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Philippe's Final Blog From Visit Malta Puma

If I am quite honest I have to admit that as I enter the approaches to the English Channel on Visit Malta Puma for the very last time it is not with the blaze of glory that I had quite envisaged. I had imaged that we would be at the front of the pack, fending off tough competition from British Soldier in one last dog fight with our arch rivals, to the bitter end.

For six glorious years I have forged a partnership with Puma and been a part of a project, meticulously managed from the shore by Allie Smith, that has achieved something that I could only have dreamed of. It is fair to say that I do have exceptionally high standards and always strive for success, which to me has been measured by results.

Along the way I have learnt many valuable lessons, often the hard way, which has helped me build exceptional teams. In 2007 the standards that I set myself, and the team, were unachievable in the format I laid out. Back then I did not have the skills set to adapt and manage the expectations in a positive way and I possibly even lacked the maturity and inclination to want to.

The result was a break down in the team that went beyond the point of return and reconciliation, it was out of control and I could do nothing except watch what on paper should have been an incredible season dissolve into disaster. That year we won the St Malo race becoming the first British boat to beat Pen Azen offshore. The achievement meant nothing to most of the team and was an inconsequential measurement of the success of the campaign.

Lesson learnt; winning is not everything, the people involved are more important than anything. I nearly gave up racing at the end of that season and some of the team did!

Sometimes we put lessons learnt to the back of our mind and only use them subconsciously when going about our every day life. Occasionally when digging deep in difficult situations we have to look harder at the overall picture and use every tool we have in the box to succeed.

Two years ago we stormed into the English Channel at the end of the Madeira Race chasing Pen Azen hard. The last 700 miles of the race were covered in just under three days as Puma surfed down waves at break neck speeds of up to 20 knots swallowing up the miles. We overhauled the French boat and won that race in style. I think in my mind that is how I envisaged the climax of my last offshore race aboard Puma to be.

Instead, we have an upwind race to the end, where the last 400 miles to the finish will take three days! We have our own private battle going on with Cheeki Rafiki and are fighting hard all the way to ensure we do not finish at the bottom of the leader board.

As I am sure you are all aware, I am passionate about the sea, live for my racing and have revelled in the success story of Visit Malta Puma. I wanted a grand finale to the story and I will now openly admit that at times I have struggled to rationalise the situation. I dug deep whilst becoming overwhelmed with a feeling I was staring failure straight in the face. Whilst having a moment to myself to reflect I remembered that valuable lesson learnt in 2007, success is not only measured by silverware, far from it there is much more to it and this race is proving that.

2005 The story of Puma Logic began with what I refer to as the pioneering years. Brian joined the team and Puma more or less picked us. The Reflex 38 was an unknown on the racing circuit, Sailing Logic was a new concept and we had several novices on board for our first Fastnet campaign.

Somehow, and to this day I have no idea how, we won our class in the Rolex Fastnet race and finished the season by winning the Emily Verger Plate for toping the leader board in IRC1 of the RORC Championships. We made our intentions clearly know; we meant business.

2006 saw Puma going from strength to strength and the season culminated in a 2nd place in the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race.

2008 provided me with the best month of my life as we took Puma half way across the Atlantic and back whilst competing in the Madeira Race which secured Puma her first overall victory in a RORC race

2009 became the glory year as Puma received the Royal Ocean Racing Clubs highest accolade being named as their 'Yacht of the Year' and a place in offshore racing's hall of fame.

2010 is the year we consolidated that award by taking first blood in the Cervantes Cup, winning the Round Ireland Race and leading the RORC championship in IRC for most of the season. Brian is still with the team and has only ever missed three offshore races on Puma over the past six year!

For me the perfect end to an amazing six years would be to take home the Emily Verger Plate for a second time. It would be dedicated to all those who had been involved and instrumental to the success. Seeing that prospect slip away made me feel like I was letting everyone down and I began to remember the old adage, you are only as good as your last race and I became worried that Puma would be remembered by this result. I also felt I was letting everyone down on board who had committed so much to compete in this race with a trust in me and Puma's reputation.

I suddenly realised, after being prompted by Becki in an e-mail, that the way we are finishing this race is in fact a much more fitting and exceptional ending to the story. Below is what I wrote in an e mail to my mother last night and I think it says everything I need to say

'This is not quite the blaze of glory that I envisaged for our finale but I have come to appreciate that in fact this is a far more fitting end to an era. This race epitomises every value that I stand for and the strength of character that I have cajoled out of everyone who sails with me. The determination that is being shown on puma for this race is as a result of everything I have learnt and imparted on others over the past few years. This race is not about the silverware, this is about something far more special and fitting for the final chapter of a very special partnership.

2007 is the year you may have noticed I left out from Puma's history with me detailed above. Well that is the year I learnt my most valuable lesson; it is not just about winning, it is about the team and the people involved. It is that lesson that has helped me through this race.

We have climbed mountains together, broken down many barriers, earned immense respect and left people in awe of what has been achieved on the water. Above all else we have inspired many people and given so much to so many over six glorious years.

I therefore conclude that indeed Puma will be remembered for this race as I feared; however, she will be remembered for something far more unique and special than winning, with a place in our hearts that no trophy can buy.

Fear not though, Puma is remaining in our thoroughbred stable, it is just time for me to move on to pastures new with new challenges at Sailing Logic; watch this space.

For me now, I am going to leave you with those random thoughts of mine and go and enjoy my last day and night offshore with Puma for one last dance. I for one am going to miss her and intend to savour every last minute with the boat that has kept us all safe through thick and thin.

As for the Emily Verger Plate, well that is now in the hands of our friends on Encore and team mates on Playing Round Logic; but you know what, for the first time ever, that really does not matter to me anymore.

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