Voyage of a lifetime
Friday, July 25, 2014 6:00 AM
Talk about a company perk. Eric Riesberg, 34, recently returned to Greater Des Moines after completing a two-month voyage aboard a sailing yacht sponsored by his firm’s Dutch-based parent company, De Lage Landen. It was part of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race (www.clipperroundtheworld.com), and Riesberg, a sales support manager with De Lage Landen’s Agricredit office in Johnston, was the only American chosen for a 21-person multinational crew that sailed one of eight legs of the around-the-world race. Riesberg returned to Des Moines in early June after sailing from San Francisco through the Panama Canal to Jamaica and on to New York City on one of the race’s dozen identical 70-foot yachts. Each amateur crew underwent an intensive 26-day “boot camp” before setting sail under a professional skipper. This month, Riesberg will fly to the company’s headquarters in the Netherlands, where the crews will celebrate a reunion.
About Eric Riesberg
An Iowa native, Eric Riesberg grew up on a small farm near Carroll. He began working for Agricredit as an intern during his second year at AIB College of Business, and went on to earn an accounting degree from Graceland University with help from the company’s tuition assistance program. “It really is a great company to work for,” said the West Des Moines resident, who has now been with Agricredit for 13 years.
Was there a contest to get on the crew?
It was kind of like “Survivor.” It was open to all members; you had to be nominated by somebody. From there, you could either choose to accept it or decline it. If you accepted the nomination, your name went into a voting pool. Every (employee) got two votes, and if you got the most votes, you got to go to Southhampton (the race’s home port in England) for the boot camp. From those 40 people (who went to the boot camp), they picked 17 of us. (This was in April 2013, a year before his leg of the race.)
Had you ever sailed before?
The first time I stepped on a sailboat was at the boot camp, so it was kind of a learning curve for me. This is the second year we’ve done it. The first year, they had one (DLL employee) on each leg (of the eight-leg race); this year, they did two. I wanted to do it the first year, but the timing wasn’t good.
What was it like on board?
There were 21 people on the crew - with one skipper, who was the only professional sailor on board. The rest of the people on board were amateurs for the most part. We broke up into two shifts, so I was mostly with nine other people. I was the only American on board; there were a lot of British and a couple of people from the Netherlands.
What were the hardest parts about the two-month trek?
I was actually pretty lucky. I tend to get along well with people and I usually learn pretty fast, so I didn’t have a hard time with it at all. Some people really struggled with being seasick, and with personality clashes. For me, it was awesome; I loved every minute of it. There were some scary parts, but that’s (true) with anything that you do.
What were the scariest moments?
When you’re sailing, you’re usually heeled over about 45 degrees or so. There was a time when the wind tipped the whole yacht to where the mast actually touched the water and then it came right back up. The girl who was helming - she was a “worlder” who had been on all seven legs - she had the fear of God in her eyes. At first, I was like, “Maybe this is normal,” but then when I saw the look in her eyes, I realized it wasn’t.
Leadership lessons you got out of this?
The best thing for me was the support I’ve gotten, not just from my office but all our offices around the world. It was nice having people out there connecting by email, almost kind of like cheerleaders. And obviously being on a yacht, you’re working in shifts and have to rely on each other. That’s kind of how DLL works. We’re good at what we do, but then the back office supports us. We all work together, and that’s why we’re successful.
Would you do it again?
Oh, yeah. I wish I could have kept going. The (other DLL employee) I went with from Mexico said she loved it, but she was done. I wished I could have hid under the floorboards and kept going. About half of our crew were “worlders” who did all eight legs.
About de lage landen
Agricredit Acceptance LLC, based at 8001 Birchwood Court in Johnston, is owned by Rabobank Nederland through its De Lage Landen international subsidiary. De Lage Landen specializes in providing asset finance and vendor finance programs, with operations in more than 25 countries. In North America, Agricredit provides finance services to more than 125,000 customers and 3,500 dealers. The Johnston office, which has been in existence about 50 years, has been part of De Lage Landen since 1999. Agricredit currently manages a loan portfolio of approximately $4 billion, said Ken Whitelaw, vice president for Americas program management and sales in Johnston. “It’s always been successful, but I would say the past couple of years in particular have been amazingly successful just in terms of volume of business,” Whitelaw said. Rabobank is owned by 288 Dutch banks, which provide financial services and products in the Netherlands. Outside the Netherlands, the group has 244 offices in 37 countries.
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