Christian Havrehed: Biography highlights

Christian Havrehed is an adventurer who knows the ins and outs of the business world. He uses his adventures to shift perceptions of what is possible. He has a strong China angle and seeks to promote Sino-Western cross-cultural understanding through his adventures. He combines adventuring with charity and he believes anything is possible.

Known for:

Adventurers and Explorers
Sports Personalities

Languages spoken:

English, Chinese

Full biography of Christian Havrehed

Christian Havrehed use adventure to solve business problems

Having spent 20 years living and working in China, Christian is well aware of the challenges Chinese and Westerners experience with working together.

In 2001 he decided to create the ultimate joint-venture to deal with this problem heads on, where the biggest downside was not bankruptcy, but death. He wanted to show that Chinese and Westerners can cooperate successfully even under the most extreme conditions as long as they are willing to trust in each other and share a common vision. Although Christian’s adventures are mainly focused on China his lessons learned are universally applicable to leadership and team performance.

What better way to put cross-cultural collaboration to the test than to join a Trans-Atlantic rowing race, row unsupported across the Atlantic ocean in a rowboat built in China, and with a Mainland Chinese, who had never been out of sight of land?

The Chinese government did not know how to make head or tail of the project as it had never come across such an initiative before and there was no precedence for supporting or allowing such a project. The whole project was seen as off the wall and doomed to fail by Chinese and Westerners alike and, truth be told, Christian was on occasion tempted to burn his boat because it was all too difficult, but failure was not an option.

It took Christian and his Chinese rowing partner Sun Haibin 56 days to row 5,000km across the Atlantic ocean, in a boat the size of a large dining room table, under extreme physical discomfort and at the mercy of the sea. The vastness of the ocean played tricks on their minds and there were plenty of opportunity to fall out, argue, and resort to engrained stereotypes about each other. In addition, communication was a challenge.

Sun Haibin did not speak English, so Christian was forced to speak Chinese throughout the project, adding additional opportunities for misunderstandings and conflict as the Chinese way of communicating is indirect, whereas a Dane is straight to the point.

But because the unlikely pair had been open about their differences and expected difficulties, they had pre-empted most of them before they set out to sea, so they managed to turn their differences into advantages and they finished eighth in a fleet of 36, despite neither of them knowing how to row.

Christian became the first Dane to row across an ocean, and Sun Haibin the first Chinese – and Asian. Moreover, Sun Haibin became the first amateur sports person to be nominated for Sportsman of the Year in China and their project was the first privately organised sports event to be featured on Chinese national television. With their project they also raised funds to send two Mainland Chinese students to Christian’s alma mater the United World College of the Atlantic in Wales, a school whose purpose is to promote international understanding and a sustainable future.

Christian has also run the length of the Pyrenees (880km distance, 60km of elevation) from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, raising money for a lifeboat to be deployed in Mozambique, rowed from England to Denmark with three British Royal Marines, and he is currently planning a new row with Sun Haibin from China, via Korea to Japan, in order to retrace the voyage of Xufu, an alchemist who in 210BC was sent by the first Chinese Emperor (now known for his army of terracotta warriors) to bring back the Elixir of Immortality kept by the Gods in the Eastern seas.

This will be another project, the likes of which China has never seen, and which the Chinese government, again, does not quite know how to respond to. In the unlikely event Christian and Sun Haibin should also fail to find the Elixir, the project will still bring to life Chinese history in a new and engaging way, thereby again promoting cross-cultural understanding and cooperation.

Christian has 20 years’ experience in delivering talks and teambuilding, which challenge the status quo and inspire audiences, whoever the audiences may be. Moreover, because of his extensive business experience in addition to his adventuring, Christian is able to understand client needs quickly and engage professionally with anyone from the C-Level and down. As a speaker Christian is down to earth, humorous, approachable, and his clients rate him highly.

Christian can deliver his services in English, Mandarin Chinese, German and Danish.

His book “Beijing to Barbados in a Rowboat” has been published in English, Chinese and Danish.



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Available for:

After Dinner Engagement

Watch Christian in action

1/1 videos
Christian Havrehed - MTX 2015 Connect
Christian Havrehed - MTX 2015 Connect

“I’ve always been weary of applying sporting analogies to business problems. Most sports are too time bound to provide relevant parallels. But when the endeavour takes a year to plan, a cross cultural team to prepare and two complete strangers willing to spend over 50 days together in a three meter square box to execute, this is no longer an analogy - it’s a management map disguised as an adventure.”

Emmanuel Gobillot
Leadership consultant and best-selling author
ITT Inc.

“At our 2-day global summit in Rome, where 120 managers participated from several continents, Christian provided a half day program comprising an inspirational talk followed by an in-door team building exercise. We had asked him to structure his program around one of our core values “Collective Know-How”, which he delivered excellently and with high energy. I highly recommend Christian as a speaker and team builder. His ability to tailor his program to our needs was unique and he really managed to capture and engage the participants.”

Keiko Claassen
Executive Director - Creation & Branding

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