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Giving us the wings to fly

Without our supporters, the Flight of the Swans expedition wouldn’t be possible. The backing of organisations like the Transglobe Expedition Trust is far more than financial. We caught up with Anton Bowring and Ranulph Fiennes from the trust to find out just why they are so committed to Flight of the Swans.

Overwhelming support

So passionate were the team at Transglobe right from the outset about Flight of the Swans, that Transglobe’s director and world famous polar explorer, Sir Ranulph Fiennes, became our patron, even before his fellow trustees had voted whether to support the project financially or not.

The final decision to support an expedition might be down to the trust's board but Ranulph tells us he has his own criteria for selection.

“I have some specific requirements when I decide on what to support,” he explains. “The key one is that we have to be able to describe the expedition as mad but marvellous and Flight of the Swans is certainly that.”

Anton Bowring, a member of the original Transglobe Expedition team and trust secretary tells us that the Flight of the Swans expedition got a unanimous yes when it was presented to the board. So overwhelming was the support for the project that the expedition was awarded one of the largest grants the trustees had ever given.

“It ticked the boxes on many levels, not only is it an intrepid project in terms of the amazing human endeavour it will take, but the conservation benefits for the Bewick’s swan will be enormous too,” says Anton.

Serious business

These days, expeditions are a serious business. You can’t open a newspaper without reading about someone trying to break a record or do something your average person would consider mad (or maybe marvellous). Whether it’s running across Africa, rowing the Atlantic or flying 7,000km in a paramotor, these are serious undertakings and require training, equipment and money.

Competition for financial support is fierce and Ranulph tells us Transglobe gets dozens of applications a year from people looking for expedition funding.

“At the same time as we were approached by WWT we had about seven other approaches, all UK-based,” says Ranulph. “But Flight of the Swans was by far and above the most exciting,” he adds.

Corporate sponsorship is a key funding channel for lots of expeditions, but it’s trusts like Transglobe that tend to support the expeditions that many corporate sponsors might consider too risky.

“We’re often approached by those that are really trying to push the boundaries, we’re a good match for these kind of endeavours because for us what matters is that the expedition, through determination and commitment, reaches new levels of human achievement and also results in important benefits for science, education and humanity,” says Anton.

So much more than funding

Funding might be essential for an expedition but perhaps even more important is the planning and preparation. The Flight of the Swans team has spent months (some might say years) preparing for this expedition and being seasoned explorers themselves, the team at Transglobe know how important this is too.

“It was clear from meeting Sacha and her team that the expedition was well prepared,” says Anton. “This is key for us, as we know that the planning for a project as complex as this is as important as doing it.”

Since pledging support for the expedition the Transglobe Expedition trustees have put the full weight of their experience and knowledge behind Flight of the Swans.

“Now we have committed to the project we will assist it in any way we can,” says Anton. “We have already introduced experienced supporters – the same team that worked with us on preparations for our last Antarctic expedition recently helped Sacha and her colleagues with a selection weekend to recruit essential volunteers.”

A word of advice

It’s not just financial backing and practical support that Transglobe are giving us, with two iconic polar explorers, Pen Hadow and Ranulph Fiennes, as patrons, you can bet we’ve been taking full advantage of their experience.

Ranulph has been advising Sacha on how to cope with extreme cold. “The thing about cold is that it creeps up very fast,” he says, holding up his hand, minus the fingers he lost to frostbite on a previous polar expedition. He’s also been helping with mapping a route across northern Russia, an area he knows well from his own adventures, and explaining the complexities of Russian bureaucracy.

To support the Flight of the Swans expedition click here