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The youngest person to ever skipper in a round-the-world yacht race, Nikki has become a leader in sailing and in challenging ideas of what is possible. She takes the lessons of bringing together a disparate group of individuals and forming an effective team to take on one of the toughest challenges in the world, and applies them to business and life. Alongside racing and teaching sailing, Nikki was also in the headlines as the skipper of La Vagabonde, the yacht used by environmental activist Greta Thunberg to travel from the US to Europe to attend the UN 2019 COP climate summit. She shares her unique insights into the human side of this extreme endurance sport, where leadership and teambuilding mean the difference between life and death.
Nikki Henderson is one of the leading sailors of her generation. She has been named Yachtsman of the Year (a title she shared with Tracy Edwards), after becoming the youngest sailor ever to skipper in the Clipper round the world race.
Having starting sailing as a teenager, Nikki attended sailing school to become a professional sailor. She skippered numerous trans-Atlantic races, usually as the youngest sailor in the competition, and frequently as one of the very few women involved. She also taught sailing before being given the helm of the Visit Seattle yacht in the Clipper Race.
The Race, one of the toughest challenges around, sees teams of usually inexperienced sailors work and live together on a seventy-foot yacht over 40,000 nautical miles in often gruelling conditions. As well as being responsible for the safety of boat and crew, Clipper skippers take a disparate mix of people and get them to work as an effective team. Nikki’s Clipper crew included teachers, programmers, students, and CEOs, from sixteen different countries. Her skills as a leader, colleague and sailor saw the team finish in second and form part of a historic all-woman-skippered first and second place line up.
Her Clipper endeavours saw Nikki established as a leader in the new generation of women sailors. She was also a part of the world tour of Tracy Edwards’ pioneering craft, Maiden, the yacht with which Tracy completed the Whitbread Round the World Race with an all-female crew.
Nikki also made headlines when she skippered La Vagabonde. The yacht was used by environmental activist Greta Thunberg to travel from California to the UN COP climate summit after the event was moved from Chile to Madrid. Faced with only a few days to make the four thousand mile journey, Nikki answered Greta’s emergency plea to help cross the Atlantic in a sustainable and safe way.
A passionate storyteller, Nikki recounts the lessons in leadership and teamwork learned through some of the toughest of circumstances. She examines how pressure affects decision-making, and the roles people play in achieving goals. She also reflects on the environmental challenges the planet faces, as witnessed during weeks at sea all around the world.
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