Leadership Weekend: Skippers’ Climb to Success

24 March 2017

Hiking through the hills in South Wales might not appear to be the most obvious training ground for a Clipper Race Skipper, but has again proved to be the perfect setting for our ‘dynamic dozen’ to bond on the path to their upcoming ocean adventure.

Just 24 hours after announcing the new Skippers to the world, the group of twelve, as well as members of the Race Office, were bundled into a mini-bus and driven three-and-a-half hours north, before being told to don their rucksacks for a nine-kilometre trek through the Welsh wilderness to get their Mission Performance leadership and learning course started.

“It was hard work, climbing Sugar Loaf Mountain but it was a great thing to do,” says Clipper Race Director Mark Light.

“It blew any cobwebs away, there was a lot of chat and reflection on the way up and it probably set the tone for the next few days.”

The chat and reflection centred on the Skippers’ values, expectations and goals for the upcoming race. The importance of teamwork was also enforced, with the group having to work together to find what would be their home for the next four days, a bunkhouse halfway up Table Mountain in Crickhowell. Not an easy task for people used to navigating at sea rather than on land!

“They are a great bunch and we had a great walk,” says the co-founder of Mission Performance, Rob Lewis.

“They were about two hours ahead of the last group so whether that is to do with the standard of fitness or navigation I don’t know but I was very impressed.”

Rob, a former Royal Marine, oversaw the course agenda in Wales, and used both his knowledge of the Clipper Race from the last four years, and other elite programs to deliver powerful leadership and coaching lessons to the Skippers.

“We are introducing them at this stage to the fundamental world class basics we call people skills and self-awareness,” explains Rob.

“By getting them to discover for themselves what those people skills are and practising those with their peers, their fellow Skippers, they will only grow as leaders.”

Deputy Race Director Dan Smith, whose Derry~Londonderry~Doire team finished second overall, knows only too well how the lessons learnt in the mountains in Wales can come in handy in some of the most remote locations out at sea.

“I was in the same place as these skippers are now about two years ago now and we came for a very similar weekend,” says Dan.

“The tools I learned were very, very useful on board my boat. They went in my tool box and as we went around the world I was able to pull them out use them at various testing moments to make a strong team.”

Crew Allocation is the first major race event Skippers are preparing for, and it was clear the time away learning more about presentation skills, goal setting, listening, adaptability and trust, will stand the twelve in good stead when they come face to face with their teams for the first time on May 20.

“We’ve learnt lots about how to approach Crew Allocation day which is a huge day for the crew and the teams. As a group the Skippers have been concentrating on presenting themselves, the importance of first impressions, and how to organise themselves and their new crew on the day to make sure it goes as well as possible for everyone involved,” says Mark Light.

“That will go forward into coaching and getting the best out of the race crew, being competitive, being harmonious, and really being motivated to reach their own individual goals as well as the team’s.”

Skipper Rick Powell agrees, adding: “We have learned lots together. What really stuck for me was time management, and the lessons on communication and presentation.”

At the end of the time in Wales, Mark was delighted with how his team of Skippers had embraced the lessons offered by Mission Performance.

“We purposefully wanted this session to take place early in the process so that the lessons can be taken forward from the start, and it’s also really important to get the Skippers gelling together early. There’s been a lot of fun over the week but also a lot of serious thought coming out, a lot of reflection. You can just see already the buzz in the room and the Skippers starting to grow and starting to become a really good close unit.

“Whilst they will be competing against each other on the race course, the role of Skipper is a demanding one and its important they are able to act as a strong support network for each other, as well as feeling like a very important part of our Race Office family. The lessons they have learnt here are going to be crucial to the overall success of the race for themselves as well as their crew.”

To read more about our twelve Clipper Race Skippers, please click here.

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