Strife on the ocean wave

When Mark Sowerby, founder and managing director of Australian alternative asset manager Blue Sky Investments, popped in to see us a couple of months back, it was a little surprising to hear that his UK base was not in or around London but in Dover, Kent – some 77 miles away.

And then it all became as clear as water: 21 miles, or 34 kilometres, of water to be precise. Sowerby had chosen to take his mind off the investment world (bar a few conversations with the likes of us) by training to swim the Channel between England and France. In mid-August came news that Sowerby had completed his mission – making the crossing in 14 hours and 24 minutes (users of less-than-speedy cross-Channel ferry services may have seen him overtaking).

We hope it does not trivialise the incredibly courageous Sowerby’s efforts, but we couldn’t help but notice that his passage through the water sounded not unlike the evolution of a fundraising process. In notes taken by Peter Johnson, who was in a boat alongside the gallant swimmer, it is recorded that the first part of the swim was “pretty routine” and Sowerby was looking “moderately bulletproof”. That could be likened to the ‘early bird discount’ phase where a clutch of investors quickly commit.

Then came a period where he “began to wriggle a bit in the water” and “it was clear he was copping a few jellyfish stings” – sounds to us like the bit where more skeptical investors begin asking some tough questions. After that, some real investor hostility: “The wind was picking up and blowing diagonally into Mark’s face as he turned to breathe. This was a pretty rugged stretch.”

Despite all this, things were largely on track until the final stages – and then getting capital in to achieve a final close (or, in real life, washing up on the beach at Cap Griz Nez) was proving a major challenge. “Progress was extremely slow and whilst you could literally almost smell the baguettes, we were not making much ground at all.”

Then, when all seemed lost, in came the final commitments. “Somewhere, Mark managed to find something I literally cannot describe,” Johnson observed, as an apparently defeated Sowerby made a final and successful sprint for solid ground.

In fact, there was a very real fundraising aspect to proceedings, with Sowerby collecting an incredible $781,000 so far on his way to a $1 million target on behalf of Starlight children’s foundation. Mark, we salute you!