Name: Conrad Manning
Competitively sailing since: 2000
So you wanted to get to know a little bit more about Conrad and you've either not gone for a pint or been confined to a boat... Well this is the next best thing!
At the end of 2016 I began working as a Naval Architect at one of the leading design houses in racing yacht design (Ker Yacht Design - Check out the site I helped to build). It was around this time I started using my knowledge as an engineer and my exciting sailing background to engage future engineers to help tackle the growing skills gap and is something I get great joy from. Then as often as I can, you'll find me on the water pursuing my goal of sailing around the world on 60ft racing machines in the Vendée Globe.
I've always been around boats since delivering yachts aged 4 with my parents from Phuket to Singapore. Although at that age it was more about the Harry Potter books than the sailing I must have caught the bug as 3 years later I was at the startline of an Optimist regatta, a hobby that took over most weekends! The many weekends of training paid off with an absolutely stunning regatta before we left the country to live in Shanghai, China.
China is an experience in itself, not just for the sailing. What sailing there was, and by this time I had outgrown the Optimist, was run at a lake barely deep enough to stand with only a handful of sailors able to drive the hours out of time needed to get there. Thankfully, things changed with the arrival of family yacht in Hong Kong. Having the boat there meant that all holidays were spent in HK where there were dinghies and yachts galore. It was also where Dame Ellen MacArthur spoke at the school and where the obsession with sailing solo around the world really began. Sat around the dining room table, I declared what I wanted to do, of course, dad was encouraging me to do it nonstop and solo, and mum was flabbergasted! The sailing and racing continued for a number of years before leaving to the UK.
Boarding school in London meant that sailing had to be put on hold for a while due to not knowing anyone and being drawn into the school rowing team. This was not something to complain about though as it meant I could trial for the GB U18 team learning a lot about how far you can push yourself! Once I finished school, I threw myself at the Solent racing scene. Turning up without a boat or accommodation for Cowes Week was a big move but the Dutch team that took me on was the beginning of the Solent chapter!
Sailing takes off
Since that Cowes Week and Fastnet as well as starting University at Southampton the boats got bigger and faster and lead me to signing up for the Artemis Academy trials. Although I won, Uni had to come first so didn't make it into the squad. Perhaps that was the right thing to do as it meant I met Ian Hoddle the owner of RARE (a bright pink modified Figaro) for two years of double handed sailing. Eventually he sold the boat after a Fastnet, a 1803nm race around the UK and coming 3rd in the RORC series.
This lead to a season back with Artemis splitting my time between Will Harris' Figaro 77 and the IMOCA60 A2 (the one I'm currently working on). Will and I had a great season but with sparse results due to a technical error, all forgotten though with a phenomenal 3rd place finish in the Fastnet Figaro category after losing our main halyard, story here.
In 2015 I graduated with a Masters of Engineering in Naval Architecture and am starting to re-tread thepath towards the Vendée Globe. Whitecap have given me an opportunity to work full time aboard their IMOCA60 to learn all the systems aboard and how to make her go fast. It is an amazing opportunity combined with their #vendee2020vision project which aims to have a Brit on the startline of the 2020 Vendée Globe. Although it's a competitive process, each sailor is receiving training from Dee Caffari to improve our solo skills aboard the IMOCA60 (a very rare opportunity) and commercial support from Sean and Jess at Whitecap.
Off the back of the lessons I learned from Whitecap I was then fortunate enough in 2018 to be let loose on a 7.7m Django called Pocket Battleship and together tackled one of the hardest races in the UK, the Fastnet. This was no ordinary Fastnet though, this was organised by the Solo Offshore Racing Club and as the name implies... all the 28 sailors entered were alone. Solo for 6days and 22.5hours was a feat in itself, it became the longest I had sailed alone and also managed to take the title of (probably) the smallest boat to have ever finished the Fastnet Race!
Of course no one knows what is going to come to them in the future, but with all the support and doors being opened I just have to make the most of it!
- 3rd JOG Cowes - Poole (Sunfast 3200 R2)
- Finisher in the SORC Solo Fastnet, probably the smallest boat to complete the Fastnet Course (Django 7.7)
- 1st overall in the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club San Fernando race (Asia 42)
- 2nd Class 40 in the RORC De Guingand Bowl
- 19th in Class 40 for Fastnet
- 8th Class 40 in RORC overall
- 4th in class at Cowes Week (Contessa 32)
- 7th in the UK for the Vendée2020Vision training (top British short-handed offshore sailors)
- Overall winner of the IRC Canting keel class aboard the IMOCA60 Artemis
- Winner of the inaugural RORC Ile de Ouessant Race (overall)
- 2nd Figaro in the Rolex Fastnet Race despite breaking the main halyard 50nm from the start
- Multiple RORC offshore wins in the IMOCA60 Artemis
- MEng in Ship Science (Naval Architecture) with advanced materials from The University of Southampton
- Top shorthanded Brit in the UK offshore circuit
- Line Honours for IRC 2 handed Sevenstar RBI
- Student Yachting World Champion
- 3rd overall IRC 2 handed - RORC Offshore Series
- Ironman Triathlete - Ironman Wales
- Student National Champion
- Won Artemis Offshore Trials