Tom Duggan: Helping your team succeed

Published on May 17th, 2017

Tom Duggan (East Sandwich, Mass.) is an International Race Officer and Umpire, a long-time member of the US Sailing Race Management Committee, and Chair of the World Sailing Race Management Subcommittee. Through his race officer experiences, which span from Figawi Race Weekend to the Olympic Games, he shares in the US Sailing blog how information has value but only if you give it away.


Tom Duggan

Sailing is a sport more dependent on information than most.

Bearing, distance, wind speed, depth, vmg, cog, true wind, apparent wind, current speed, current angle, time to start, time to layline, time to mark, and much more information needs to be properly analyzed and acted upon to manage a successful race team, or manage a successful race management team.

It seems to me, a plan needs to be created to deal with all this information in order to maximize chances for a good outcome – a plan that affects and involves all the members of the team.

If so, then why do some skippers and race managers hold on to the details of their plan as if guarding the nuclear code? Why do they take little input from the team, and give less output to the team, until the moment of truth comes in the form of a last second complicated maneuver that the race team is not prepared for, or a last second complicated course correction that the members of the race management team never saw coming?

Beats me. It seems to me that in such a situation the chances that the boss could look really, really dumb are… yeah… really, really high.

This is a leadership issue. Good leaders spread information and responsibility around, empowering their team members to give input to the team and make their own decisions within their departments, freeing the leader to concentrate on ‘big picture’ stuff, and enabling him or her to get their head out of the boat.

I am a believer in pre-regatta meetings that allow me and the race management teams I work with to consider as many situations and problems that might reasonably occur during the course of the race, and discuss with everyone on the team the strategies and processes we might use to overcome and solve them.

The goals are 1. a learning process for everyone, and 2. no ‘deer in the headlights’ looks when it ‘hits the fan.’

A couple of Super Bowls ago, the Patriot’s Malcolm Butler (an undrafted rookie) made a last minute game saving interception that shocked everyone in the football world – except Malcolm Butler. As it turned out, the Patriots had practiced that exact play numerous times before the game, and Butler, a third stringer who wasn’t even supposed to play, immediately recognized the Seahawks formation and knew exactly how to respond.

In reality, the game wasn’t won in the last minute – it was won days before by making sure even the most unlikely of all Super Bowl heroes knew the game plan inside and out. Empowering the ‘rook’ to make the gutsy decision to go to where he thought the ball would be thrown, before it was thrown, saved the day.

Is there a Malcolm Butler on your team? Make sure you give your Malcolm the information and the empowerment needed to help your team to succeed.

To learn more about race official and race management resources from US Sailing… click here.

Source: US Sailing

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