Team Work, Dream Work

Sailing World - - Starting Line Five Things - PHO­TOS MICHAEL WISER Aubrey Web is a ju­nior at Col­lege of Charleston.

As the South­ern Col­le­giate Off­shore Re­gatta ap­proached, we were giddy and ner­vous, but above all else, crav­ing the com­pe­ti­tion and a chance to com­pete in our home waters. Eight teams were com­ing from around the coun­try to com­pete against the Col­lege of Charleston.

The en­tire team was ei­ther sail­ing in or run­ning the re­gatta: from a mark boat, com­mit­tee boat, or press boat. It was to be a full team ef­fort. When one of the teams showed up short a body to prop­erly sail their boat for the week­end, we let them bor­row a sailor. When an­other team needed help with fly­ing their spin­naker, we sent them a team­mate as well.

With each race, we grew more com­fort­able with the way things hap­pened on the J/120 Il­ly­era — maybe too com­fort­able.

In the ex­cite­ment of a suc­cess­ful mark round­ing, we jibed too soon, and our spin­naker sheet fouled in the turn­ing block. As soon as Sean Han­ni­gan, the pri­mary trim­mer, re­al­ized there was a knot, he called for help. Our mast­man, Shane Kil­berg, jumped to the lee­ward rail with Keenan Hilsinger, the bow­man, and they started to trim the kite to re­lease the pres­sure from the turn­ing block to­gether. I fin­ished clean­ing up the other sheets and hal­yards quickly be­fore of­fer­ing as­sis­tance.

Sean di­rected our move­ment. As a team, we shifted aft to help im­prove the sail shape and keep us mov­ing. Jamie, our squir­rel, was at the stern, un­ty­ing the gi­ant rat’s nest of a sheet.

Af­ter what felt like an eter­nity, the knots came free, and Sean counted down for the sheet re­lease from our white-knuckle grip. Time had com­pletely slowed, but all in all, it took us three min­utes to re­cover. As I re­turned back to the cock­pit to take up my po­si­tion, I felt a surge of adren­a­line from what we’d just done. When we crossed the fin­ish line, we were fired up that we’d fin­ished third, de­spite our mishap.

Our coach Ned Goss al­ways tells us, “Sail calm, sail con­fi­dent, sail for fun, and the re­sults will come.” He in­stills this in all of us, and we ab­so­lutely lived by it at the SCOR. Rather than get hung up on our mis­takes, we de­briefed be­tween each race to col­lec­tively fig­ure out how to avoid re­peat­ing any mishaps. To be able to iden­tify our own weak­nesses and call upon our team­mates to help over­come them strength­ens our skills and our team, says coach Goss. As cliché as it is, we are only as strong as our weak­est link.

De­spite be­ing way­laid by a con­ta­gious flu, we left ev­ery­thing we had out on the race­course. We sailed hard, and at one point, sailed Il­ly­era at 13 knots down­wind with the kite up.

What makes the Col­lege of Charleston team ex­cel is our prob­lem-solv­ing abil­i­ties, em­ploy­ing quick team-based de­ci­sion-mak­ing, and func­tion­ing seam­lessly as a unified crew rather than as an in­di­vid­ual or, worse yet, fall­ing vic­tim to group-think­ing paral­y­sis. It’s not al­ways pretty, but we’ve learned to be ef­fec­tive to­gether.

While we ended up los­ing the tiebreaker for sec­ond place in the SCOR, we were proud of what the team ac­com­plished to­gether. We smiled, but when we stepped down from the podium, re­al­ity set in as the long nights in the li­brary with midterms loom­ing crept back into our minds — such is the life of col­lege sailors.

The Col­lege of Charleston sail­ing team learns the im­por­tance of team co­he­sion both on and off the race­course.

Keel­boat re­gat­tas of­fer an al­ter­na­tive for col­lege sailors, par­tic­u­larly for larger crews, but for Col­lege of Charleston sailors, the new South­ern Col­le­giate Off­shore Re­gatta came with an­other perk: fruit­ful lessons in team build­ing.

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