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It can be a daunt­ing prospect to be the new crew mem­ber join­ing an es­tab­lished sail­ing team. What will your role be in the team? Will they like you? Will you fit in? Is the boat and per­for­mance what you hope it will be? It is al­ways help­ful to re­mem­ber the stresses can go the other way too. Is the new per­son go­ing to be loud and shout? Do they have the skills we hope they do? Will they blend with the ex­ist­ing team and help bring out the best in ev­ery­one?

Nor­mally, a cer­tain amount of dis­cus­sion will have taken place be­fore you turn up to the boat and meet the crew. You should un­der­stand the aims and ob­jec­tives of the team and know what role you are com­ing to ful­fil.

So, it should just be a case of meet­ing the team, fit­ting in and do­ing your bit to the best of your abil­ity to cre­ate a high-per­for­mance team. You are by no means lim­ited to ful­fill­ing your job on the boat but, de­pend­ing on how you com­mu­ni­cate, it is also hoped you will im­prove and en­hance the per­for­mance of the whole team and boat, mak­ing your pres­ence ben­e­fi­cial to ev­ery­one. If you’re suc­cess­ful, your rep­u­ta­tion will go be­fore you. This is the same whether you are a pro­fes­sional or an am­a­teur sailor.

No owner wants to be told that their pride and joy of a boat is an old heap. Few own­ers want to be told that they need to spend a for­tune on new sails and hard­ware to get a bet­ter per­for­mance. The re­al­ity is there are al­ways ways to im­prove that cost very lit­tle.

Small changes in team­work, boat han­dling and tac­tics can pro­duce gains on the race course, and this in turn will lead to a bet­ter per­for­mance and greater plea­sure for the owner. Now, as an ex­cited and in­vig­o­rated owner, they be­come en­cour­aged by their re­sults and soon the con­cept of some new sails has be­come a re­al­ity.

Boat own­ers need to be nur­tured so they re­main in love with the sport. They want great ca­ma­raderie on the wa­ter with their team and to de­velop their skills and im­prove per­for­mance. If it feels like their hobby is fast be­com­ing a money pit then the love af­fair is over and that is one less team on the race course. That’s bad for rac­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties and the rep­u­ta­tion of the sport.

In­gra­ti­at­ing your­self with a new crew is not an easy task. They do not want some­one to come on board and start chang­ing the way ev­ery­thing is done. They do not want to be em­bar­rassed and they do not want some­one to give a run­ning commentary about how things could be done bet­ter. It takes time to un­der­stand the crew dy­nam­ics and you want to es­tab­lish your­self in your role be­fore you voice any opin­ions.

To fit in or stand out?

To fit in re­quires an el­e­ment of trust. If you are un­known to the crew then it will take a lit­tle time to es­tab­lish it­self. If you are known by rep­u­ta­tion then it will take a lit­tle time for you to prove your worth. Good team­work re­lies heav­ily on peo­ple know­ing their job and trust­ing ev­ery­one else to do their job at the ap­pro­pri­ate time and in the right man­ner to pro­vide a seam­less per­for­mance. If you are sec­ond guess­ing or try­ing to cover peo­ple then there will be a dip in per­for­mance. By be­ing pro­fes­sional in your ap­proach and the way you com­mu­ni­cate with oth­ers, you will es­tab­lish trust.

End of day de­briefs are in­valu­able and an op­por­tu­nity to re­flect on the day’s sail­ing, to ques­tion any con­fu­sion and iden­tify how things can be im­proved. Con­tribut­ing to that dis­cus­sion should be done in a pos­i­tive man­ner. You need to in­put on ar­eas where you can see room for im­prove­ment, but there is no need to talk just for the sake of it. Iden­tify a cou­ple of ac­tions that can be ad­dressed for the next day and re­mem­ber to ap­plaud any changes made if they im­proved the per­for­mance.

First im­pres­sions do last and it is dif­fi­cult to change opin­ions of peo­ple once th­ese have be­come es­tab­lished and this goes two ways. Try to ap­proach new boats and crews with an open mind. Ev­ery­one has skills and tal­ents that are not al­ways vis­i­ble. An­noy­ing habits can be over­looked if some­one brings some­thing else to the ta­ble.

Peo­ple’s back­grounds take time to un­der­stand and you may find that the per­son who an­noyed you when you first met them just saved you a race by fix­ing some­thing that could have been a showstopper.

Never judge a book by its cover!


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