Meet Ben Piggott – the rookie sailor with an ‘insane’ future

From boatyard apprentice to the youngest sailor in the 2017-18 race – SHK Scallywag's Ben Piggott
June 2915:56
Text by Amy Monkman
 

Unassuming, talented and just 21 years old, Ben Piggott is the youngest sailor so far confirmed for the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18. At that age, most of us haven’t got close to landing our dream job, yet here he is, preparing to fulfill a big life goal and race 45,000 nautical miles around the world.

Piggott will be Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag’s bowman, and is the first sailor named to the team. His presence represents a big vote of confidence from skipper David Witt, who is renowned for giving chances to young sailors, having introduced another Australian rookie Luke Parkinson to Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing skipper Ian Walker back in 2013. Parkinson went on to win the Volvo Ocean Race in 2014-15 and more recently competed in the America’s Cup with Artemis.

After taking an unplanned ‘gap year’ at a boatyard in Sydney (one that actually took three years), Piggott began working on the 100ft supermaxi ‘Scallywag’ owned by Seng Huang Lee and Sun Hung Kai & Co., backers of the current Volvo Ocean Race Campaign.

 

Unassuming, talented and just 21 years old, Ben Piggott is the youngest sailor so far confirmed for the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18. At that age, most of us haven’t got close to landing our dream job, yet here he is, preparing to fulfill a big life goal and race 45,000 nautical miles around the world.

Piggott will be Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag’s bowman, and is the first sailor named to the team. His presence represents a big vote of confidence from skipper David Witt, who is renowned for giving chances to young sailors, having introduced another Australian rookie Luke Parkinson to Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing skipper Ian Walker back in 2013. Parkinson went on to win the Volvo Ocean Race in 2014-15 and more recently competed in the America’s Cup with Artemis.

After taking an unplanned ‘gap year’ at a boatyard in Sydney (one that actually took three years), Piggott began working on the 100ft supermaxi ‘Scallywag’ owned by Seng Huang Lee and Sun Hung Kai & Co., backers of the current Volvo Ocean Race Campaign.

 

To think I’ve been chosen as crew and I’m about to do something as incredible as the Volvo Ocean Race is insane

Ben Piggott

 

“I remember when I first started working, I was really at the bottom of the pecking order,” he explains. “I’m self taught when it comes to boatbuilding and understanding the different systems onboard.

“One day I was given the option to do a delivery and since then I’ve racked up 45,000 nautical miles at sea doing deliveries and certain sailing races – although nothing even close to the scale of the Volvo Ocean Race.”

Listening to him, you get the feeling he can’t really believe his luck. “It seems slightly surreal because I’ve grown up watching videos of the Volvo Ocean Race, looking up to the sailors that took part. To be here now, knowing I’m about to take part – it’s a life goal for me. To think I’ve been chosen as crew and I’m about to do something as incredible as the Volvo Ocean Race is insane.”

According to Witt, luck has had nothing to do with it. “We call Nipper 40/20 – a 40-year-old trapped in the body of a 20-year-old. When I put Luke Parkinson forward to Ian Walker no one had ever heard of him but I could see how talented he was. Nipper is cut from exactly the same cloth, and he may even be better. He has such talent and passion for this race, he is a hard worker and at just 21, he clearly has no idea how good he is. He is currently bowman onboard our 100ft yacht which is no mean feat.”

Witt added: “For my crew selection I’m not going to just pick the top sailors and hope they turn out to be nice people, I’m going to select great people with potential and turn them into great sailors. You can’t teach people to be mentally strong, considerate or team players. I mean, they either are or they’re not.”

Piggott clearly possesses all those qualities in the eyes of his skipper. Not to mention, you must be doing something right when your dreams become reality at such a young age.