The Kraken Story
Born from the desire to find sailing experiences that were more than the usual taverna hopping summer holidays, Kraken Travel was founded by CEO Henry Burkitt in 2013
“Kraken was started as a reaction to all the boring sailing out there. The world is two thirds water and yet most people’s idea of sailing is pottering around the Med or staying within a few miles of Cowes. There is so much more out there and so much to explore.
Kraken’s objectives are to sustainably promote sailing in pristine environments for everyone. We don’t believe in barriers, whether that means ability, financial or physical, and we believe that we are under an obligation to leave the world in a better state than when we found it.”
Stuck in a legal job, Henry wanted to do something more meaningful in an industry that he cared about, so he quit his day job and went to work as a seasonal Skipper in Greece: “It was great for getting a tan but I kept thinking that there must be more out there. I got so bored of doing the same thing every day, bobbing around from taverna to taverna. I didn’t know anything about the exploration side then, so as soon as I got back I started searching for adventures.”
Henry found the perfect adventure in Norway, and set sail to the Traena music festival, “It was absolutely amazing and all very immersive. The whole trip was naturally very green and environmentally friendly, which really spoke to me.” From here, he found, chartered and skippered the 100ft expedition yacht ‘Prolific’, and spent five weeks in Svalbard conducting marine mammal research.
I wanted a focus on sustainability and the environment and I wanted to make sailing accessible
Throughout his adventures, it occurred to Henry that without a full boat on these trips, the operators lose a lot of money, “I wanted to be involved somehow but I didn’t want to be a tour operator. I wanted to start a family and settle down, but I felt really strongly about setting something up for the adventurers out there who wanted something different. I wanted a focus on sustainability and the environment and I wanted to make sailing accessible, to remove the perception that it was just a rich, white man’s sport.”
The second company Henry spoke to was the Jubilee Sailing Trust, an incredible company, truly committed to making sailing accessible to all: “My mum had had a stroke, which left her in a wheelchair due to right side paralysis. We were able to set sail with the JST, and mum was in the crow’s nest on the main mast within no time. This company was changing perceptions, removing all the barriers and making sailing overtly accessible. Not only that, but each trip was a real adventure.”
“Collating these trips, and other adventures, into one place became the obvious next step for me. A place and a brand like this would provide a huge opportunity to pioneer and push for these incredible adventures without barriers. With a focus on inclusivity, equality and sustainability, we are not here for a fast buck. It means a lot more to us.”
When Henry met Mike
Mike Pickering, Co-founder and Sales and Marketing Director, joined Henry on his mission in 2017. “Henry was one of my charter guests for Round the Island Race 2016. We were racing for the elephant charity Space for Giants, so naturally, as skipper, I was dressed as an elephant for the entire ten hours of the race. It raised a few eyebrows as I hailed at other yachts for room! We raced very hard in fierce conditions and broke far too much kit, including shredding the main, but with Henry on mainsheet, we bonded through a tough race.”
In 2017, it became clear to Henry that he needed someone who understood marketing. “When Mike got made redundant from his job as Group Marketing Manager at a sailing company in April, I offered him the job, which he accepted immediately. He realised that there was a blank canvas and an opportunity and he grasped it. I give him huge props for having the imagination to see what was coming. Like me, Mike isn’t afraid to get stuck in, and it was the two of us until September 2019 laying the foundations for what Kraken is now.”
The Kraken brand
“We want to inspire people and turn them on to nautical adventures,” Henry says. As sailors and avid adventurers, when considering whether to list an operator, Henry and Mike apply a simple test, “Do we want to do the trips offered by the operator? If the answer is no, then the operator doesn’t get listed. This is the cornerstone of Kraken’s portfolio curation.”
Alongside this, it is extremely important that Kraken becomes a force for good in the sailing industry. We want there to be a positive benefit from people going on a trip. “Given our unique position as a hub within the sailing industry we are able to promote a sustainability agenda to customers and suppliers and have a positive impact in the areas we operate in, on individuals and on the planet.”
“Kraken has progressed from its MVP status of an agent simply offering a handful of sailing trips in remote areas, to being a brand based business with a mission to promote good through sailing. Most recently we launched the first stage of our sustainability programme, which will be developed into a full-blown charitable foundation aimed at promoting accessibility and sustainability, through driving up standards in the industry and contributing directly to climate change projects.”
Our Sailing Story
Henry lives in landlocked Hertfordshire with his wife and two daughters.
“I was born in Cambridge in 1982. Nobody in my family sailed but my Dad did a bit of windsurfing. When I was about five or six, my Dad introduced me to sailing. He had a ratty old GP14 that was falling to pieces that we used to take out on Grafham Water. He was learning at the same time as me so we did the RYA courses together. The thing about learning at the same time was that neither of us knew what we were doing. Stuff broke, we capsized a lot and there always seemed to be a drama.”
Having caught the bug, Henry went on to do transatlantics, offshore racing, dinghy competitions and arctic exploration, including Ski and Sail, which is “mind blowing”. He still has a lot more in mind though: “There is so much I want to do still. I’ve not been round the world yet and that is on the list, I would love to do a circumnavigation with the family. I want to do more of the Arctic Scoresby Sound in Greenland – NW / NE passage, Russian Arctic, Patagonia and Antarctica. I want to explore warmer places too! There is so much to explore in Indonesia and that would be an incredible area with amazing adventures.
Born in Huntington in Cambridgeshire, Mike moved around a lot as a child due to his Dad’s career in the RAF. Finally settling in Formby near Liverpool, Mike excelled at music but was not a fan of sports.
“My Dad was quite outdoorsy, so on holiday he said I could try any sport/activity that I wanted to. I came home hooked on squash and dinghy sailing. A month after the holiday, we joined our local sailing club, West Lancs Yacht Club, so both me, my sister Fiona and Dad could sail regularly.”
“It was at West Lancs that the bug really bit – and it was racing that was the biggest bite for me. I even remember my first race at the club, I had just finished my first sailing lesson on the lake and the instructors asked if I wanted to join in a mini 3 race junior series after my lesson. They explained how a race worked, and the very basic rules and I won the first race.
Over the following ten years, I progressed from club racing to local open circuits, to regional then national squad. By the time I was a teenager, my Dad had gotten his RYA Yacht Cruising Instructor ticket so he started to teach me the art of yacht sailing. By 17, I was chartering yachts with my friends and sailing on the South coast. Around the same time, I progressed into racing yachts. Primarily as a tactician, I’ve worked my way around everything from sports keelboats to superyachts.
Graduating at the start of the recession with a BMus in Classical Contemporary Music Studies and Composition, I crewed on yachts until I worked out what I wanted to do with my life. This then accidentally turned into a career! Since 2009, my sailing has mostly seen me racing in the UK, Med and Caribbean, including no less than 10 transatlantic passages and races. My highlights have included winning Classic division in Round the Island Race with a very novice crew and finishing on the podium in my first transatlantic race. I still manage to get out on the water a fair bit, both professionally and for fun.”