Thriving in the Environment – J/111 Owner Profile – Louise Makin

Chris Jones and Louise Makin’s J/111 JourneyMaker II is a familiar sight racing in the Solent.

Journeymaker II, a past winner of the J/111 UK National Championship, will be competing at the Landsail Tyres J-Cup 24-26 June. For over 20 years the J-Cup has been the J Boats family gathering in the UK, and Chris and Louise have been competing at the event for many years.

Chris Jones & Louise Makin © Louay Habib/Key Yachting

Louise Makin grew up in Chester before going on to receive an MA in Natural Sciences and a PhD in Metallurgy, from Cambridge University. For 15 years, Louise was CEO of British Technology Group (BTG,) which grew from 50 people to become a highly successful PLC with 1800 employees competing against huge multinational conglomerates. In the 2014 Birthday Honours, Louise was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire. In 2019, Boston Scientific completed the acquisition of BTG for $4.2 billion.

“I am very competitive, and I love learning,” commented Louise Makin. “So, when I am out racing, I think of nothing else that normally fills my head. On Journeymaker, I am with a great group of people, who all work together. Every time we go out, I love to learn about the crew, myself, and how to race a J/111 – You are always learning something.

The J/111 owners are just such great bunch of people and it’s very competitive, but everyone supports each other off the water and it’s just a really good spirit. It is an owner/driver class and you’re only allowed one pro-sailor. The standard is really high and the whole crew has to perform to get a good result. That is really exhilarating because if you do have a good weekend, you know you have earned it, you can’t buy it. You have to develop as a team and that is what I do in business, and why I love racing on the boat.”

In 2017, the 1851 Trust announced the appointment of Dame Louise Makin as the new Chair for the Board of Trustees.

Established in 2014 as the official charity of Land Rover BAR, the 1851 Trust focuses on promoting science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) as well as environmental issues to young people by showcasing the technology and design innovations behind the British America’s Cup sailing team based in Portsmouth.

Credit: Mark Lloyd/Lloyd Images

“The origin of the 1851 Trust was when Ben Ainslie was putting the first BAR (Ben Ainslie Racing) programme together for the America’s Cup. He wanted to get a lot of British engineers, but he couldn’t find that many. Ben wanted to leave a legacy from the campaign which was charitable, and the 1851 Trust was created, chaired by Sir Keith Mills. This was before my time, but where it has ended up is a place dear to my heart. The Trust has a recognition that there’s an awful lot of young people who are completely turned off by science as it is taught in school. If science was presented as innovative and cutting edge, then actually they will be really inspired to go and do STEM subjects.

It is an incredibly inspiring concept to use flying boats to teach science. You have got to catch kids’ imagination and I know that from being a girl who is a scientist. As a kid I was shown women in hard-hats on building sites or white coats, peering into microscopes, which is just completely off putting.

When lessons involve listening to Ben Ainslie, Freddie Carr or Giles Scott talking about amazing machines, that is phenomenal. Using high quality digital content, supplied to schools, we have seen a huge increase of up take in the project by Secondary Schools. Through lockdown we are in almost 50% of secondary schools and we aim to be in many more. We are teaching science to thousands of kids, using sailing and other professional sports as the example. The 1851 Trust is breaking down the barriers for young people to get fascinated by science, technology, engineering and maths. We target 11 to 14 year olds because that’s when they’re probably taking decisions about what GCSEs they go on to do.”

Louise Makin identifies the shared values between the sport of sailing and the business world.

“Boat racing is a self-policing sport which has integrity, honesty and transparency. It is a teamwork sport with a distinct culture and accountability for everybody’s role within the team. The ultimate goal is to do what is best for the boat.

Both sailing and business are about driving performance in very fast changing environments. Sailing is just about the only sport where you use the environment rather than just manage it and bring about really disciplined execution. Business today is hugely disrupted all the time and its environment is volatile and very uncertain. Sailing is a phenomenal metaphor for having to cope, use, and thrive to win, by exploiting that volatility.

Getting the mindset right in business and sailing starts from the top. You need to create a culture where people are not just focusing on their job but also taking into account the context of everybody else’s. That is done through dialogue and teaching. With our sailing team on Journeymaker, our culture is that we all do it together and support each other. We all have bad days at the races and heads do go down. So, you have to call it out and you have to take action and talk about what was not happening and put it right. It is very much a learning culture.

At BTG we were affectively operating in the healthcare space against big healthcare companies, many of which were 50 times bigger than us. In order to be successful, we had to be nimbler, we have to be more agile, we had to be more entrepreneurial, because we couldn’t out-invest them, we couldn’t outspend them. However, we could be a lot more responsive, a lot more innovative and a lot braver, taking more risk in a managed way. All 1800 people knew exactly what they were doing, why they were doing it, and how that meant we were going to win.

Sailing is so good for teaching resilience, teamwork and working towards a common cause. I would love it to be really accessible ultimately giving many kids a chance to have a go. There’s a lot of children that may not be good at the usual school sports, but they could be really good at sailing. If they are given the chance to find their confidence, their passion, their purpose in life, sailing could be their thriving environment.”

The 2021 Landsail Tyres J-Cup is open for entry. Online registration and race documents including the Notice of Race can be found at:

Louise Makin was talking to Key Yachting’s Louay Habib
18 May 2021.