As we approach the end of Day 15, there is a renewed sense of ambition and hope amongst the crew on board team GREAT Britain. The business end of this race is nearly upon us. 1600 miles are left to sail and with the weather finally looking fairly stable and consistent, there is all to play for.
From my experience in professional sport, fortune favours the bold and the brave when pursuing the greatest prize, victory. Risks have to be taken and concentration and accuracy are of paramount importance, when trying to win matches, races and tournaments. Following on from storm number two, I think it would be fair to say that there were certain members of our crew, unwilling to take those risks. We had been battered by that beast and whilst the boat had come through it relatively unscathed, there were some lasting wounds to some of the crew that left them mentally and emotionally fragile.
No one likes to see a crew member injured or in pain. What happened to Uncle Jim (James Hendry) wasn't pleasant to see, but he is a trooper and was back on deck and wanting to get on with things within a few days of the event passing. Others however, weren't so keen to forget and it has been a battle to motivate and convince certain members to be brave and push the boundaries in order to win this race.
I was once told a great quote during my time with Newcastle Falcons. Our trainer and motivator, Steve Black, walked into the changing room before we took on Stade Francais (unbeknown to me at the time, but my future club) in the European Cup Quarter Final. There was a nervous energy amongst the group, we were taking on one of Europe's biggest clubs in their own backyard, with a partisan 50,000 French supporters behind them. Blackie's words were simple, 'Winners win'.
Unfortunately, the significance of those words wasn't recognised, nor appreciated at the time and we were beaten 50 points to 7 and made to look second rate by them. Why did that happen? Fear. We as a team were intimidated by the challenge ahead of us and instead of rising to it, quivered and crumbled at the moment of truth.
Fear and nerves are fabulous things. Harness them and use them to your advantage and they can give you that extra ten per cent. Be intimidated, nervous, shy and lack any ambition in your play and it is going to be a long night at the office! Sadly, we were the latter that day in Paris and were found desperately wanting. The words however, still resonate so clearly with me. Stade were the 'Winners' that day. Not only in the result, but mentally and emotionally they were stronger, tougher and more determined to win. In the future, if we or I wanted to win, no matter what the situation, we/I needed to roll up our sleeves and decide to do so, no matter what the 'costs' might be.
After storm number two, I think a fair analysis of the morale on board team GREAT Britain is that we were scared. Nerves were high and the prospect of Storm number three being more ferocious and dangerous than its predecessor filled a few of the crew with dread. We were taking on Mother Nature for a third time and we needed to attack her with the same zest and enthusiasm as times past.
I got the feeling that some would've preferred to drop sails, throw the anchor overboard and park up overnight until it passed. Thankfully, the majority of the crew on this boat are braver and more adventurous souls than that and embraced the challenge that lay before them.
Risks were going to have to be taken in order to make up ground on the front pack of Qingdao, Henri Lloyd and OneDLL. Not reckless risks, but calculated, well thought out risks that pushed the boat and the crew during a time of distress.
Thankfully, those risks have been taken and we as a boat are starting to reap the rewards from that gamble. Our skipper, Simon Talbot is very good and continually pushes the boat and his crew to the maximum. Sometimes that can be frustrating and annoying, usually when you're tired and facing the prospect of a fourth sail change in three hours, but very often he is right and I feel very lucky to have him on board, guiding us through this adventure.
Simon is a man that wants to win and is prepared to take risks in order to do so. Again, not reckless, irrational risks that place everyone around him in unnecessary danger, but risks that are carefully thought out and meticulously planned before being handed out to the crew. The result is simple and there for all to see. As it stands today, we are 21 miles behind OneDLL, 50 behind Henri Lloyd and 77 behind Qingdao and chasing hard. With less than a week left of this race, Blackie's words from all those years ago could not be more relevant to our situation....'Winners win'.
If we as a team can follow our game plan and execute it with utmost precision, we stand a very good chance of competing for the title. The weather looks favourable for us and if we can hold our nerve during this tense period, then hopefully those around us will start to lose theirs. Winners are brave, positive and unrelenting characters that continue unabated in their pursuit of victory. They stop at nothing and aren't easily distracted. That day in Paris, we were distracted and overawed by the challenge that lay in front of us. The result, a heavy beating.
However, I believe that team GREAT Britain is made of sterner stuff. We have come through the difficult and dark times and we have come out fighting. In any battle you need strong characters that will never quit and I believe that GREAT Britain has those individuals in abundance.
The mental fabric of this group is strong and we are determined to make a fist in this final fight. Now we need to execute the plan put before us. Do that and the winners will almost certainly have won!!!
Here’s hoping peeps :)