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While many of us may have opted for relaxation in the sun, sea and sand for our summer holidays, Tom Low, Chartered MCSI, entered one of the toughest yacht races in the world: the biennial 608 nautical mile Fastnet race from Cowes on the Isle of Wight to the south-west coast of Ireland and back.
This year was Tom’s first Fastnet race. “You race round Land’s End, keeping the Fastnet Rock to port [six miles off the southernmost tip of Ireland] and back to Plymouth. It took us four days and nine hours.”
Tom began working at Quilter Cheviot as an Investment Manager in October after two years at Thesis Asset Management in Lymington. He lives in Bournemouth, which, given his passion for sailing, makes perfect sense: “Living by the coast was always part of the plan, as having the sea nearby is great for indulging my hobby.”
While most of his sailing has been in the UK, the Solent and the east and west coasts of Scotland, he has also sailed around New Zealand, through western Greece (as a flotilla skipper for a season) and several areas in France. “Greece is great for cruising, but nothing beats the Solent for ‘round-the-can’ racing,” he says.
London-born Tom’s route into financial services has been as diverse as his many sailing expeditions. He spent a gap year in New Zealand as a teacher’s assistant and studied a BSc (Hons) Physiology at Edinburgh, then an MSc Neuroendocrinology at Oxford. Following this, he entered the financial services industry, where he worked in customer services and then as a tied adviser for Lloyds: “I was really interested in how money works,” he says. “I became an international Independent Financial Adviser [IFA] based in Luxembourg, and then I came back to the UK, where I worked with Barclays as an IFA. I then began working in private banking with both Barclays Wealth and Barnett Waddingham Investments.”
"A pod of 20 dolphins joined the boat for about half an hour"
When sailing, Tom’s role is as a helm and skipper of racing yachts: “This requires organising everything for the weekend’s racing, which will include knowing where the race area is and keeping an eye on weather forecasts and the tide. On the first morning we do a safety brief and formulate a plan for the day, including which route we’ll take, accounting for weather conditions and tide.”
Tom caught the sailing bug at the age of 15 when his brother was sailing for the British Sailing Team in a youth dinghy class called the Cadets. He was attracted to yacht helming and skippering because he enjoys teaching and working with others in a tight and efficient team. He usually sails over the weekend, in the Sunsail fleet of F40s based out of Port Solent, but he sometimes does longer passages, such as cross-channel and the Fastnet.
He has won a total of nine Scottish university national championships, represented British university teams and taken part in the Student World Championships four times. He regularly wins the Sunsail weekends too, having come third in the finals in 2014. Tom’s most memorable sailing trip was a qualifier for Fastnet: “I was up on deck at 4am, so I saw a wonderful sunrise. Then a pod of 20 dolphins joined the boat for about half an hour, and it was magical watching them play by the boat when we were 20 or so miles offshore.”
Out of all sports, Tom feels that sailing epitomises that important team spirit: “I cannot think of another sport that requires so many people doing their particular skilled action at precisely the right time in collaboration with others,” he says.
“It is fantastic for building confidence, getting to know your own strengths and weaknesses and gaining respect for the weather and seas. Leaders tend to flourish on yachts. All these skills are transferable to the business world. You get to learn a fantastically enjoyable new sport and have great fun meeting people and socialising. There’s no downside.”
This article was originally published in the December 2015 edition of The Review. The print edition is available to all members who opt in to receive it, except student members. All eligible members who would like to receive future editions in the post should log in to MyCISI, click on My Account/Communications and set their preference to 'Yes'.