You can respect your competitors, push the limits, and race hard while not losing sight of the big picture.
At a recent event we had a close situation at a top mark where we fouled another boat and if we did not foul it felt close. Nothing was said; both boats bore away, set kites and went about their business. Inevitably my counterpart on the other boat is an Olympic gold/bronze medalist, multiple world champion, America’s Cup, Volvo ocean race etc…. all around sailing stud. I would also say that Jonathan and I are about as different of people that you could meet. Jonathan reminded me about the meaning of respecting your competitors, pushing the limits, and racing hard while not losing sight of the big picture.
Ashore I went up to Jonathan to apologize for what I thought was a foul on our part and thanked him. He was quick to point out that we do a lot of racing in an environment where we are coaching owner-drivers and sometimes things are just close. Yet, he also said that racing against each other hard is a give and take on the water and without saying it reminded me in a very simple gesture that there is a lot to gain by racing hard and in a professional manner.
Lesson learned again! As potentially my own worst enemy with intensity and for those of you who have the same tendencies, there are some good takeaways from this exchange and experience.
Pick and choose your battles
In the example above if it was a foul it was small enough that our competition did not think it warranted a penalty. Jonathan made a choice to cut us some slack and as we talked about the situation ashore. It was a great reminder for me that not every situation requires a red flag and there are times to race competitors hard and cut each other slack. No shouting, just racing.
Knowing the rules
This is a tricky one in our sport. In the best of situations the rules can be confusing. In confusing situations it gets harder and as emotions in the heat of the moment get revved up thinking clearly can be tough. A clear understanding of the rules and quick acknowledgement of a foul with immediate penalty clears the air pretty quickly and will allow you to get back to racing.
In the situation that I described above there was no real alteration of course and yet it would have been real easy to put the bow up and do a Hollywood and protest, place the onus and burden of a protest on us. But they did not and there is the great lesson. Nothing said if it was clean and keep racing. The conversation ashore revealed what I felt on the boat and yet a solid reminder from a great professional. No need to be cheesy on the water as there is a lot of racing in 2015.
Each situation on the course requires a different reaction or response. The above lesson though was and is a great reminder to perform to a higher standard. There are certain teams that you will race against, we all know who they are, and that won’t be a good standard. Stay above it, do your penalty turns if you foul, and remember it is still just a sail boat race!
Originally published as part of the "Terry's Tips" column on SailingWorld.com