods we’ve seen to date. The key to Southern Charter’s successes, just like Hudson & Jim, was hard work, determination and dedication.
And just like Olympic competitors, Southern Charter has their unique competitive advantage, one which in fact comes from sailing. Thompson describes it as, “our strategic thinking. It’s particularly useful for investing and a lot of it relates to sailing too. You’re always being tactical, optimising your position, striving for consistency, understanding where everyone is, understanding your own strengths and weaknesses and those of your fellow competitors, as well as how to use them to your advantage. It all comes down to the very same unconstrained tactical, strategic mind-set.”
In sailing as in business “you get headwinds, you have things that come your way… the environment’s changing, but you’re responsible; you can’t blame anyone else”. And the only way to ensure that you stay competitive and to keep succeeding is “hours and hours practicing. Where Hudson and Jim have spent hours on the water, we have spent hours thinking and planning. It’s never a one day game; it’s the preparation that goes in to each campaign. That’s what makes the difference”.
Jim and Hudson are testament to the fact that with a whole lot of talent, determination, hard work and a little help from your friends, any dream is possible. We at Southern Charter firmly believe that ‘how far you go depends on who goes with you’, and we’re so proud and excited to be a part of their journey.
Follow their progress, preparation, successes and stories as they #Race2Rio on our Southern Charter blog.