In 2019 when I first arrived at the HEC Paris MBA, my classmates hyped the idea of participating in a regatta designed especially for MBAs. Until then, I’d always thought of regattas as professional sporting events. Upon learning that the MBA regattas were holistic events with networking, sailboat racing and black tie galas, I was immediately enthralled by the idea of attending one once the coursework had calmed down and recruiting season had passed.
But with the onset of COVID-19, any such ideas immediately took a backseat, as signature MBA in-person activities worldwide were either cancelled or postponed. However, we all eventually adjusted to digital avenues. Motivated groups of students, with support from the school, still persevered to bring back or recreate some events, including my team’s endeavor to host TEDxHECParis in April 2021.
Ultimately, my class graduated and we moved all over the world to start our jobs and the next phase of our lives. To my pleasant surprise, I discovered that a group of alums from my Class of 2021 was trying to put together a boat for the Global MBA Trophy on April 8 and 9 in Athens.
I grabbed that opportunity with both hands, with my classmates Steffen Brand, Juan Velasco, Jose Motta, Susan Parmar, Francesca Limjuco, Christelle Tadros and Class of ’20 alum Naia Bonet. Except for Steffen and Naia, none of us had ever sailed before. We were excited to learn and ready to have a lot of fun.
The organizers from LBS ran a tight ship (pun intended) with strict COVID vaccine/test compliance for all participants, ensuring that we could make the most of the regatta safely. Since our boat had a lot of first-timers, we brought onboard Maria Bozie – junior dinghy racing champion and an olympian athelete.
With that, our boat was complete and we were ready to sail! I didn’t really know what to expect, but I quickly discovered that sailboat racing is an intricate dance of deft teamwork (think lots of complex rope work), wisdom and, occasionally, sheer luck. Our Captain and First Mate brought the experience of knowing how to read the water and the wind and to position our boat for maximum speed– not unlike a financial analyst would spot market trends and position themselves to prepare for what comes next. The rest of us had to quickly discover our strengths – Juan was an excellent spotter of “marks” in the water and competing boats, while Jose was quickly becoming an expert in reeling in the billowing Genoa and mainsail in all sorts of wind conditions.
With maximum windspeed hitting 20 knots, and our boat at times going as fast as 10 knots, this was certainly a fast-paced exercise in making real time decisions, trusting your teammates and believing in our collective goal of trying to win this event – all while having fun!
We finished Day 1 with a respectable 4th place finish. Afterward, in an informal session with the Captain and First Mate, we quickly outlined the lessons learnt to implement during the next day’s competition. This strategy worked perfectly as we finished 1st and 3rd in the two races on Day 2, finishing 2nd overall in Division B.
In addition to the racing, the event was also an opportunity to meet with MBA students and alums from all over the world, as the event had boats from Tuck, Wharton, LBS & Cambridge, among other schools. I even met a future coworker from Wharton who will join Amazon soon! With our winning experience, I am sure we will all want to go back to another Regatta soon.
Text by Karan Nimrani, MBA '21
Karan Nimrani (MBA ’21) began his career in India in Financial Crime Mitigation for HSBC, in projects across the financial institution's London and Hong Kong offices. He later moved to Structured Trade Finance in Commercial Banking, for projects across the Singapore and Paris offices; which inspired his decision to pursue an MBA at HEC Paris. At HEC, Karan was the MBA student rep for the Career Center, President of the MBA Public Speaking Club, and President of the HEC Consulting Practice. Karan was also one of the founding board members of HEC Connect, which brings the HEC Community together across all programs. Towards the end of his MBA, Karan successfully obtained the license for and organized TEDxHECParis 2021. During the MBA, Karan interned with Whiteshield Partners as a public policy consultant at the beginning of the COVID19 pandemic, and then as PMO at Atos’s Innovation Center in Paris. Now, Karan works in Luxembourg helping redefine Amazon’s long-term transportation strategy for the EU.