Battling perilous seas around Cape Horn was easy compared to fighting off creditors and winning back her reputation after a massive dispute with the Qatar officialdom forced round the world yacht hero Tracy Edwards into bankruptcy.
The national heroine who won public acclaim after skippering the first all female crew to round the world sailing victory has been informing business audiences for the first time how she has weathered the latest storms in her life and how her sense of humour and fighting spirit has been an essential ingredient for survival on land and sea.
She candidly admits her ill fated venture inQatarwas a gamble which didn’t pay off. She admits to failure – one of her key business lessons.
Despite creating a “hugely successful” event with $46million worth of press coverage she was scuppered by a refusal from Middle Eastern backers to pay her £8million she had borrowed as well as the massive prize pot of $1 million.
Tracyhit an especially low point being held for 28 days against her will whilst theQatarauthorities tried to force her to sign a waiver exonerating them from sponsorship responsibilities.
Tracyrefused to sign, exhibiting the strength of character, fearlessness and tenacity which have characterised her winning performances in the past. Her refusal ensured that legal action againstQatarcould commence in the hope that she, her team and event suppliers can one day be compensated for personal losses including her £1.2million home. She won her first case inQatarand the case continues.
All this seemed a lifetime away from the celebrations in 2003 when she launched Quest International Sports Events in a wave of euphoria and became the envy of the sports world, signing a £6 million sponsorship deal with the Crown Prince of Qatar to create two round-the-world races and a marina complex.
She was already on an international high after sporting glory winning the Whitbread round-the-world yacht race and being hailed as Sportswoman of the Year. Life was good when she was presented with an MBE for her sailing and leadership abilities, and, wrote a best selling book called Maiden which was number one in the book charts for 19 weeks and still regarded as a motivation bible.
On reflection she said: “It is all very well to talk about commitment and motivation but one of the most important business lessons I learned is that if your ‘trust’ is misplaced or you misjudge the competition, they mean nothing.”
Always unconventional,Tracytook to the sea as a cook following expulsion from school at 15. Remarkably for an acclaimed sailor, she suffered chronic sea sickness and had to overcome the disability to become a professional sailor. There were many other obstacles to success before she entered the record books – tales which enthral and amuse audiences around the world.
She is always funny and devastatingly truthful about her personal abilities and failures. “I hear myself preaching good communication but when things got tough, I kept the bigger problems from the team in an attempt to protect them. Of all people I should have known better.”
Optimism has been a strength. She adds: “It is true what they say about hitting rock bottom. I have been there more than once. I have always fought against the odds and looked to the horizon for comfort. There is always a journey’s end and fortunately for me and my team, we have worked out a winning formula.”
Tracy regularly gives her time for charity work and is working with the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) and One Parent Families as well as Lady Taverners and The Prince’s Trust.