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Sean Canavan

Sean Canavan Group Packaging Operations Manager

Be Inspired Series

Sean Scott

Maritime Events Consultant

What does your job entail?

I work as an independent maritime events consultant.

I am currently working on the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race 2011-12.

FG Wilson are the yacht sponsors of the Derry-Londonderry yacht. They are really maximising the opportunities to network and market in their key areas so I am working closely with them to plan and oversee their Global Activations and Corporate Sails.

Is it 9-5?

No, I’m not a 9-5 person, and I generally have to try and work several years ahead in order to secure events, funding and support. I love work which involves travel and unusual hours. 

How did you get into this line of work?

I spent 10 years with Heyn Shipping in Belfast, the old ‘Head Line’, before changing tack completely and moving to the Alps in 2004. In 2005, I was appointed as festival director for the Celtic European Festival of the Sea which took place along the North Coast in 2006.

In late 2007 I was offered the opportunity to move to Galway to manage the set-up for the Galway Stopover of the 2008-09 Volvo Ocean Race. It was an opportunity I couldn’t refuse. The event eventually attracted a spend of over 45million euro.

This encouraged my subsequent move back to Northern Ireland to establish Ocean, with the help of Invest NI – the purpose being to attract similar major maritime events for here.

Following a meeting with legendary yachtsman Sir Robin Knox-Johnston at the end of the 2007-08 Clipper race, I instigated the concept which eventually led to the first successful bid for a Northern Ireland yacht entry and stopover. The race is followed by over 650 million people globally.

The fleet and celebrations will be in Londonderry in late June/early July 2012. I have attended wonderfully impressive stopovers overseas, so there is a huge expectation on Londonderry to stage a show worthy of the Clipper event. I sincerely hope the city turns out to welcome and support the fleet.

Tell us about your qualifications/training.

I studied Maritime Studies at John Moore’s University in Liverpool specialising in Maritime Law, Maritime Economics and Integrated Transport.

Since then, most of my training and learning has been through hands-on experience, and listening and learning from others.

What qualities are required for your job - personal and professional?

The ability to deal with all types of organisations ranging from the private sector to local councils and Government departments, both at home and overseas.

Certainly dedication and patience are also requirements. Dedication is always there but I don’t always have enough patience to deal with the bureaucracy and red-tape which can easily stunt creativity - but it seems to be so much a part of modern life. In many ways, good old-fashioned common sense is being lost.

Honour - I like working with people who keep their word and are prepared to take decisions and stand over them to keep the ball rolling. Working with professional organisations such as Clipper Ventures has been a real privilege.

Also a sense of fun…Events are about fun. People can forget that, so I always try to ensure that passion, enthusiasm and fun are encouraged.

What is the best advice you ever received?

Firstly, to trust your gut instinct.

Secondly, Robin Knox-Johnston once said to me: “Sean, you only have one life – paint it with bright colours!” That struck a chord with me.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

My wife and I renovated the top floor of an old building in the spa town of Cauterets in the Haute Pyrenees in 2007. In the summer we hike in the mountains, and snowboard in the winter.

We are currently planning a major overseas water-based fund-raising expedition for 2013 to raise awareness and funds for cancer charities. We are looking forward to announcing details when final arrangements and sponsors are secured.

I spend a lot of time around Ballyholme beach, dog walking and canoeing and am hoping to get back into sailing again soon at Ballyholme Yacht Club.

I help colleagues to maintain gardens for many of the older residents where I live and to lend a hand where it is required. Our older folk need looked after more.

I love cooking, travel and going to concerts and am learning acoustic guitar – Santana has nothing to worry about yet!

Tell us an interesting fact about yourself.

I received a birthday card from Dean Martin!

Who has inspired you most in your life?

My father John Scott, who ran Portrush lifeboat station for many years and supported whatever I did - whether I succeeded or not.

Another great friend is Bill Ferguson who is an old hippy wood-craftsman and boat builder in Northern California. He told me: “You can’t have memories if you don’t make them.” He reminds me how important it is to chill-out.

John Denver – I loved his approach to life and the environment. His music has been a huge part of my life. His brother Ron arranged a tour for us around John’s Windstar Foundation in Snowmass near Aspen in 2004 – something I will never forget.

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