UBC Sauder MBA students set sail in Italy

UBC Sauder team members on their sailboat at the One Ocean Regatta. (Top row, left to right) Brittany S. Brown, Megan Barnes, Monika Rau, Cecilie Balfour, and Sheena Neilson. (Bottom row, left to right) Antonio Collet, North Jones, and Eduardo Tanc.

Posted 2019-10-25

A group of seven UBC Sauder MBA students recently travelled to Italy to attend the 16th annual One Ocean Conference and Regatta, organized by SDA Bocconi School of Management, the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda, and the One Ocean Foundation.

Against the backdrop of the deep blue Sardinian coast, the nautical gathering took place in the Italian seaside resort of Porto Cervo from September 19 to 22. The event brought together 400 students and alumni from 26 business schools around the world to sail competitively, make new connections, and discuss how to face sustainability challenges in business.

“Sailing is a perfect metaphor for management that allows students from the main international business schools to learn very important lessons,” says Giuseppe Soda, dean of SDA Bocconi, via press release.

UBC Sauder MBA student and competitor Sheena Neilson says her experience in Italy was truly extraordinary. “I think this quest was one of the best experiences of my UBC Sauder journey, and I don’t know anybody on my sailing team who would disagree with me.”

Neilson was joined by fellow UBC Sauder MBA students Eduardo Tanc, Antonio Collet, Brittany S. Brown, Cecilie Balfour, Monika Rau, and North Jones, along with Jones’s spouse Megan Barnes, to compete in the event’s “Cruise" class. UBC Sauder was also the only Canadian school represented in the regatta.

“Working together on a sailboat was a powerful way to team build. All classes aside, no grades were riding on this – we were lucky to travel to Italy, be on the water, and really benefit from our time outside the classroom,” Neilson says. “It was also an amazing way to network.”

Image of feet in the foreground with Sauder logo painted on the nails and the ocean in the background

Dipping UBC Sauder-branded toes in the water while sailing along the Sardinian coast.

Sailing for gold

“The regatta enabled us to use our leadership skills in a real-life setting that had nothing to do with school, but as a part of the UBC Sauder class of 2020 community,” Neilson says. “I think each of us brought very different and complementary strengths to the competition.”

Despite crossing the finish line second, the quality of the UBC Sauder team’s boat resulted in a handicap and they ended up placing tenth for their category. The team still earned a commemorative plaque, which will soon be displayed outside the Robert H. Lee Graduate School office.

Image of flags on a ship - one of them being UBC's flag

Building international ties

Neilson also emphasized how the regatta offered intrinsic value as a way to meet like-minded professionals from all over the world. “We knew when we signed up for this that gaining access to our peers from other schools would be a potential benefit, but it wasn’t until we got there that we fully realized how broadly we could expand our list of business contacts,” she says.

Neilson and teammate Antonio Collet were also able to forge connections with colleagues from the Global Network for Advanced Management (GNAM) who study at the Yale School of Management.

“There is no Planet B”

After the sailing portion of the event, the UBC Sauder team attended a conference focused on how the business community can and should address the pressing challenges of environmental sustainability.

“Many of the participants will likely be in top positions in the future and they will have to make decisions that squarely relate to environmental sustainability,” says SDA Bocconi Dean Giuseppe Soda.

“We have to remember 'There is no Planet B' and I really believe that events like the One Ocean MBA's Conference and Regatta can offer a framework for making responsible and informed decisions in the participants' private and professional lives.”

Here’s more on the final standings:

  • The event divided 51 teams into three categories for two days of racing. The Open class saw 14 teams competing two windward-leeward races daily on board J/24 boats, while the rest of the participants, five in the Offshore and 32 in the Cruise class, raced on coastal routes. The Open and Offshore classes both competed for the MBA’s Cup Challenge Trophy.
  • The Open class was won by the MIP Politecnico di Milano Graduate School of Business, whose team placed first twice, ahead of teams from MIT Sloan School of Management and the Moscow School of Management SKOLKOVO.
  • The Offshore class saw Harvard Business School emerge victorious, with the Rotterdam School of Management and the University of Chicago Booth School of Business also making the podium.
  • In the Cruise class, first place went to the MIP School of Business again, with second and third places achieved by SDA Bocconi and the Moscow School of Management SKOLKOVO.
  • Due to their performance in the Open and Offshore classes, respectively, MIP School of Business and Harvard Business School also earned MBA’s Cup Challenge trophies.
  • Aside from teams from UBC Sauder and the organizing SDA Bocconi School of Management, the participating business schools included the following institutions:
    Alliance Manchester Business School
    Cambridge Judge Business School
    Columbia Business School
    Cranfield School of Management
    ESADE Business School
    Goethe Business School
    Harvard Business School
    HEC Paris
    HKUST Business School
    IE Business School
    IESE Business School
    Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University
    London Business School
    MIP Politecnico di Milano Graduate School of Business
    MIT Sloan School of Management
    Rotterdam School of Management
    Moscow School of Management SKOLKOVO
    Tuck School of Business
    University of Chicago Booth School of Business
    Warwick Business School
    Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania
    Yale School of Management

More than 4,000 MBA students and alumni from around the world have participated in the event since its creation in 2003 by the Sailing Club of the SDA Bocconi School of Management.