Meet The 2018 Guest Speaker

2017 Guest Speaker: Ed Stafford

An interview with Ed Stafford

The usual first question: Why did you choose to walk the Amazon?

I’d been out of the military for seven years and leading mostly conservation expeditions to rainforests. I was a point in my life where I found myself with quite a lot of experience but no commitments and so I was free to dream and play around with the concept of “the coolest expedition ever”. I’d never been to the Amazon and so I started researching and the more I looked, the more I was sure that no-one had ever done it before. A true world first - a Guinness World Record in the making. I was hooked and decided that I would be the first. 
Over the years since you’ve been exploring, have you been a great user of technology?
The Amazon walk was a traditional feat of exploration in some senses and yet I only achieved it because of cutting edge technology. Half way through I ran out of money and used my BGAN (satellite Internet link) to put out a plea for help (a Paypal link next to a homemade video cut to a Coldplay track!). The response was amazing. Over the next 6 months we has £42,000 come in to the expedition before anyone had even coined the phrase “crowdfunding”. New GPS, insurance, MacBook etc meant that we were fit and ready to walk for another full year. 

What technology – if any – helped you the most during your Amazon walk?

BGAN - see above. I even used the crude GPS that is only accurate down to a full degree to navigate with when my GPS broke. It only enabled me to plot a circle 1km in diameter on the map but that was enough for me to plot my (very rough) progress and get out of that stretch of forest. The unit also has such fast streaming that I was able to do live interviews with Finula Sweeney on CNN for 10 consecutive days at the end of the trip. The little unit that I carried for 860 days was broadcasting me live to 240 international territories!!
What did you miss most during your trip – contact with home, for example?

It was the simple things. Fish and chips, Guinness, rugby (playing and watching on TV). Then the obvious too of course - 860 days is a long time in your own company. 
How did you keep in touch, especially when what was going to be a one-year journey turned into two and a half years?

The satellite internet unit allowed me to email but I rarely had enough bandwidth (limited to 100MB a month) or battery power to go online. There was enough communication for them to know I was ok and the rest of my time online was spent running the expedition: liaising with charities, sponsors, publicist, and production company. It was like running a business from a swamp. 
What’s the most important lesson you brought back?
To not fixate on your goal. I could envisage running down the beach into the Atlantic Ocean from the very outset, but the problem with that was that everything became reduced to a stepping stone to the future. I would get frustrated with progress and back-tracking (which happens a lot when exploring!) and so if I did it again I would try and forget about the end state and focus on each moment of each day. To be more present. 

Now you’ve been home for some time, what do you miss most about the Amazon?

I think that the moment you step into the rainforest it somehow feels like home. There is a comfort in the trees, especially after spending so long there and becoming so adept at living next to rivers and sleeping in hammocks. I miss the simplicity and the satisfaction of being snug and dry in my hammock even when a tropical storm is pummelling my tarpaulin. I miss the most complicated thing in the day - collecting firewood. 
Your wife Laura cycled across South America. What was the most helpful thing you could tell her before she started her journey?

I was able to put her in touch with my friend Cho who she cycled with for a couple of months. I think though that she’s not very good at taking my advice (as she’s very strong-willed and independent).  I’ve just asked her what the most important thing I told her was and she said it was the knowledge that “We’ll figure it out together.” By that I think she means I gave her the confidence that whatever problem arose she knew that there would be a way of sorting it and carrying on. She had many fairly serious experiences - and none of them stopped her. 
Back to technology, what is your favourite bit of tech kit now – and why?

I have to be honest it's my iPhone. To be able to use it to take notes, navigate, record images, shoot video, time my HIIT exercise, play music, read books, make calls, run a business, etc is extraordinary. My MacBook Air is collecting dust as I just don’t need it any more. The very best thing about it is that you can leave it by the side of the bed all weekend and relax in the knowledge that it will all still be there on Monday. 
Your life has changed radically in the past couple of years: married and now a baby. Do you think the three of you will be going adventuring?

We’ve already driven to Estonia and back in the Land Rover, sleeping in the back of the car with Ran (the baby). To be honest it was a mistake and we were shattered by the end. I know neither one of us wants to stop adventuring and suspect we’ll end up parenting in quite a Scandinavian way where sometimes wives go back to work and Dad takes over maternal duties quite early. In February, Laura’s off on a new expedition to do a world-first and I’m at home on Dad duty for 2 months. Unconventional? Yes - of course. But I think our kids will grown up robust and very loved so we’ll make it work I know. 
If so, where, and what technology will you take with you?
The trip to Estonia was full of technology. I had a DJI drone to film us from the air and the whole car was rigged with GoPros. I find technology as exciting as exploring - cameras are getting better and better and smaller and smaller. I can even edit my videos using my thumb! It's a privilege to live when we do and I’m embracing it 100%.

2016 Guest Speaker: Dee Caffari, MBE 

More people have walked the moon than what our Global Carrier Awards 2016 guest speaker, Dee Caffari, has achieved.  


On three occasions, Yachtswoman Dee Caffari has sailed into the record books. 

In May 2006, Dee became the first woman to circumnavigate the world solo ‘the wrong way’ (against the prevailing winds and currents). Few would argue that it is an extraordinary achievement. Only four men have ever managed to finish this gruelling route before. In other words, more people have walked on the moon.  In recognition of her first world record, Dee was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday honours list.

Not one to stay in her comfort zone, Dee announced that she wanted to become the first woman to sail solo, non-stop around the world in both directions. Dee faced a daunting task as she entered the highly competitive world of Open 60 racing.  She was to compete against the best international sailors in a race held every four years ‘the right way’ around the world.  After one of the most dramatic Vendée Globes ever known (2008/09) – it is not called ‘The Everest of the Seas’ for nothing – Dee crossed the finish line in February 2009 to international acclaim with a double world-first.


After completing the Barcelona World Race in April 2011 with her co-skipper Anna Corbella, Dee became the only woman on earth to have sailed non-stop around the world three times. Dee has time and again proven herself to be a yachtswoman of the highest calibre and many are amazed to learn that she only began her sailing career in 2000.

In 2011 Dee was appointed by the Royal Navy as an Honorary Commander in recognition of her service to the sea and Britain’s maritime heritage as well as the charity ‘Toe in the Water’ which encourages injured service men and women to sail.

Since 2015 Dee has been a presenter and producer for the online Global Women’s Sports Network WiSP Sports helping to support and promote female athletes and sport.

An exclusive interview with Dee Caffari:

Q) What do you miss most when you’re on one of your single-handed journeys?

I miss the non-verbal communications you have in conversation. The expressive eyes and facial expressions mean so much more than words sometimes and you miss that side of the conversation. I also miss really laughing as you are not that funny on your own!

Q) Which do you prefer – sailing alone or with a team? And why?

I actually like the benefits both set-ups bring. I like the fact that when you are solo, it is all your fault, the good and the bad. There is nowhere to hide and you are responsible for everything. It really tests you. When you are part of a team I love the fact that you can push that much harder as everyone has each other’s backs. I like that the boat still pushes hard when you are sleeping as others take the responsibility. I love that intensity. I also like bringing together a well-oiled team, getting the best out of people and playing to each other’s strengths.

Q) What are the best things about being alone on the ocean?

You are harnessing the power of nature. You see wildlife in its natural environment and you experience endless horizons and uninterrupted sunrises and sunsets. It is beautiful and I consider it a privilege to have experienced it so often. These are sights so many will never see.

Q) What’s the most important piece of technology you have on your boats – and how has technology changed or improved since you started long-distance sailing?

It is no longer a case of sailing over the horizon never to be heard from again. With modern technology we can bring the experience to life within the comfort of a non-sailor’s warm home. We can conference call from the depths of the Southern Ocean, we can share video and images in real time with satellite communications. To communicate the experience and allow others to live it with us is important and how sponsors can get a return on their investment and objectives. Storytelling is key to a successful sailing offshore campaign and to be able to connect with others from remote and often difficult environments is a true testament to how far communications have come. It is exciting to think what will be next.

Q) How do you keep in touch with family, friends, sponsors – and the news?

You can receive emails and messages and there is a satellite phone. Although communications are still expensive, there is a race requirement for media and also you need weather downloads, so an email each day is part of the parcel. I like to receive news from home about everyday life as you are so focussed on what you are doing it is a welcome distraction and a little escapism.

Q) What is the longest you’ve been out of touch with people on dry land and how did you manage – and how anyway do you cope with the isolation?

The longest I have been at sea for was 178 days when I went around the world alone, non-stop, the ‘wrong way’, against the prevailing winds and tides: I am the first woman to do this and it was my first solo voyage. When I set off I thought that being upset or calling home would seem like a weakness so I spoke to no-one for ten days. It was an emotional rollercoaster. We then established a pattern that I would speak to someone once a week. This was company for me and also to reassure people on shore that I was okay. Communication is important for everyone’s peace of mind – an important lesson.

Q) You once said about sailing: “The day I stop enjoying it is the day I stop.” Do you have any thoughts about when you might stop – or changing the sort of sailing you do?

No two days are ever the same and I am still learning. I love all the sailing I am doing. I love the coaching I am involved with now and I still love racing offshore. I have also started doing some in-shore stadium racing: I enjoy being exposed to a new arena of sailing. I have no intentions of stopping yet and I hope I have the options and opportunities to carry on.

Q) You’re known for the charities you support. Why did you pick them?

To be supportive of a charity I believe you have to actively support when you can. I do not believe in just putting a name or a face to something. So I chose carefully and pick the charities where there is a genuine connection or they are something I believe in passionately. Sadly there is never enough time but I try and do my best.

Q) What is your next long-distance sailing adventure after these awards?

My next stop is in Oman in the Middle East where I help support the women’s sailing programme. I am out there coaching some young women in keelboat sailing so they can race in an event called Sailing Arabia The Tour, that takes place in February (a mixture of offshore legs and inshore races around the Arabian Gulf). It is a fantastic location to be sailing in the winter and we visit some amazing places.

2015 Guest Speaker: Dr Sarah Fane OBE  

Inspired by a gap year working in rural India, Dr Sarah Fane decided to switch from her degree course in French and Latin to study medicine at Bristol University. Her Elective, in 1987, was spent in the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan, working with an Obstetrician in an area with one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world.  Once qualified, she returned to Pakistan, and worked from a Mujahideen camp on the border with Afghanistan, during the height of the Soviet Afghan war, running clinics for female refugees.

Ten years later, having married and had four children, she was asked to travel to Afghanistan, which was in the grip of the Taliban regime, to assess a mother and child clinic. The visit and the people she met inspired her to set up Afghan Connection in 2002. The charity has supported health, education and sport in Afghanistan and has funded 42 school constructions for over 50,000 children. It has linked thousands of European children with children in Afghanistan through a twin school project. Currently Afghan Connection is supporting education for a population of 70,000 in the remote Hindu Kush and runs cricket projects backed by the M.C.C. Sarah was made an Honorary Life Member of the M.C.C. in 2012 and received an OBE in 2013, in recognition for her work in Afghanistan. 

2014 Guest Speaker: Ben Fogle  

Ben Fogle is a broadcaster, traveller and adventurer. He has rowed the Atlantic Ocean, crossed Antarctica on foot, run across the Sahara and crossed the Empty Quarter on camel. He has presented numerous hit programmes on the BBC, ITV and Channel 5 including, New Lives in the Wild , Extreme Dreams , Countrywise , Harbour Lives , Through Hell and High Water and Crufts

He writes regularly for the Sunday Telegraph and has written six Sunday Times bestseller books. He is an ambassador for WWF, Medecins Sans Frontier, Tusk, Centrepoint and the Prince's Trust, is a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and patron of The Royal Parks Foundation.

Ben is a special correspondent for NBC News in the United States, reporting from all over the world for Today , Dateline and MSNBC Nightly News

2013 Guest Speaker: Dr Ulrich Walter

Author, broadcaster, astronaut and physicist Ulrich Walter is one of the few people to have experienced space travel, having been chosen from 1,799 applicants to train at the German Aerospace Centre and then at NASA headquarters. Living the dream of many scientists and adventurers, he spent ten days as a payload specialist on the shuttle Columbia and the European Spacelab station.

He is now professor of astronautics at the Technical University, Munich, and a regular science broadcaster.


2012 Guest Speaker: Sir Ranulph Fiennes

In 1984 the Guinness Book of Records described Sir Ranulph as the "World's Greatest Living Explorer". He was awarded the Sultan of Oman's Bravery Medal in 1970, the Polar Medal with bar from the Queen, the Explorers Club of New York Medal in 1983, the Royal Scottish Geographical Society's Founder's Medal in 1984, and both he and his first wife received the Polar Medal in 1987. He has received an Honorary Doctorate of Science.

In 1993 he was awarded an OBE for "human endeavour and charitable services ". He has led 22 major expeditions to remote parts of the world including to both Poles.

He is the author of several books including The Feather Men the UK No.1 Best Seller and Fit For Life plus an autobiography, recently updated.

During the last 20 years his astonishing feats of physical and mental endurance have claimed 10 expeditionary world records.

Each of his expeditions is designed to raise money for charitable causes. To date, they have raised over £14.2 million and Sir Ranulph has been named as the UK's top celebrity fundraiser by JustGiving.