Retired Aviva finance director to tackle round-the-world sailing challenge

Philip Scott and his wife Helen on board their £1m-plus Oyster yacht. Photo: Supplied

The man who steered the region's biggest firm through the economic storm of the recession is now facing even more turbulent waters.

For retired Aviva finance director Philip Scott, 59, is the first to have signed up for the second Oyster World Rally, a 16-month round-the-globe sailing challenge.

He is already planning for the adventure which will begin when he departs Antigua in the Caribbean on January 6 2016 - his 62nd birthday - and heads for the Panama Canal.

The route, the same as the first rally currently taking place, will cross the Pacific and pass north of Australia in to the Indian Ocean. The crews will reach Cape Town, South Africa around Christmas time before heading across the Atlantic to South America and cruising north back to the Caribbean.

He will be joined on board his £1m-plus Oyster 575 yacht by a crew of five, including his son in law Mark Lawler.

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The eight-berth yacht, built at Oyster's former Landamores-owned site in Hoveton, is named after his wife Helen although she has declined to take part in the epic voyage.

Mr Scott, of Silver Street, Fleggburgh, near Great Yarmouth, said: 'Helen and I have been married for nearly 40 years and she has been very supportive of my sailing, but I would describe her as a Chablis sailor; she likes just to sit at the back of the boat with a glass of wine.

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'She will be flying around to catch me up at various stops and I hope she will join me on the leg to the Galapagos islands.'

Speaking over a pint at the King's Arms, the pub he bought and saved for the community of Fleggburgh when it was threatened by redevelopment, he recalled his passion for sailing had begun at the age of five.

He said: 'My parents lived in Hertfordshire and we used to come up to the Broads at Easter every year and hire a boat from Herbert Woods. It was a motor cruiser but we took a sailing dinghy with us as well.

'When I was 16 we moved up to the Broads after my father bought a shop in Reedham.'

He recalled his parents bought an old Herbert Woods sailing cruiser, Twilight 3, and he became a member of Norwich Frostbite Sailing Club in 1971.

'I am still a member today and have been sailing on the Broads for 55 years,' he said.

Today, he is proud to own a Norfolk One Design dinghy, Condor, and a river cruiser named after his daughter Rebecca.

A 20-times veteran of the legendary Broads Three Rivers Race, he confessed he and his crew - 'the same age as me' - now found negotiating the bridges 'too much like hard work'.

'However, we are still regulars in the Turkey Race, the last cruiser race of the year,' he said.

During his 37 years at Norwich Union - later Aviva - he still found time to sail despite working at times upwards of 70 hours a week.

'You have to concentrate fully when you are sailing so you switch off from work, although there is so much to do and think about, it is really changing one stress for another,' he said.

Mr Scott, who still works part-time and is a non-executive director of drinks firm Diageo and the Royal Bank of Scotland, recalled his dream of round-the-world sailing had begun 30 years ago.

At the time he was working for Norwich Union in New Zealand and he and his family took a holiday on the Cook Islands in the Pacific.

He said: 'It was our 10th wedding anniversary. We fell in love with the Pacific and I said to my wife and Rebecca, 'one day I want to come back in my own boat'.

'My wife said, 'don't expect me to come and it will cost a lot of money in first class air fares for me to catch up'.

'However, seven years ago, she told me that if I wanted to realise my dream it was time for me to start doing something about it.'

That led to him buying his first ocean-going yacht - a six-berth Oyster 46 - in March 2008.

'We regarded that as a training boat on the learning curve of sailing,' he said.

'We enjoyed a few trips to the Channel islands and had the boat taken down to the Mediterranean to sail down there around the Greek islands.

'After I retired I wanted a bigger boat to comfortably cross the Atlantic, and possibly circumnavigate the world, so in 2011 I placed an order for the yacht Helen.'

After taking delivery of her in March, Mr Scott and his crew have already enjoyed a cruise to the Channel Islands, and will be leaving Ipswich on Friday for their first crossing of the Bay of Biscay en route to Palma in Majorca.

In preparation for his round-the-world voyage, Mr Scott will be taking part in next year's Antlantic Rally for Cruisers - ARC - sailing from Gran Canaria to St Lucia.

And ahead of the Oyster World Rally, he confessed there would be two years of intensive preparation in terms of navigation skills and health and safety.

He said modern communications meant the 30 boats taking part would be able to stay in touch although they would be strung out over hundreds of miles between the various stops.

'Although we hope it will be enjoyable conditions 98pc of the time, you have to be prepared for everything when you are crossing the Pacific Ocean in a little boat,' he said.

He is pleased that his favourite place in the Cook islands is close to the route of the rally.

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