Designer, builder and keen sailor of vessels – Ewan Hind has done it all. We caught up with Arksen’s Chief Operating Officer to discuss how he first got into the marine industry, sustainability and the need for respect towards our oceans, the impact of a pandemic as well as some of his envious past adventures.
You’re a keen sailor. When did your love for the sea first arise?
Ewan Hind (EW): When I was young, the family moved to the west coast of Scotland and my parents ran a traditional sailing boat as a charter business. We sailed on the boat during the summers around the Hebrides, and we lived by the sea and spent our spare time messing around in dinghies. I was bitten by the bug early on!
With over 25 years of experience within the marine industry, you’ve been involved in the designing, building and sailing of vessels. How did you first get into the industry?
EW: I passed my Yachtmaster at 17 and spent every summer through my late teens sailing professionally, and volunteering with Sail Training organisations, before spending many years involved in sailing and sail training full time after graduation. I had dreams of being a yacht designer from my early teens and studied for a Masters degree in Naval Architecture at Southampton University, which was my route into designing and building boats. I’ve been lucky to be able to combine designing, building and time at sea on all sorts of boats during my career to date.
Marine conservation is at the heart of Arksen. Has the sustainability of the marine industry been something that has become more important to you over the years?
EW: Yes, absolutely. Having spent my formative years going to sea in a naturally sustainable way – on sailing boats, mostly wooden, and in beautiful, unspoilt places – leaving a light footprint was very natural. When my career took me into the large yacht world, I was shocked by some of the prevailing attitudes and lack of respect for the ocean environment. Over the last few years, there has certainly been a general shift in attitudes toward more sustainable operation, but there is certainly a long way to go. I hope that with Arksen, we can be part of leading that change.
How vital do you think it is for yacht companies to respect, understand their impact and protect the oceans. Do you think enough is being done in the industry?
EW: Positive change is certainly happening within the industry, but it is slow and more needs to happen. Much in the yachting sector revolves around wealthy owners – cash-rich, time-poor, with a focus on convenience and with habits ingrained over decades of consumption. Widespread, systemic change has to start where the money is, with a shift in attitudes from the people who pay the bills. There are many thoughtful owners investing in more sustainable yachts and operations, and the industry is responding with numerous innovations to facilitate this. But, at the moment, these innovations are grabbing headlines – a sign that they are not yet the norm. These innovations show what the direction of travel needs to be, and there is some momentum building. But the industry certainly needs to do more to guide owners in the right direction – to be more proactive rather than simply responsive – in order to accelerate change.
What are you most excited for, for the future of Arksen?
EW: I’m looking forward to helping owners plan incredible adventures in their Arksen vessels, facilitating research and conservation work aboard through Yachts for Science, and using our shared ownership programmes to make access to ocean adventures more achievable.
Many events have been put on hold this year due to COVID-19, including major boat shows such as Cannes Yachting Festival and Southampton International Boat Show. How do you think the yachting industry will fair with the disruption compared to other industries?
EW: It seems to be a mixed outlook for the marine industry. The uncertainty caused by the pandemic is certainly putting some plans on hold in the short term, but access to a boat provides a perfect opportunity for socially distanced fun and adventure and this is being recognised. The small boat sector, where stock is readily available to have and use now, is doing very well. In the longer term, I am hopeful that the changes in outlook and habits brought about by Covid-19, lockdown living, remote working and social distancing will encourage more people to buy and charter as a great way to have family time, undertake adventures in safety and comfort, and do so for longer periods, as remote working opportunities and faster connectivity at sea allow business’ to be conducted from anywhere.
Trends come and go, but where do you see the future of the marine industry heading? Are we all getting more adventurous?
EW: I believe so – being more adventurous and getting to less frequented places seems to be a long term trend in travel generally, not just the marine industry. Air travel is forecast to be depressed for another 2-3 years, making travel and exploration by boat the perfect way for people to get their adventure fix!
You’ve banked over 100,000 miles at sea over the years, which has been your best adventure to date?
EW: There are so many highlights in that time! The Clipper Round the World race was certainly one of these. Crossing the South Pacific from Panama to New Zealand via the Galapagos, Polynesia, Tonga and Fiji was another. But there is great adventure closer to home as well – trips to St Kilda, Norway and the Isles of Scilly also stand out as memorable.
Adventure can come at a cost, we find not everything always runs smoothly. What’s been one of your biggest challenges when on an expedition?
EW: When I set off on the Clipper Round the World race, my first priority was to bring everyone home safely. Fortunately, I managed to do this – the worst injury during the voyage was to myself! Crossing the North Pacific with my leg in a brace was a challenge as it very much limited my physical involvement on deck. However, my amazing crew stepped up, sailed brilliantly, and we won that leg.
You’ve ticked off many bucket list adventures including skippering in the gruelling biannual Clipper Round the World Yacht Race, what’s next for Ewan?
EW: I’m now married with two young sons, so over the next few years, I hope that my adventures will mostly be family affairs, as we introduce our boys to sailing, the oceans and adventurous travel.