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  • Cheese and champagne

    14/04/2015 | Itajaí

    In this 'Schouten Blog' Anje-Marijcke van Boxtel (director coaching Schouten Global and coach of Team Brunel) writes, among other things, about her experiences in the talent-selection process, the training sessions on Lanzarote, her presence in the ports of the stop-overs of the Volvo Ocean Race 2014-2015.

    Team Brunel sailed in 40-knot winds.  And they sailed hard. But once again they had to concede defeat. And losing, even by a small margin, is hard. This defeat had nothing to do with the new crew lineup: The crew are enthusiastic about Cheese, and he about them.

    We took the RIB far out to sea, where we saw two sails: Alvimedica and Brunel, separated by 150 meters and racing hard for the line. Tension was running high. One last jibe ... but it didn't help. And the realization hit home: It was over. They crossed the line within 1.2 minutes of each other. 

    Once alongside I could see the effects: anger, sadness, disappointment, frustrated gestures, eyes fixed despondently on the horizon. I too, had to brush away a tear. You could see that this punishing leg had taken all they could give. And then failed to reward their efforts. Whether you lose by 2 minutes or 2 days, losing is losing - and it's always painful.

    The obligatory champagne shower
    We hoist the food we've brought on board - wraps, chips, juice, soda. We chat. We wait to enter the port. The usual reception ritual follows. The crew push through the crowd, towards the winners' podium and the obligatory champagne spray. The joyous ritual contrasts starkly with their feelings. Then we leave, quickly, heading for the apartments and a group barbecue. I notice that they are at ease with each other. A tight team. And Cheese, though a temporary member, is very much one of them.

    In the business world it can take a long time before a new arrival earns the trust of his colleagues. With Team Brunel it happened quickly. And this is fortunate, as they put their lives in each other's hands. Trust is essential on a racing boat. You achieve it through mutual awareness of each other's goals and by knowing and valuing each other's abilities. Here the goal is clear - and it's shared by all.

    The crew value Cheese. They like his thinking, he's a good helmsman and he also taught them a thing or two about sail trimming. His strange anecdotes and sense of humor did the rest. He fit in well. In return, he values the team. 'The crew is very capable and we sailed a good race. We could have been second. But the race was decided in the last few days,' he sighed.

    A different type of communicationIMG_3065.JPG
    Cheese also influenced the crew's communication - with his blunt, direct approach. He was open about his information needs and thought aloud while sharing the decision-making process: 'Why is that going to take another couple of hours?' Whether he was right or wrong in posing these questions wasn't the point. They opened up issues for discussion - and a new type of conversation. And more information was shared - and used!

    His approach opened new perspectives. And I couldn't get enough of his direct style. 'Capey is so damn good, but we don't always listen to him. He warned us twice about a big squall, with 50-knot winds. But we were totally absorbed in racing Mapfre. Pressure, pressure, pressure. Big mistake.' Afterwards Capey also admitted fault: 'I could also have made a stronger call.'

    As Bouwe always says, you must balance pressure with easing off - to avoid breaking stuff. But maybe this was just one of those team highs - when the crews' racing heart takes over from its head. Result: a broken sail. I remember the criticism of race followers using the app: 'Why didn't Capey see the wind coming?' 

    We'll miss Dirk/Cheese. The next leg will bring new challenges - and new opportunities. And the Spaniard, Javi de la Plaza, will take Cheese's place.       

    For more information about Managing interaction, Managing Teams, Collaboration skills and Communication skills, click here.

    3 Tips: Building trust

    • Know each other's goals and ensure they are aligned.  What is the common goal?
    • Ensure that you know each other's behavior, in good and bad situations - to avoid surprises.  Mutual understanding is easier when you know that you share the same goals. 
    • Be aware of and show appreciation for the abilities of others. 

    Nothing from this blog may be reproduced without written permission from Anje-Marijcke van Boxtel of Schouten Global.

    Update Team Brunel, April 14, 2015 
    by Anje-Marijcke van Boxtel, Director Coaching - Schouten Global
    Coach - Team Brunel in the Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15

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