Holly Cova manages Team Malizia, hand in hand with Boris Herrmann. Over the past five years, they have built up a well-performing, open-minded, young and friendly team. She is raising millions of euros, managing several environmental initiatives, and working with top companies while managing a team of 35.
At the same time, she is engaged for the team 24/7, being the woman behind, always offering an ear and a solution, and organizing everything, from a doctor to replacement foils – just in case. We met, she in Amsterdam and me in Berlin for the interview.
Holly, when we met for the first time at boot Düsseldorf in 2019, you had just started to work with Boris.
Yes, I joined Boris in July 2018.
How did you join the team? Where did you meet Boris for the first time?
I used to be a lawyer in England, but in 2018 I moved to Germany to be with my then-boyfriend, who is good friends with Boris. I met him at a party and he said to me: „Oh, you’ve just moved here and you’re a lawyer. Are you organized, and do you need a job?“ And I said: „Well, I’m pretty organized, and I don’t want to be a lawyer anymore. So what’s the job?“ He asked if I could spend two weeks organizing an event for him, and very quickly after that he asked me to be his team manager.
Looking back, why do you think there was such a quick connection between you?
We were a bit like two rebels coming together to make this work. We had a very small budget; we were a tiny team trying to grow. Boris shared his vision of what he wanted to achieve. And for me, it really became what I wanted to achieve, too. From the first moment, it was a good partnership.
What was that initial vision?
We were aiming for the Vendee Globe, but we didn’t just want to get to the start line. We said: Let’s be the team that communicates. Let’s be a top-5 team. That was always our secret mission. In 2018, we also wanted to do an Ocean Race but questioned ourselves: is it possible?
What were your first steps?
There weren’t many people to manage. There were volunteers and friends helping on the commercial side who would come and go. And on the technical side, we had just one full-time person, plus some contractors. Boris was basically carrying the whole thing and I honestly have no idea how he did it.
Oh, wow, this guy trusts me a lot!
Within one week he said: „Here are the logins for all the accounts, here is all the information for the company and the team“ I thought, Oh wow, this guy trusts me a lot. But I said okay, let’s figure it out. Boris kept the technical side. I’m not an engineer; I’m not going to design a boat. But I have sailed all my life, so I do know enough about the sailing side too.
You sailed more than 12.000 nautical miles on a boat in 2016/17, so you are quite familiar with offshore sailing but not racing. How did your new job evolve?
Together with Boris’, I took over managing the budget, the sponsors, and all the communications. Pretty early on, I needed one other person on the commercial side because it was too much: editing videos, calling sponsors, and doing the press work. The first months were spent learning all the different areas that you need to develop when you’re basically running a start-up.
Baptism of fire, I always call it. You must have a lot of passion, like you have a lot of passion for your magazine. And it’s the same when you do something like this. You literally put your soul in. You don’t count your hours; we just gave all our energy to make this happen. I think that’s a good thing.
What is it like working with Boris? What is your chemistry like?
Really good! Boris is someone who has loads and loads of ideas; he’s always wanting to push the boundaries and do stuff in a different way. For me, that works well because I also don’t like to conform to the norm. It’s always an adventure.