The owner of 35m sailing yacht Sojana Sir Peter Harrison explains how he’s still sailing and racing hard

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Credit: Jon Nash

My Life In Boats: On board 35m sailing yacht Sojana with owner Sir Peter Harrison

10 May 2021 • Written by Interview by Grace Trofa

Sir Peter Harrison, owner of 35 metre sailing yacht Sojana, on how he’s still sailing and racing hard. 

Sojana takes overall victory at Antigua Sailing Week in 2019 – her third victory in all
Credit: Paul Wyeth

My first experience of sailing was in the UK when I was 15. Our Scout leader had the idea of going out on the Norfolk Broads, a series of canals and lakes. We had 10 minutes of instruction on these two-man, 5.4 metre Whippets and then left to get on with it. Fortunately, we figured it out and that sparked a lifelong passion for sailing.

I started the design for my 35 metre sailing ketch Sojana in 1999 with New Zealand designer, Bruce Farr. The boat had about five iterations, mainly around the layout. He charged me a fixed price for the design and ultimately said, “You’ve run out of money!” I was willing to pay until I got what I was happy with and the pleasing thing about the design is that we have been winning competitions all over the world. Sojana is named after my three grandchildren: Sophie, James and Natalie.

Next Generation: Harrison at his favorite regatta with two members of Antigua Sailing Week’s Youth to Keelboat Program
Credit: Ted Martin

My favorite regatta is Antigua Sailing Week. We won the race in 2011, 2018 and 2019 and will be competing again this year, before crossing the Atlantic for the Porto Cervo regatta. I am on the boat for all these regattas – I want to be on board, even if I can’t move around the boat as well as I used to.

We have won a lot of trophies, but I think the one that sticks out was competing across the Atlantic for the first time. There were 32 other boats in the race and we won, crossing in 16 days and 10 hours in my 16.1 metre Hallberg-Rassy, Russe Noir. I have since won three other transatlantic races, the last one in 2013 on Sojana, completing the race in nine days and 10 hours, but your first is always the most memorable.

CUP Challenge: Harrison’s British Challenge team for the 2003 America’s Cup
Credit: Nigel Marple/ALLSPORT

I took a calculated risk and invested in the telex business in 1978, and we ultimately helped to found the internet in the UK. The profit from the sale of the company fronted my other ambitions, which were sailing and charity.

The Brits had not been in the America’s Cup for 16 years and I thought I had enough money to have a go in 2000. Once was enough, but it was a fantastic experience. I also created the Peter Harrison Foundation which focuses on education, disabled sailing and Paralympic sports. Our Peter Harrison Heritage Foundation rebuilt the 1786 Clarence House in Antigua and in 2013 I was knighted by the governor-general of Antigua  and Barbuda.

In action off the Isle of Wight in 2001
Credit: Clive Mason/ALLSPORT

I am 82 years old now and have been fortunate to have an exciting and sophisticated life. In business and life, I refer to my five Ds: desire, drive, determination, dedication and discipline. This doctrine has served me well.

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