Mark Venables (left) takes part in the 2018 Moore Blatch Silicon Cup off the Isle of Wight.

Highland Marketing chief executive Mark Venables took part in last year’s Moore Blatch Silicon Cup Regatta; and came out bruised but exhilarated. He explains why businesses should be interested in taking part in the IT industry’s biggest sailing event, how Highland Marketing will be supporting it, and why it will be entering a boat this year.

One day towards the end of September last year, I found myself on the train to Southampton, dressed to go sailing. By the time I’d made my way over to the hydrofoil to Cowes, I was surrounded by people doing the same thing.

We were off to take part in the Silicon Cup, a two-day sailing regatta, for which Highland Marketing has just become the PR and communications partner. The crossing was in thick fog, so it wasn’t particularly quick. In fact, the hydrofoil spent a lot of time carefully going backwards.

Fortunately, the fog lifted by the time we got to Cowes marina, and in the afternoon I got to meet my fellow boat mates. We had a safety briefing and an experience gathering session led by our skipper. That was our chance to get to know the people we would be working with, and to work out what our best roles might be: working in the cockpit, or on the sails, or acting as ballast.

Why would IT companies go sailing?

The Silicon Cup is the IT industry’s biggest sailing regatta. For me, there is a link between sailing and business, and it is that need to work out roles and responsibilities and how to execute them effectively. To succeed in both, you need to work as a team and to make sure that everybody does their bit.

In a race, if that doesn’t happen, for any reason, perhaps because somebody has not been trained, or they don’t understand why what they have been asked to do is important, things can go spectacularly wrong.

The Silicon Cup boats are provided by Sunsail and they come with a skipper and a mate. So, they are professionally crewed and come with full safety equipment. Even so, making a mistake can set you back in a race – or worse. Getting it right can deliver something impressive.

Two days on the water

After our session on the first day, we went back to Cowes to get ready for dinner. The Silicon Cup was set up in 2000 with the aim of raising a million pounds for charity, and to date it’s raised over £900,000.

It’s nominated charities are the Andrew Simpson Foundation, Dreams Come True, and the Jubilee Sailing Trust, all of which help young and disadvantaged people in different ways. The dinner is all about raising money for them through various challenges.

Everybody has enormous fun, and it’s one reason that the Silicon Cup is a great opportunity for networking and client entertaining, as well as for teambuilding. The regatta itself was held on the Friday.

The weather stayed good, but the wind picked up a bit to around force five, which made things spicier. I first went sailing when I was six months old, so on the first day, when the skipper asked who had experience, I put my hand up.

If I’d known then what I’d know by the middle of the races, I might have kept it down. It’s very different sailing in a race to going cruising. If you look at pictures from the regatta, you’ll see people sitting over the edge of the boats. They’re acting as ballast, which is what I spent a lot of my time doing, and in the pictures it looks easy.

Most of the time, though, you are scrambling from one side of the boat to the other, slipping on the deck, and getting wet as the boat comes around. It’s tough, but it’s also exhilarating.

Highland Marketing and giving back

That’s one reason we wanted Highland Marketing to get involved this year. The event also plays to the environment in which we operate, which is technology, while the charities it supports have an element of health and wellbeing to them, which again plays to what we are best known for, which is health tech.

We will be giving the Silicon Cup committee marketing support and advice. We have already created a better website, with more appropriate messaging and imagery, and we will support the event with social media skills and PR. We’re also talking to some organisations that can help to increase awareness of the event, including a media partner.

So, we are bringing advice and skills and relationships to the event. We will also be bringing a crew, which will include myself. In fact, I’ve already bought myself some new neoprene boots, so I can keep my feet dry this year, and get across the deck more easily.

Last year, the boat I was on came in the middle of the field, which wasn’t bad for a bunch of people who did not know each other at the start of the event, and who had very varied experience of sailing. This year, who knows?

About the Moore Blatch Silicon Cup Regatta:

The Silicon Cup is the largest sailing regatta for the IT industry and runs over the course of two days at the end of September from Cowes on the Isle of Wight. This year’s event takes place on 26 and 27 September and is supporting Dreams Come True, the Jubilee Sailing Trust, and the Andrew Simpson Foundation.

For full details and registration, visit the website:

You can also follow the event @thesiliconcup

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Mark Venables

Founder and CEO
Mark is a specialist in sales and business development. After a long and successful career in IT sales he has excellent connections in the technology and healthcare sectors. Clients value the fact that he understands business from an insider’s point of view, having built and run his own technology company. Mark is now focused on growing Highland Marketing, winning new business and developing its future strategy.

Mark has a vast network of contacts within the technology and healthcare industry and he works hard to grow that network on a daily basis. Renowned for his tenacity and his positive outlook, he never gives up, something that clients really value. And it is here, in his second role at Highland Marketing, that he can assist clients with their business development and sales efforts.
“What I offer clients is an extensive network of contacts, and a detailed understanding of the realities of running and developing a business. It’s in my nature to communicate whether it’s with board members, key decision makers and stakeholders or individual staff. My goal is to understand their needs and offer a solution. And through this I can help build new relationships for our clients, either with potential partners, prospective customers or influential organisations and individuals.”
A little about Mark:
  • Sailing boats – He developed an early love of sailing – a skill he learnt aboard a 58ft captured German World War II yacht called Overlord. In 1982 he attempted to sail the world, but his vessel was nearly sunk in the same storm which prevented TV presenter John Noakes from making a similar voyage.
  • Selling antiques – Mark learned the gentle art of sales from his dad who had a specialist antiques business in Farnham, Surrey. He remembers his first ever sale, made as a lad in the 1980s, when he got £900 for an 18th century, veneered tilt top hexagonal table.
  • Mark has a knack of finding ways to make business entertaining as well as profitable, whether it’s with client trips to Grand Prix races or deep sea fishing expeditions. If you want a chat about what Highland Marketing can do for you then he’ll happily join you for a meeting at your office, or even a round of golf – at which you’ll almost certainly win!

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