Having forged a path through grassroots sailing from the age of 10 into the world of professional sailing, Lawrence’s extensive career covers all aspects of the sport. It started with dinghy sailing on the Solent and continued with the Admiral’s Cup and the 1992 Olympic Games in the Star, whilst all the time Lawrence was pursuing a successful career as an accountant in his “other life.”
It is unsurprising then that in 2010 the Extreme Sailing Series approached Lawrence in search of an expert sailor to run the most intense and exciting commercially-driven sailing series on the planet.
“The challenging thing about the Extreme Sailing Series is you are balancing three very important competing elements; the absolute need to give the sailors top quality racing, putting on a show close to shore for the spectators and finally giving the commercial sponsors a return for their investment,” explained Lawrence. Not just a simple job of setting a fair start line and firing a gun then.
With a new and potent weapon of choice announced for 2016, in the form of the GC32 hydro-foiling catamaran, the Extreme Sailing Series is once again pushing the boundaries and Lawrence will be the man making the racing happen: “The Extreme 40 has done a fantastic job but sailing is changing rapidly and the future is foiling technology,” he says.
The performance of the GC32 boat is undeniably higher on the curve than the Extreme 40, with top speeds when foiling of 38-knots compared to 30 knots for the older 40s. Combined with the compact inner-city racetracks that the Series is famous for, the GC32 fleet promises to be quite a spectacle for guests and one hell of a test for Race Management.
“Of course there will be challenges. The boats have never been raced in this format before. But we have reviewed all of the options from a safety point of view and I’m confident we can deliver the high quality racing the sailors need and spectators want,” said Lawrence.
With the introduction of the new boat will come a whole raft of new opportunities for the Series. “Stadium Racing will still be at the core of our offering but we will introduce more open water racing so we can really show the potential of the foiling boats,” he explained. “We can also enhance our guest experience to include some pro-am races to fully exploit the thrill of the ride. It will be similar but there will be a significant refresh.”
Catch Lawrence in the Extreme Club and you may be caught off guard by his insight and total recall of every detail of each race.
He never compromises on absolutes and his authority, confidence and leadership are the qualities that make Lawrence fit for one of the toughest jobs in pro sailing management: “When I set a course now the first thing I do is race around it in my mind. I think: ‘how would I start on the line? Would I go to the left or the right?’ I will visually take myself through the whole race step-by-step. Doing this I can see my own mistakes and reconfigure the course if necessary.”
Over the years as the Race Management team and the sailors gained experience Lawrence has been able to dramatically shrink the racecourses. But the high speed GC32’s will need a little more run-off to be able to race competitively and safely.
Lawrence however, doesn’t think it will be long before the teams settle in: “Racing will still be close and probably a little loose at the start of the year with new teams and new sailors, all in it to win it and with something to prove. But I’m sure by the end of the year a pecking order will be established and they will be at each other’s throats.”
Photo Credit: Lloyd Images
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