“Consistency, decisiveness and a respectful culture’ – Henri Lloyd watch leader reveals how the team won

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Nick Golding was a round the world crew member and watch leader on Henri Lloyd, winner of the Clipper 2013-14 Race. He describes how the team achieved victory.

Team bonding started happening from crew allocation back in May 2013 when we discussed what we wanted to achieve. We knew we wanted to win back then but that we wanted to be a happy boat and have a positive culture of respect for one another. 

I was watch leader all the way round and also worked on sail repair. As watch leader, it was my job to keep everyone motivated & performing at our best through the good and bad times, as well as keeping everyone safe.  We agreed that we couldn’t have an individual goal above the team’s goal and worked hard to minimise any conflict on board.   

My prior sailing experience combined with my personality and career experience helped me grow as a watch leader and support our skipper, Eric Holden. I remember Eric telling me as a watch leader 'You don’t have to be the best sailor but you have to get the best out of the sailors'. This was excellent preparation to work with a team containing both experienced and novice sailors as well as the complete range of personality types.  It helped to be able to relate to everyone and find a way of encouraging them individually if needed. 

We knew consistency in everything we did was key and Eric was always calm and cool under pressure or in bad conditions which helped us be so, too.  He is a total professional at all times – on the water and in port too.  He epitomises stability and is always conscientious. You always know how he will be. 

Eric taught me so much about ocean racing & the art of weather forecasting. He always knew where to put the boat to be in the right place. All we had to do as crew was keep the boat moving as fast as possible which we seemed to do quite well. 

Eric never tried to wing it or try something that could jeopardise our position or final result. He always had a game plan and that was to collect the most amount of points possible. We would break down races to focus on the Scoring Gate, the Ocean Sprint and then line honours, it really paid dividends. 

As a watch leader, I was decisive in my style. I would meet with Eric most days and give him feedback, which could be confidential. I also asked for feedback on my style from time to time, which enabled me to adjust my approach for the overall benefit of the team. 

I suffer from seasickness and it never fully disappeared which was one of the hardest things during the voyage. I would always feel ill for the first few days at the start of races, and trying to be enthusiastic and motivate people then was very hard for me but my assistant watch leaders & team mates pulled me through. 

When we were short-handed across the Pacific that was also very challenging from a physical point of view. We would often be woken from our short sleep patterns to assist on deck with a sail change or an event requiring all hands on deck.  Eric helped by taking a more active role in helming allowing the watch leading team to rest a little. We all had to learn how to manage fatigue to keep pushing harder as a crew. 

Having won the overall race is deeply rewarding for all of us on board Henri Lloyd.  From the outset Eric made us believe we were as good as any other team and could win.  When you have given your all physically and mentally against some of the harshest conditions Mother Nature can throw at you, to come out on top is a dream come true. 

I am not sure what I want to do next, but I will certainly carry on sailing. I am looking forward to sleeping for more than 4 hours at a time and seeing my friends and family.  I am taking time out to enjoy the small things in life and to think about what I want to do professionally.