For the next instalment of our Brainiac Passions series, we sat down with visionary co-captain of the WeAreBrain ship, Elvire Jaspers, to learn a little more about her love for sailing. If you’re new here, our Brainiac Passions articles take a deeper look into the personal lives of our working family to find out more about what butters each Brainiacs’ toast when they are not working on revolutionizing the tech world.
An undeniable business talent and natural leader, Elvire’s abilities stretch far beyond the inner workings of the office and WeAreBrain business.
Q: When did you get started with your passion?
Sailing has been part of my life as I was growing up. My family spent every weekend on the water. I really liked it so I kept sailing and when I met Menno, my partner, he had been sailing all his life too. So it’s just been this constant passion throughout my life.
Q: What is it about your passion that you like the most?
The balance required between physical, technical and mental skills is what really keeps me passionate about sailing. When I am on the water I get this true feeling of freedom and peace. It’s my number one way to relax, even when I was in school and nervous about exams. Sailing has also given me the pleasure of travelling the world and meeting new people. And sailors are good company!
Then there are magical moments like when you are on delivery, sailing from the UK to Sardinia and the sun begins to go down. Those sunsets are indescribable. Being on the ocean with only water around you and then a sunset that’s so pure and simply beautiful… I just love it.
Q: Have you ever entered any races or competitions?
Oh yes, definitely! I have raced throughout my life, I have raced with dinghies (small sailboats) and I have taken part in regatta racing with big yachts. Both are very different and both are great.
Sailing dinghies is great because the handling of the boat is very direct. You immediately feel the impact of what you do and it’s a great challenge. When I was younger I used to go out by myself over weekends or after school, training for races around the Netherlands. My father drove me to be my best (I’m really amazed at where he found the time, now that I realize how much effort it must have been) and watching me race.
Big Boat regatta racing is of course very cool. It is like living in a magazine (and in fact, you actually do!). I feel very privileged to have been able to sail a lot of regattas on some of the greatest yachts in some of the nicest places in the world.
Q: So it’s fair to say you’ve been sailing for a while, right?
Yes, and when I met Menno I was able to take it up a notch. He took me regatta racing on bigger yachts and offshore. I really enjoyed it, we sailed a lot of regattas around the North Sea. There’s so much to love! It is like playing chess with a really nice workout and fresh air. And, of course, sometimes it’s very wet and cold too…
Q: What have been your biggest adventures so far?
In 2002 we decided to quit our jobs and went off to sail regattas on yachts in the Caribbean, Mediterranean, and the US. We didn’t have a proper plan, we just went off to the regattas in the Caribbean where we asked boat captains for any positions available for the upcoming regatta. We went where the yachts went, and where we were able to crew. This made the trip one big surprise. For example, we never expected to sail the Great Lakes in the US but were asked to join, and so we went.
We went where the yachts went, and where we were able to crew. This made the trip one big surprise.Elvire Jaspers, WeAreBrain CEO
I remember the first regatta in the Caribbean when we started our sabbatical. It was the Heineken St Maarten Regatta. We were sitting on the dock watching all the yachts. We made a list of the most desirable yachts we wanted to race and then we went from the top-down, knocking on the hedge and asking for a ride. The truth is, the most desirable yacht was Pyewacket, owned by Roy Disney. We couldn’t bring ourselves to ask for a crew position there since we are no pros at all, so we started with our number 2. However, a few regattas later, I was actually asked to join the crew of Pyewacket and raced Antigua Raceweek with them. That, I must say, was a huge thrill! Racing a 90-foot custom yacht where the speed is already mind-blowing before even pushing the boat.
Incredible. The sabbatical brought a lot of first-times and memories for me. It was my first time racing such big yachts, first time sailing long distances offshore, first time sailing in the US and Caribbean, first time on a beautiful classic yacht, and to top it all off I was able to share all of this with Menno. We also made a lot of new friends who are still very close and very dear to our hearts.
All in all, regatta racing is special, but day-sailing and being out on the water is just as much fun. Racing a Cork 1720 sportsboat in Cowes Week (UK’s biggest sailing regatta in Europe) was also very spectacular. 8 straight days of racing in big winds in the South of the UK. We were determined to finish first in our class so we really went for it. The tactics, tide, shallow waters and the weather made it a huge but fantastic challenge to sail there. However, as we had “local knowledge” on board, we were able to be a bit more daring and pushed the boat a little harder towards the trophy!
One of my favourite memories was when a friend took us for a ride on a 40-foot catamaran in the South of France. Acceleration to the max! I just had a blast being at the helm, steering a boat like that.
Q: Any new big adventures planned?
Being able to sail brought a special dimension to my life and I am very thankful for it. So, within the next 5 years, we’re planning on going out again for a longer period, sailing the same waters as before but this time with our own yacht.
That sounds just incredible Elvire, what a plan to make! Thanks for sharing. It’s great to get insight into your passion for sailing.
It’s clear that from an early age you have developed a unique set of skills to weather any storm and maintain a steady course in the right direction — both in your sailing and business life. We’re also super glad that you’re captaining the WeAreBrain ship.