Preparation and Training are Key to Success

We promised to give a more detailed analysis of how a diverse team of amateur sailors won their class at this year’s Round the Island Race. Below are our thoughts on how with the proper preparation and training with vision, anything is possible:

From the outset, we knew that if we wanted to perform well on Saturday’s race, it would be imperative to spend some time training together beforehand. CV8’s crew was comprised of four different 2019-20 Clipper Race crews, and although small groups within the team had trained and raced together last year, none of us had sailed together as teammates before, only competitors.

It was therefore essential that we committed to a half-day of intensive preparation and training together on Friday afternoon. As tactician and central point of contact aboard CV8 for the race, I facilitated the training session on the Solent. As soon as we arrived aboard, it was immediately apparent was that EVERYONE was focused on finding a role to play in the team and practising it until it became second nature. We all left our egos on the dock, put old rivalries aside, and got on the business of learning from each other and finding their spot to shine.

Before heading out on the water, we spent some time collaboratively defining our vision and values for the race day; always a priority when putting together a high performing team. We established what we wanted to achieve and unanimously agreed on the best approach, allowing us to put the team’s objectives ahead of our personal desires.

From here, everything we did would link back to that first conversation on the dock before we headed out training – it was the catalyst for turning a disparate group of old rivals into a harmonious and ultimately victorious team of winners through better preparation and planning.

We won’t bore the non-sailors reading this with the fine details, but we spent the rest of the afternoon practising boat handling skills and ensuring our evolutions were slick, fast, calm, and flawless. Winning a yacht race is often simply a case of being on the team that makes the fewest mistakes! To mitigate the risk of boat handling errors and foster an attitude of incremental gains, each manoeuvre we performed was briefed, agreed upon, executed, and debriefed.

By the end of our training session the preparation clearly showed, levels of ‘chat’ during evolutions were at a bare minimum; the crew had found their synergy with one another, and crucially, everyone had their part to play and mutual respect for each other’s roles.

We were extremely impressed by how quickly the team had gelled and felt confident we could put on a stellar performance the next day. This rapidity of the team moving through the classic stages of Tuckman’s model (forming, storming, norming, and performing) is a testament to how much they wanted to make that happen. Massive kudos to them for demonstrating incredibly high levels of EQ throughout the weekend.

I also feel that it’s important to remember that sailing is a leisure pursuit, whether that be cruising or racing. So, as the saying goes, ‘if you’re not having fun, you’re probably not doing it right’. We certainly had fun on the water during our training session, serious fun! We wrapped up the day with a long debrief on the afternoon over dinner aboard, followed by a couple of convivial drinks together ashore. We had to be up at 0345 to make our 0630 start, so all had a very early night!

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