Merkle (www.merkleinc.com), a leading customer relationship marketing (CRM) firm and the nation’s largest privately-held agency, announced that a team of the company’s Dream Grant recipients placed 2nd in its category in the Race of Nations. The event, which took place February 20-24, is The Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC)’s “Caribbean 600,” which is a high-speed yacht race around 11 Caribbean islands, covering 605 nautical miles.
Merkle’s Dream Grant program supports the company’s work hard / play hard culture by encouraging its employees to pursue their dreams. Each quarter, Merkle awards an individual grant and a team grant of cash and supplemental time off for employees to do something they have always wanted to experience. The goal may be altruistic, like traveling to a hurricane-ravaged locale to work for a world-renowned charity, or it may be the adventure of a lifetime, like running with the bulls in Spain. Grant recipients are chosen from among a number of passionate and detailed proposals.
The team of Merkle adventurers was led by Kent Groves, vice president, client leadership group for Merkle’s life sciences team and included eight other Merkle leaders from across the U.S. and Canada. The team chartered a 51-foot Swan vessel named “Northern Child” and co-skippered by professional captains, Christian Reynolds and Lucy Reynolds. The race consisted of 39 boats with more than 570 crew members from 25 different nations. The high-speed, high-energy competition required 24-hour focus, managed by dividing the team into two crews that alternated 4-hour shifts between sleeping and working watches on deck. The Merkle craft earned a 2nd place standing in its class, and 7th place overall, finishing in three days, 15 hours and 40 minutes – only three hours behind the class champion, Scarlet Logic, which was crewed by a team of semi-professional sailors.
The team faced a number of intense challenges including surviving a full breech, in which the boat tips a full 90 degrees, in a driving rainstorm in the middle of the night. The off-duty team members were forced to strap themselves into their bunks to keep from being launched across the cabin.
“As an amateur sailor, it has been a dream of mine to experience the RORC Caribbean 600, which is considered a preeminent event in the international offshore racing calendar,” said Groves. “It was a thrill to team with my colleagues to realize a lifelong aspiration. But this was no pleasure cruise. It was the most intense, exhilarating and physically demanding experience any of us have ever undertaken. Several extreme weather and tactical challenges called for ‘all hands on deck’ situations, which tested our skills, but strengthened our solidarity and resolve.”
“Building a great company is about building great, well-rounded people who aren’t afraid to dream about what is possible,” said Tim Berry, co-president of Merkle. “It is our hope and belief that these Dream Grant experiences contribute to the development of innovative, determined, adventurous, curious and well-rounded employees. It is this kind of inspired organization that will ensure Merkle’s continued pursuit of excellence.”