Smith & Williamson adviser aims to break trans-Atlantic rowing age record

Alexandra Newlove, 12/05/2020

Guy Rigby

When busy senior executives consider the next phase of their careers, they often look forward to a more relaxed existence full of worthy charitable roles and perhaps a cushy NED seat.

But for Guy Rigby, one of the seats in question is in the rather more extreme setting of a 24-foot transatlantic rowing boat, as he looks to become part of the oldest pair ever to row across the Atlantic Ocean.

Mr Rigby, who founded Smith & Williamson’s entrepreneurial services group in 2008, will next year take part in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, a fundraising event which sees teams row non-stop across the 3000-mile stretch of ocean between La Gomera (just off Tenerife) and Antigua. Mr Rigby will be 68 years old at the time.

Entries to the race come from soloists up to crews of five, with smaller crews resulting in a slower crossing. Double-scull crews typically operate each rower two hours on/two hours off for the duration of the race.

With a collective age of 124 – Mr Rigby’s team will be the oldest pair to make the crossing, as records currently stand, expected to take around 60 days and around 1.5 million strokes.

Mr Rigby says the event naturally comes with “a host of challenges” both physical and mental.

“In the early days, these are likely to come in the form of seasickness and sleep deprivation,” he says.

“Other health hazards include general illnesses or bugs, coping with atmospheric changes, including rain, storms, wind and sun. The freeboard on a Rannoch 25 [the boat’s model] is very low so we will expect to be wet for much of the time…The biggest worry and the greatest pain is likely to come from our rear-ends, where constant pressure is obviously unavoidable.”

An example of a Rannoch 25 / Photo credit: Atlantic Campaigns

Mr Rigby and his partner David Murray (56 on race day) plan to raise money for social entrepreneurs in their boat ‘The Entrepreneur Ship’. Social entrepreneurs being those with a “triple bottom line” – a focus on social and environmental issues as well as profits.

While the pair wish to keep the beneficiary charity confidential while terms are finalised, they are hoping to raise between £300,000 and £400,000 depending on the economic climate in the lead-up to the race.

This will be through a combination of private fundraising and corporate support, with sponsors likely to include a challenger bank, an accountancy firm, a law firm, an accounting software provider, CRM and other tech suppliers.

While Mr Rigby retains a part-time role at Smith & Williamson chairing the entrepreneur practice he founded, he is stepping down from day-to-day operations and has also this year set up his own consulting venture, ‘Guy Rigby – the Entrepreneurs’ Adviser’.

Mr Rigby says the biggest challenges facing entrepreneurs amidst the Covid-19 pandemic are “cashflow and uncertainty”.

He said that while larger firms were undoubtedly facing vast challenges, the majority will survive, even if shareholder value is decimated.

“The story for the nation’s SMEs is rather different. Huge numbers of these businesses, which account for around 60 percent of private sector jobs, are on the brink. For many, the support that has been made available by the government will simply delay the inevitable,” Mr Rigby said.

He added there would be lessons from the crisis for both businesses and households around having adequate capital and savings.

Mr Rigby said he hoped relaxation of the lockdown would soon allow him to get out on the water again in his single-scull, with training presently restricted to running and biking.

There are also numerous items he needs to tick off his to-do list ahead of the event, for example – investigating a shark repelling device for when he has to jump into five-mile-deep water to clean the sides of the vessel.

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