On the water with finance pro and sailboat captain Bob Solliday
Bob Solliday served as captain of the Macondo in the Transpac yacht race in July, but had to turn back after 500 miles because of rudder problems.
Some people dream about retiring and then sailing into the sunset, but longtime franchise finance pro Bob Solliday is finding a way to build a second career of sorts on the high seas.
“I’ve been sailing since I was 16 and I turned 60,” he said in an interview in late June, just a couple of weeks before embarking on his latest sailing adventure: Serving as captain of the Macondo, a 48-foot sailboat competing in the race known as Transpac with about a dozen crew members.
“The Transpacific Yacht Race is the most prestigious race in the world from Los Angeles to Honolulu,” he said, “and it runs every odd number year. This year is their 50th anniversary,” and he expects around 100 boats will compete. Boats were set to get under way July 10 for a 12-to-14-day race over 2,225 miles.
Solliday got his captain’s license about five years ago and has since become more involved in the sport, teaching classes and reviewing books for the American Sailing Association, for example, and leading charters. “It’s something that was a hobby that’s now turned into a little bit of a business,” he said, and he pointed out his nautical resume that lives alongside info about his day job on his website, bobsolliday.com.
Solliday is known off the water for his career in franchise finance, primarily helping franchisees buy or sell their operations, and he is still active in that game. “Matter of fact I have four Taco Bells for sale if you want to buy them, in Colorado,” he said with a laugh.
After earning a degree at Cornell University, he got an MBA in finance from UCLA, and for more than 30 years has been brokering financing for real estate transactions. Since 1993, he has been involved with financing all aspects of chain and franchised restaurants.
He draws connections between the two worlds, on the water and off. “There’s a lot of pieces you have to coordinate to get to the closing, and if you look at sailing—from the weather, to getting the crew doing the right thing, to looking ahead on the racecourse—do we need to tack, do we need to jibe?”
In his other life, Bob Solliday helps franchisees buy or sell their businesses.
How does he manage the moving parts? “I’m a firm believer in discussing it ahead of time,” he said. “What tactics are we going to do, and is my crew who’s been trained, ready for the right maneuver?”
Solliday sent a link to the Transpac website so people could track his boat every day and see how the Macondo was faring. Macondo was named by the previous owner, a Colombian, for the mystical city bearing that name in the country. He said a cinematographer would be on board to film the action, and Solliday even promised to bring a copy of Franchise Times on the race and send a photograph or two. He was clearly relishing the upcoming race, which he calls the “granddaddy” of them all.
“There’s physical demand, there’s mental demand, there’s Mother Nature,” he said about sailing, which is why he loves it.
Has he ever been in a disaster? “Yes,” he replies. “Which one do you want me to describe first?”
“On three different occasions we’ve broken our steering cable,” he continues.
“Three weeks ago we had a guy who was so incredibly seasick” during a three-day race. “We were 100 miles out. He said he wanted the Coast Guard to come out. An hour and a half later the Coast Guard helicopter shows up, so we did a rescue at sea.
“I’ve been out in lightning storms. I’ve never been in a hurricane but I’ve been in 30, 40 mile an hour wind.” And what does he do in those situations? “Well, if you’re religious you pray first,” he said.