Seven tips on becoming a sailing professional

Published on February 13th, 2014

by Stuart Streuli, Sailing World
A decade ago, 18-year-old Tyson Lamond left his hometown of Adelaide, Australia, in pursuit of his dream of becoming a professional sailor. In his pocket, he had two things: some cash he’d saved up working a part-time job, and a commitment from an English owner for a week of Farr 40 sailing.

tyson_lamondHe turned that regatta into a full season of sailing in Europe and then turned that season into a career. At 28, he’s just finished a six-year stint with Emirates Team New Zealand, where he was a boat captain for a number of the team’s race boats over that span, including their AC45, Extreme 40 and TP52. He’s also a highly regarded bowman. In simple terms, he has achieved his dream.

Spend a few days on the boat with Tyson – as I did during both the Fort Lauderdale to Key West Race and Quantum Key West Race Week – and it’s easy to see why he’s been able to make a name for himself in the world of professional sailing at a relatively young age. He’s a very competent bowman, extremely knowledgeable about all aspects of the sport, unflappable when things go awry, and very easy to get along with. He is, as he is fond of saying about some of his mates in the business, “a good yachtie.”

Luck, he’ll be the first to admit, has played a role. The track from talented youth sailor to successful professional is vague at best. Few sailors can successfully navigate it without some help. But luck will only get you so far. So I asked Lamond for some advice he could give to young sailors hoping to pursue a similar career path.

1- Learn a trade. With a few exceptions, virtually every member of an America’s Cup or Volvo Ocean Race sailing team will have an alternate skill that will help push the team forward. The big five are: rigging, boatbuilding, sailmaking, electronics, and hydraulics. While technical training won’t hurt, each of these skills can also be learned, to some extent, on the job. “It’s all about being there and being willing to put the time in,” he says. “Get involved, get dirty.”

2-Treat every job with respect: “It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, take whatever job you can get to get you on the next step. If your job is going in the RIB and passing on the water bottles to the sailing team, pass the water bottles on. It gets you involved with the next group of people, the next team, and it gets you exposure and experience. You’re going to be in situations with teams where you’re not sailing. You can’t put your head down; you’ve got to do whatever is the best thing for the team. You can’t be all about you and what you want to do that day, you have to think about the bigger picture.”

3-Create demand: “If you end up busy enough and you’ve done enough work and people really want you to sail with them, they’re going to pay for you. For me, I was working on boats and doing all these extra things and eventually I couldn’t afford to pass up non-sailing jobs to go sailing for free. I would be saying, “Well, if you can’t pay me to sail, I have to go work on this other boat.”

4-“Never think too much or too little of a program. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, or racing on, look at everything as a stepping stone and never be short-sighted.”

5-Be eager: “When I sailed with the Artemis program, I was really young and I had to work to show them I was the keenest. I would go down really early in the morning and do all my things, and do all the extra things I could find to gain their respect, because it just doesn’t happen.”

6-Check and re-check: “Doublecheck everything you do because it costs a lot of money when you make mistakes on these boats.” While no one likes to be the cause of a short delay during a race, it’s always important to remember that a short delay to ensure everything will go properly in a maneuver will usually only cost your team a few seconds, but a mistake in the maneuver could cost minutes, if not more. “The first mistake always leads to the next. So if you make a mistake, take it easy and fix it. Don’t rush into the next mistake.”

7-Be confident: “If you don’t have confidence in yourself then no one else around you will have confidence in you.”

Source: Sailing World

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