Photos: Esimit Europa / Manuel Kovšca / Matic Grmek / Franck Terlin / Sidney Guillemi / Guido Trombetta / Francesco Ferri / Studio Borlenghi

Sailing maxi yachts is like running a business. Putting a team together, organising everything; motivation, objectives, strategy, vision; adapting quickly to current changes, reacting fast and decisively. As in business, if you want to achieve extraordinary success in sailing, you have to excel in all of its segments.

‘If you are working on something exciting that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed. The vision pulls you.’ These words spoken by the late Steve Jobs could be referring to Igor Simčič’s life and career. Always at least two steps in front of everybody else, always thinking ahead, the Slovenian businessman and a keen yachtsman has won a number of prominent races worldwide and was, for a time, the absolute leader in the maxi class. From summers spent on the French Riviera to the Esimit Europa Project, which has been much more than just sailing, to the award bestowed by Prince Albert II of Monaco – Igor Simčič has achieved all by having a vision, working hard and following his dreams.

How did you start sailing and why is sailing a special sport to you?

When I was growing up, skiing was the most important sport for me. At the time, I wanted to be a professional skier, and I devoted myself to it with all my being; I even passed the instructors’ test and qualified for the international ISIA licence. Since French was my optional subject in secondary school, my uncle Boris Trpin invited me to spend a summer in St Tropez, where he was the skipper of the yacht Helisara, owned by the world-renowned conductor Herbert von Karajan. Meeting Karajan and one of the best teams in Europe gave me a whole new perspective on this sport, which then completely engrossed me. The Helisara was one of the first maxi yachts, and its frequent guests were Karajan’s friends Gianni Agnelli (Fiat), Brigitte Bardot, John Holliday, Jochen Rindt (Formula 1 world champion) and many others. I realised then that this sport is really special, perhaps one of the most complete sports, where you have to excel in all of its segments if you want to achieve extraordinary success. To put together a team means to have a couple of outstanding helmsmen, an excellent tactician and navigator because races in this category can be over 100 nautical miles long, and, of course, the skipper, who makes all the decisions and connects, coordinates and runs everything. The sailing boat also has to be top-notch and properly prepared, so that there are no surprises in a wind of over 30 knots, and that the yacht can set records. The challenge presented itself, and I decided that I’d have to do something extraordinary here.

You often say that you are first a yachtsman before being a businessman. Can you explain what you mean by that?

Sailing maxi yachts is like running a business. Putting a team together, organising everything; motivation, objectives, strategy, vision; adapting quickly to current changes, reacting fast and decisively… It’s all very similar. I ran and developed the company Esimit and the Esimit Europa Project at the same time. In the first case, my goal was to create a successful strategic company, and in the other, I wanted to connect people, countries and the entire Europe by a powerful common symbol of cooperation and friendship. That I managed to do both is perhaps best shown by the support I received in 2014 by the secretary-general of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon, who said that what we are doing reflects the values of the UN.

What part of sailing were you able to apply to business?

Sailing taught me that when there are changes in the market or a company, you should not insist on the strategy and organisation you have had up to that point, but rather adapt to the new reality as quickly as possible. You have to be flexible and follow the changes and the developments in the market, and this is where the opportunity lies to achieve a better result or, in other words, gain a larger market share. In the cockpit of a yacht, the helmsman, tactician and navigator share their feelings, ideas, suggestions aloud all the time, so that the skipper can make the best decision possible using as much information as he gets from the key people aboard.

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