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Leadership. Think Shackleton!

Ernest Shackleton

CCA member Richard du Moulin contributes to our “Creating a Culture of Safety” series, reflecting on the essence of great leadership at sea in this article adapted from his work as a long-time leader of safety-at-sea seminars for the Storm Trysail Club.

Armed forces, pilots, emergency responders, and professional athletes have long known that hands-on practice under pressure is the best training for real life incidents and confrontations. In the days of sailing ships, it was not a coincidence that seafarers became the great explorers. Men like Nansen, Amundsen, Shackleton, Scott, and Peary were first sailors then explorers. They developed confidence based on navigation, seamanship and survival skills, and most important, were effective leaders under adverse circumstances.

Ernest Shackleton was perhaps the most striking example of good cheer and optimism in the face of incredible odds. When his ship the Endurance disappeared under the Antarctic ice, he adeptly changed the goal of the expedition to survival and return to civilization. The diaries of his men did not report despair or fear; they reflected Shackleton’s optimism and cheer.

What does all this have to do with Storm Trysail Club safety at sea seminars? Simple. We want to maximize your knowledge, skills, and positive attitude about offshore voyaging or racing. Like Shackleton, we want you and your crew to return safely using your leadership and seamanship skills. Your goal should be to prepare your boat and crew for any challenges that Mother Nature or random gear failure can throw at you—to cope and prevail.

If circumstances are such that you have to get airlifted by the Coast Guard, or abandon ship to a raft or rescue vessel, we want you do it safely. But the challenge in today’s “connected” world is that people (and sailors) often abdicate responsibility and give up, rather than overcoming adversity. Too many yachts are abandoned unnecessarily. We believe when you go to sea, your plan and attitude must be to “prevail.” Think Shackleton!

The OwnerAs skipper of the yacht going to sea, the owner is the “responsible party” from both a legal and moral perspective, even if more experienced crew are aboard. Aspects of that include:

  • Management—Channel the skills and energy of the crew to achieve objectives and ensure a favorable outcome, whether racing or cruising.
  • Situational awareness—Identify risks, problems (opportunities) early in order to take corrective action with minimal risk and loss.
  • Reset—As conditions change, reset goals and strategy.
  • Attitude—Exhibit optimism and confidence that all challenges can be met if the crew works together as a team.

Read more about Creating a Culture of Safety aboard.