Back in 2007, James' father died and he began to question life's direction and purpose. So when he was planning a getaway without using an airplane, he came across the Clipper Race and applied... Originally winning a place on the 09-10 race, he couldn't raise the cash so deferred it, negotiated a redundancy payout and used the intervening period to retrain as a Maths teacher.
I would happily talk to anyone considering a change to teaching and recommend schools to visit or courses to consider.
I will also gladly chat to anyone who wants to sail all the way round or just a leg on the Clipper race; whether you are an experienced sailor or a complete novice like me.
Further to this, if anyone is interested in pursuing a more personal challenge then they can contact me or anyone else at the http://www.markevisonfoundation.org" rel="nofollow">Mark Evison Foundation where there are opportunities for awards to fund a challenge to aid personal development.
Right now I am in final preparations for a round-the-world sailing trip. I have just reduced my life to 25kg including sailing gear (just about!). I am in Gosport tonight to continue final boat work, which will include mechanical maintenance, packing away food for the first leg, sailing to the start port and getting involved with the whole send off celebrations.
I have recently been teaching Maths and Economics at BDA, a Secondary Academy in West London, having completed a PGCE at Oxford last year. I only worked part-time in the summer term as race training got going.
I also took the extra time to catch up on some charity work for the MEF, a charity helping young people develop confidence through challenge and opportunity. I was specifially involved with the Schools outreach programme, visiting 6th forms in some of London's poorest areas and encouraging schools to set up awards and young people to pursue a dream.
Before all this I was sitting at a desk enjoying endlessly repetitive battles with Powerpoint and Excel. I was working as a corporate broker for ABN AMRO and RBS (following Sir Fred's takeover) for 5 years.
In that time I am not sure if I can truly recall anything in particular that I am proud of, perhaps apart form an improved 2k time on the ergo one night when I had a particularly large amount of frustration to vent.
I never felt the excitement of a deal that some colleagues did and just had no ambition to become the people I was supposed to look up to in the organisation. I am a driven and enthusiastic person and the job tapped into none of this. I didn't feel as intellectually challenged as I would have liked; on the first day I produced something in 3 hours that my managing director thought would take me the whole day and I had to explain it to him twice: but in the end I was mostly disengaged.
Being in the city was fun whilst I was young but I couldn't do it for life.
The key moments were:
i) My dad's death made me wonder whether I was doing this for the right reasons; it sent me into a bit of a funk and set me thinking - only the support of some of my colleagues at work kept me working beyond 2007.
ii) The sudden death of two other friends, one in his sleep and one in Afghanistan (in whose memory the MEF was started), helped me realise that life is too short to sit around and wait for it to happen.
iii) The day that my boss came up to me, worried because my self appraisal was so critical she thought something was wrong (other than the inanity of what I was doing). When she explained that the review process was not about self reflection to improve performance but self promotion to position oneself for the best bonus I almost laughed out loud.
So when the downturn hit, I offered myself for voluntary redundancy; bagging time and money to get back to university for a PGCE in maths and confirm my place on the http://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/" rel="nofollow">Clipper Round the World Race 2011-12.
A lot of the planning for the actual trip was done by Clipper and the PGCE course ran itself, so for each I just had to apply and attend an interview.
I was able to save some money whilst working at the bank and negotiated a redundancy package that helped to fund a year as a student as well as my race berth. To do the course, there is lots of financial help available in the form of loans, grants and bursaries - certain subjects get generous help from the government to recruit and train teachers in core subjects (maths, science in particular), so this certainly helps the adjustment.
Planning for a year away on a yacht has been more tricky! I own a flat jointly so have entrusted that to my co-owner. I have tried to ensure that investments run themselves (e.g. setting up direct payment of dividends), I have signed some powers of attorney where needed, already filled out a tax return and put my life in waterproof boxes in sheds and barns.
Best bit: Teaching takes up as much time as banking did but I never feel it is time wasted and often wish I could do more. The opportunities for fulfilment are incredible and the people you work with are truly amazing. It has been a very different feeling to banking, and it has been challenging too. Plus teaching encourages you to be reflective and critical to improve your own practice... much better!
Worst bit: dealing with behaviour and the frustration and sadness that comes with the realisation of how challenged these childrens' lives are. And marking and data entry are a pain!
Best bit: it is the anticipation and excitement, and will be the achievement of having completed a circumnavigation. I cannot wait to sail into great cities like Rio and New York, or Qingdao (my boat's home port). I also love learning new things and sailing has been a real new challenge; oceans will be another step up too.
Worst bit: is the prospect of leaving family and friends for a year, and no showers!
Life is too short. Always follow your dreams today; procrastination is fine in your job, never in your life. Being selfish every once in a while is fine for the right reasons. Be the best you can be.
You only regret things you don't do, never the things that you do.
Clipper Ventures have helped train me to a competent level and beyond for sailing oceans in a racing yacht (http://www.clipperroundtheworld.com" rel="nofollow">www.clipperroundtheworld.com).
Whilst the Oxford University Department of Education (http://www.education.ox.ac.uk/about-us/whats-it-like-here/" rel="nofollow">OUDE) was excellent and recommended a huge number of books that are helpful to any prospective teacher, most quality institutions can suggest a reading list so get in touch and find out more.