At 27, James Syddall quit his high-flying job as the CEO of diamond trading firm Tavernier & Co in Taiwan and sailed the Andaman Sea solo for six months.

He was looking for freedom and privacy – things he says money can’t buy.

The Singaporean of Scottish and Malaysian heritage has been in the diamond trade since he got out of national service at the age of 20. He began his career as an apprentice in New York but rose quickly to head Tavernier & Co, the first diamond company in Taiwan, after just four years.

“I was a multi-millionaire at a very young age, but it meant nothing to me,” he says. Perhaps it was because early success came at a price: Frequent travel to meet clients while under the eye of bodyguards hired to protect diamonds. This constant surveillance curtailed his privacy and strained his relationships.

The existential crisis led him to buy a 46-foot yacht he named The White Diamond. He hasn’t looked back since. “It’s about freedom,” declares Syddall. “Most people who own boats will tell you the same thing: This is my vessel, my way to be free.”

Sailing might be a means of escape, but it changed his life. He came back from his solo journey in 2001 invigorated and opened his own diamond retailing boutique, Syddall Diamonds, at UE Square Shopping Mall.

Now in his early 40s, the bachelor sails once or twice a month to de-stress, especially as he has to tackle technology to expand his diamond business. He has Caraters, an online diamond-retailing platform, under his wing and, last September, created a mobile phone app for the store. The latter allows buyers to compare prices across different boutiques. “Business has increased by an average of 25 to 30 per cent,” he says.

Despite his success, he says: “Sometimes I love freedom more than I love my business. Making money isn’t everything. When you really have money, you’ll realise that you have no peace of mind. But sailing gives me peace.”