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Weekend Interview: World Championships are in safe hands with Hindley at the helm

Andy Hindley CEO of Yorkshire 2019, at Welcome Yorkshire. (Picture: Simon Hulme)
Andy Hindley CEO of Yorkshire 2019, at Welcome Yorkshire. (Picture: Simon Hulme)
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AS A younger, more intrepid version of the measured individual he would become, Andy Hindley once required Maritime Rescue to scramble a Nimrod aircraft to save him from the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

The fearless explorer was part of the crew helping yachtsman Pete Goss sail around the world in record time on board a catamaran that was, quite literally, breaking up amid a fierce storm in which winds reached 130kmph.

It was December, 2000, Hindley was in his early 30s and while he looks back on it now with a wry smile and a determination that he was at no stage scared for his life, there was something about the occasion that altered the course of his life.

“The boat broke up in the middle of the Atlantic, leaving me without a boat and without a job,” he says, sat in the more comfortable surrounds of the Welcome to Yorkshire offices in Leeds.

“It was a pretty interesting time. Maritime Rescue in the UK scrambled a Nimrod to check we were all right and they sent a ship to rescue us. As we were being rescued, the boat broke up. We flew to Canada – bits of the boat ended up in Ireland.”

Years spent circumnavigating the globe as a sailor ended there and then for a Lancastrian whose need for the adrenalin rush of outdoor pursuits had dominated early adulthood.

Andy Hindley CEO of Yorkshire 2019, at Welcome Yorkshire, Leeds. (Picture: Simon Hulme)

Andy Hindley CEO of Yorkshire 2019, at Welcome Yorkshire, Leeds. (Picture: Simon Hulme)

Earning a living behind a desk would be the next walk of life, and via 17 years spent living around the world organising regattas from the Volvo Ocean Race to the Americas Cup, Hindley has returned to his roots, just a few dozen miles from where he grew up in Accrington.

Hindley has taken the job of chief executive of Yorkshire 2019, the body tasked with fusing the interests of four stakeholders and delivering the UCI Road World Championships in this county in September, 2019.

It may not be a role that requires the armed forces to be scrambled to keep him alive, but it is one in which the sporting reputation of this great county is at stake.

For then, the best cyclists in the world will descend upon Yorkshire to race for the sport’s rainbow jersey across a variety of races from junior to team time-trials, to the elite men’s and women’s road races that form the showpiece attractions of the nine-day extravaganza.

There have been lessons learned from the Grand Depart. I don’t think people quite necessarily expected the number of spectators that they got for it

Andy Hindley

Yorkshire was named as host of the event in September, 2016, and as the clock ticks towards the mid-point of that cycle the wheels are starting to turn at a quicker rate for the man tasked with leading the delivery.

“Putting on a bike race is not that difficult,” says Hindley, who was chief operating officer for the Americas Cup match in San Francisco in 2012, the one in which Ben Ainslie orchestrated a remarkable comeback for Team Oracle that kick-started Britain’s own attempt to win the sport’s oldest trophy in Bermuda last summer. “There’s enough experience just within Yorkshire, never mind the UK – because of the Grand Depart and the Tour de Yorkshire – to run a bike race next week without any problems.

“When you’re running an event, a single sport event as opposed to a multi-sport event, the sporting side is not that difficult. Any top level sport that participates in the Olympics where you have rules, regulations, officials actually running the sporting bit is not that hard because it’s been done so many times.

“But a nine-day event that is going to attract millions and millions of spectators, like the one we’ll be putting on, is going to be different.

“There’s also the context of where you’re running it, whose coming, what the risks are and how you deal with them; and managing that and the expectations of your funding bodies.”

Those bodies are the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, British Cycling, UK Sport and Welcome to Yorkshire. The government arm is putting £24m of taxpayers’ money into the event, £15m of which is for legacy, while the rest, plus £3m of Lottery money from UK Sport, goes into the event itself.

Pressure then to deliver and not leave the taxpayers shortchanged. Not that Hindley is worried about coming up short, having already assumed a similar role in his time working on the Americas Cup.

“The Americas Cup is paid for by the teams,” he explains. “The team that wins it puts together a group that organises the next race. You sit in the middle, funded by all the people participating, which is slightly different to where we are now in the sense that the people funding Yorkshire 2019 aren’t participating.

“They’re not trying to win it like the America’s Cup teams.

“Everyone involved in Yorkshire 2019 just wants the same thing, a spectacular event that is innovative, inclusive and inspirational. They’re all tied together for that.”

So what does that look like?

“It has to look fantastic, you need a lot of people to show up, everyone has got to have a good time, it’s got to be safe and we want some exciting sport,” says Hindley.

“We can’t deliver the last bit, that’s down to the riders, but they’re all super-competitive and it’s one of the big events of their year so they are all desperate to win it.

“The big challenge is safety. We run a massive safety and security event with a bike race in the middle. Unfortunately, with the way of the world these days, whether you’re an airport, shopping centre or a sports event – you’ve got to be more aware of safety and security.

“Our biggest single problem is the expectation of three million-plus people coming to watch it. That number of spectators is our greatest asset, but it’s also our biggest problem – dealing with that number of people and making sure they have a good time, that their experience is a positive one.”

Yorkshire is less than four years removed from hosting the Grand Depart of the Tour de France, two days in which the county shone under the glare of the world’s media.

But that was only 48 hours, the road world championships are nine days, and not everything about that weekend went smoothly.

“There have been lessons learned from the Grand Depart. I don’t think people quite necessarily expected the number of spectators that they got for it,” adds Hindley.

“Firstly, they didn’t have a lot of time to prepare, a little over 12 months. Secondly, no-one had ever experienced it. Yes it runs every year so there is an awareness of what goes on, but they hadn’t experienced it here.

“I don’t think they quite expected the turnout they got, how it captured the imagination of the people, which is brilliant, but that creates massive headaches, and we’re aware of it now.

“I’ve got their lessons learned document of things we just won’t do this time because it didn’t work. So we’re already talking with the train companies to put on more trains from everywhere around Yorkshire and beyond, into everywhere, whether it’s a start hub or it’s the finish hub in Harrogate.

“We’ll not be closing roads for 12 hours like they did in 2014. If we don’t need to shut it, we won’t. As long as we get a fantastic event that benefits everyone, that’s the goal.”

With Hindley at the helm, Yorkshire 2019 is in safe hands.