The Level Playing Field of Sailing

7 December, 2016

Still out here… Yep certainly getting our money’s worth with this edition of the RORC Transatlantic Race- BUT seems the race office have finally flipped the switch on the weather and suddenly its everything every transatlantic sailor ever wanted: 20 knots from the North East, flat seas and sunny skies- so yeah thanks guys- only when I blog about my concerns about the end of the world and imminent starvation will you let us have some wind…Typical…Bloody Romans… what have they ever done for us….
Meanwhile Challenger rolls along. Some will know, some not, that we are in fact a sail training vessel- our crew are a mix of a 25% core pro crew, 25% returning customers who already have experience of the boat and 50% first time crew who are totally new to this kind of sailing, this kind of boat and some even new to sailing in any form.
It’s an exciting business to be in- people join us from all over the world and ages on this trip alone range from 22 to 71 (Happy Birthday Mike Newbury by the way-what a great choice for a place to celebrate your 71st birthday today!:)
People join us from all walks of life and nations and the resulting mix is diverse to say the least but whatever differences set us apart at the outset of the event are rapidly dissolving by this, day 11. Living and working in a bucking, pitching, rolling laboratory seemingly designed solely to wash away any attempt at a facade to one’s personality is an unexpected test for everyone new to ocean racing. Today’s lesson: Skippering 105(?) Beatings will continue until morale improves.

The simple fact is that this kind of event ends up being much more than simple a race between boats at sea and not all of the challenges we face come form the wind and waves. Whatever or whoever you are- ten days on a boat at sea racing with a team of strangers is going to reveal; raw in all its majesty, who you truly are. When every aspect of your life is suddenly occurring alongside 13 other people’s needs and wants, I don’t care who you are high flyer, fashionista, pilot, plumber or pro sailor everyone suddenly has to think about how personal needs and wants fits into 13 other peoples plans- because buddy this bus is the express and we don’t stop for nothing. Needless to say, Nutters need not apply.
Having done a round the world race with 22 crew on a boat no bigger really than Challenger I am aware firstly of my own limitations in such a tight social situation (perfection is so hard to teach…..) and secondly the likely sparking points between crew members. Interestingly it is my observation that its never race, religion, creed, colour, country of origin or politic that adds up to dispute but always the tiny things: a harsh tone of voice, a throw away comment taken the wrong way, things not cleaned up or an opinion ignored. Such insignificant things compared to the scale of our endeavour here- but in this fiery crucible -as in any marriage- acorns become oaks all to quickly and the only successful course of action is to cut them down quickly when they are still small and manageable.

How simple then as the captain of this fishbowl to open a discussion on this point this morning- the whole crew together, not lecturing nor complaining, no emotion, no agenda- just here’s the deal- you are all human- let’s recognize that and move on now before it becomes a problem. Simple. And so we fx the problem before the problem puts a fix on us by making everyone aware now, as the heat rises, the finish line hangs tantalizingly far away and the little incidents start to stack up that it is time for everyone to exercise their higher social functions, take a deep breath, wipe slates and focus solely on enjoying five or six amazing days of the most fantastic sailing imaginable.