Litigator takes a 3000 mile long sabbatical
Earlier this year, at 6yrs PQE, Anthony Taylor took a sabbatical from finance litigation at Addleshaw Goddard and set off to row solo for 3000 miles across the Atlantic, something that only about 15 people have done. Having successfully made the trip from the Canaries to Antigua in 79 days, he is now back in the UK and is working at Hammonds in Manchester. We asked him how he fit in such a major undertaking around an already demanding day job.
mtl: Hi Anthony, please can you tell us about your legal career before you set off on your trip.
Anthony: I studied law at Oxford and trained and worked at Addleshaw Goddard in Manchester and London. I was a 5yr PQE litigator when I left for the trip and took an unpaid sabbatical to do it. The firm was very supportive because they thought it was an exciting project and even sponsored me.
mtl: Where did the idea to row solo across the Atlantic come from?
Anthony: I wanted to do it since I was about 10 and knew that some day I would. I did try to get the need for adventure out of my system along the way, e.g. by doing a 2,500 mile bike trip from northern France to Gibraltar, but in fact that only made it worse... In the end the dream was turned into reality partly because of a fear of reaching old age and feeling that I’d wasted my life by not doing certain things while I could.
I saved for seven years, from the start of my training contract, which is how long it took to be able to fund the trip. It cost £52,000, £20,000 of which I was able to raise through sponsorship. I’m hoping to recoup most the rest when I sell the boat. I bought the boat eighteen months before leaving and spent that time getting it ready, preparing myself and doing a lot of physical training.
mtl: How did you cope mixing the preparations with your legal career?
Anthony: It was exhausting because I generally worked until about 7pm and then went to the boat until midnight every night and most weekends. I also had to fit in frequent two hour rows on a rowing machine as practice. I had been the captain of my college boat club, so I had some prior rowing experience, though it was of a very different nature. Needless to say I didn’t have much social life for almost two years, but fortunately I have a very supportive girlfriend who helped me as much as possible.
Law, St Hugh's, Oxford
LPC, Oxford Institute of Legal Practice
Trainee and litigation assistant, Addleshaw Goddard
Rowed solo across the Atlantic
Assistant, Hammonds, Manchester
I spent every spare minute on the project for 18m, which was not always fun, and actually tended to be a bit of a nightmare. It didn’t help that I was injured along the way and needed surgery to repair a slipped disc. Raising the cash took a lot of time and there were lots of hoops to jump through from the Spanish authorities before they would give me permission to leave from their coastline. Fortunately my girlfriend was able to help with shipping clearance as she does asset finance for a living and frequently deals with that sort of issue.
mtl: Obviously you had a trip of a life-time and we can read your diary here, but what were the most memorable moments?
Anthony: At one point it was really chucking it down and I could only see about 20ft in either direction when a humpback whale appeared so near to the boat that I could have touched it. Other highlights were seeing a sperm whale pod and sitting on deck on a calm evening looking at the stars with a whiskey in my hand (though this luxury was very rare as usually it was complete carnage at night).
Low points included capsizing during the night in a storm, which was very unpleasant and also hitting a wave that smashed the boat under water. My darkest times were when I capsized and also being stuck in my cabin, unable to sleep for days during a five day storm, while being blown backwards for three days.
The cabin was tiny, measuring only 7ft by 1ft wide at its narrowest point and, if it was stormy, the air would run out after about three hours of having the door shut. As it was too rough to row in the dark, I tended to row up to 13 hours during daylight and then just drift (hopefully in the right direction) at night while I slept. At one point though I ended up having to row 29 hours in a 36 hour period because of a particularly strong current.
I spent the days listening to music and in the evenings could get World Service on short-wave radio, which was great. I also read a fair number of Sherlock Homes stories… When I left Spain, I had food for 90 days but I made such good progress to start with that I threw some of it overboard. In the end I arrived with only one day’s food left, which could of course have been a problem. I had a wonderful reception in Antigua, with my girlfriend and parents coming to meet me and an escort into the harbour.
mtl: Life must seem rather dull back in the office? What are you planning next?
Anthony: It’s actually great to have finally got the big dream out of my system and it was holding me back in some ways. I’m now working at Hammonds, where we are doing a big push on finance litigation, so it’s a good opportunity for me professionally. I’m six yrs PQE now so the next step is (hopefully) partnership. I find that the rowing has opened lots of doors and gives me something interesting to talk about.
I don’t have any massive trips planned for the foreseeable future. They are too disruptive to my career, too dangerous, too expensive and take too much time to prepare for. The three months of rowing itself was a wonderful experience, but the 18m before that was pretty hectic. Instead I’m keeping myself entertained with smaller trips e.g. this year I’m sailing the channel, climbing Kilimanjaro and cycling from John O’Groats to Land’s End. I find I need to do something active every two weeks or so or I get bored, so I regularly do things like take myself off to camp in the Lake District or to run a half-marathon.
mtl: Do you have any tips for undertaking a huge project on top of a legal career?
Anthony: Think very carefully about whether you really do want to do it. There is a very big price to pay for doing something difficult. If you do want to do it, don’t procrastinate. All the bad things that happened to me during my preparation were a result of procrastination e.g. I missed out on buying the boat I wanted because I wasn’t prepared to go for it at that point. Go with your gut instinct otherwise you miss out. This experience has certainly turned me from a procrastinator into a doer!
mtl: Thanks for talking to us.
To see some photos of Anthony’s trip, click here.
To see Anthony’s website, click here.
If you know any other lawyers who have gone and done something interesting or unusual with their lives or who have a great work/life balance then please get in touch.
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