Operations director navigates Pip Hare Ocean Racing campaign with Smartsheet

by Melissa Cafiero

Lou Adams had her work cut out for her. How do you bring strangers together and get them to collaborate, secure sponsors for a sailing race six months before it begins, and remotely manage an entire multi-month round-the-world race campaign… while you still have a full-time day job?

That was the challenge ahead for Adams, who joined the Pip Hare Ocean Racing team as its operations director in the summer of 2020. While running an emergency medical department in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Adams came on board to support Pip’s 2020-2021 Vendée Globe race campaign ahead of its November start.

With several other volunteers, the operations team quickly set off to find companies to sponsor Pip’s race. Luckily, the team of volunteers had a shared purpose: helping Pip achieve her dream to complete the Vendée Globe.

Lou Adams, Pip Hare, and Isla Reynolds stand together smiling at the camera

Considering that 97% of employees and executives believe misalignment within a team impacts the outcome of a project, according to data from McKinsey, it was critical for the team to have a shared purpose in supporting Pip’s campaign. Whether they were securing sponsors, prepping Pip for the race, supporting her needs from shore while she was thousands of miles away alone in the ocean — effective teamwork kept them afloat.

But it wasn’t always smooth sailing.

Mission-critical campaigns run on Smartsheet

As the team sought corporate sponsors and managed the business aspects of the campaign leading up to the race launch, Adams realized there were multiple deadlines, timelines, and efforts happening concurrently.

Without a common source of truth, and campaign volunteers and partners working in different locations and time zones, the risk of missed deadlines and overlooked deliverables was increasing. Plus, she sometimes didn’t know who was working on which task, creating the potential for duplication of work — not ideal when your team of volunteers also have full-time jobs elsewhere and limited time available.

Adams needed a solution to turn the tide. Enter the Smartsheet platform.

“The nature of running a sporting campaign is very time-critical. One deadline can be a mission-critical one — in Pip’s case, that was the start of the race. There was not one solution in place for managing her campaign, and then Smartsheet came in.”

Using Smartsheet, Adams created sheets to manage the sponsors who came on board to support Pip’s campaign. She kept track of contractual commitments, deliverables, and deadlines, and drove accountability by assigning tasks to different team members. “Everyone had access, and they could see everything in one place,” Adams noted.

And once Pip’s race began, a new challenge arose: How could they check on her health and status when she might not always be able to call the shore team?

The Vendée Globe is a solo, non-stop round-the-world yacht race. Pip would be sailing through waters in the remotest parts of the world — like Point Nemo, which is so far from land that, aside from her competitors, the people on the International Space Station would be the closest ones to her. Between potential connectivity issues and other situations requiring Pip’s attention, she wouldn’t always be available to give updates to the team.

Pip Hare stands on board Medallia with the Smartsheet logo visible on the sail above her

As part of Smartsheet’s sponsorship of Pip’s campaign, we built a dashboard so fans could track her progress. With integrations including a real-time map and data reports in partnership with sponsor Aparito, fans and Pip’s team alike were able to see where her boat was, when she’d last slept, and health data including heart rate and steps taken.

Unfortunately, while in the Southern Ocean, disaster struck.

“There was a point where Pip lost her wind wand. We looked at the Smartsheet dashboard first thing — because we knew there was regular live data coming in — so we could see an anomaly in the wind data,” Adams said. “We hadn’t heard from Pip, but we could check the dashboard to see where she was and see the data. We lined up when we last spoke to her to the last time there was a wind data pull from the boat, and we knew there was an instrument issue.”

Not only was the Smartsheet dashboard a fun way to engage fans during the race, it also helped the team keep a pulse on Pip’s whereabouts and performance, and avert crises along the way.

Screenshot of the Pip Hare Vendée Globe Pursuit dashboard featuring the real-time map

Broad capabilities to support multiple aspects of a campaign

Once Pip was out on the water, her focus was on the race, her health, and the functionality of her boat. But on the business side of a racing campaign, the priorities are vast: managing media inquiries, delivering on sponsor agreements and requests, monitoring Pip’s performance and needs, coordinating schedules, and more.

Adams wrangled everything with the help of Smartsheet features and Add-ons, including:

  • Calendar App — With the help of the Calendar App, Adams can track deadlines, commitments, media interviews, and speaking engagements for Pip. Everyone on the management team has access to the latest information and can stay informed.
  • FormsSmartsheet forms have allowed Adams to streamline media inquiries and speaking requests. Linked to directly from the Pip Hare website, form submissions are routed directly into a sheet where Adams can triage the requests, and track and manage committed opportunities.
  • Brandfolder — Leveraging Brandfolder, a digital asset management solution, Adams can ensure both the campaign team and their sponsors have access to the latest imagery, HD video content, logos, and more. Rather than finagling another external site, Brandfolder integrates with Smartsheet so Adams can keep one common source of truth. “[Having everything] in one place when you’re managing a tight campaign is a big savings,” she shared.
  • Automation — One of Adams’ favorite Smartsheet features is automation. With a full-time job in healthcare, it’s all too easy for something to get lost in the barrage of requests she’s managing for Pip. To avert a problem, Adams set up automation in her sheet so when three days go by and she hasn’t addressed a request, it turns into a high-priority flag and she gets a reminder.
  • Mobile app — Work happens everywhere these days, so Adams relies on the Smartsheet mobile app to stay up-to-date on all things Pip, no matter where she is.

“I’m comfortable with what I know. It wasn’t like learning a new language; [Smartsheet] is much more user-friendly and logical. You can’t break it, but you can also adapt it to the way that you work. You can make Smartsheet your own and make it fit to enhance your company and campaign.”

Technology that’s easy to use

Whether it’s a racing campaign or a corporate one, team members come from different experiences and backgrounds, with different technology expertise and familiarity. Smartsheet worked for everyone on Pip’s team right away.

Lou Adams smiles at the camera

“If you’re not part of the tech world or tech-savvy, it freaks you out to have new technology,” Adams admitted. “People weren’t using the same platforms, especially coming from a voluntary basis and different industries. Smartsheet was a great way to align and streamline work. [Without Smartsheet] we would’ve achieved success, but not as smartly.”

Learn more about how Pip’s team ran their campaign on Smartsheet