Reprinted from Scuttlebutt
You are racing for the final spot in the biggest title in the sport, and the conditions are less than favourable. Suddenly, your headsail explodes. Pulling down the sail and replacing it means almost everyone onboard is there on the foredeck, pulling the sail down and stuffing it through one hatch and bringing up the spare sail through the other – all this without a guard rail around. This isn’t a hypothetical situation, but what actually happened during the build up to the biggest sailing event of 1987. “All of us immediately got to work, and soon we realised that half of us were stuffing the sail down one hatch, and the other half through the other, in effect clogging the egress,” says Peter Isler, who was the navigator of the boat.
It was in the middle of this chaos that skipper Dennis Conner walked onto the deck. He took in the scene and walked off in disgust at how ‘professional’ his crew was. Later though, he did tell them, “So we had a problem in that race, but we are the best team this year, I’m sure you guys will take care of it so that we don’t have this problem again”. The team recouped, realised that while everyone had been almost too quick to react to the situation; there was a complete lack of organisation. What it needed was someone to take charge and call the shots. “And what do you know, in the next race against Team New Zealand we had the exact same problem – under far more adverse conditions,” recounts Isler. “Only this time, somebody took control and we knew exactly what to do. We managed to fix the situation even before the other team got close to us,” he says. The Stars and Stripes team eventually went on to win that year’s America’s Cup, the Holy Grail of sailboat racing. In retrospect, it possibly wouldn’t have happened had Conner not trusted his team enough to completely delegate important decisions to them, which eventually affected the outcome.
This is one of the most popular sailing stories that Isler, now also a motivational speaker and corporate trainer, likes to tell his ‘students’. “There are a lot of similarities between business and sailing, the constant rate of change being just one of them,” says the two-time Cup winner and best-selling author of ‘At The Helm’ and ‘Sailing For Dummies’. — The Economic Times, read on: http://tinyurl.com/yeth7kq