The Differences Between Sailing & Politics

I’ve been mulling this over for a while. There are striking similarities between sailing and politics yet also huge differences, I feel one could definitely learn a lot from the other in many ways. If only I could find a way of bringing what I’ve learnt from doing Clipper Training into the council –

Until I signed up for Clipper I’d only done small boat sailing with a tiny crew. Once you get on a much larger boat with a much larger crew the dynamics change somewhat. You have a skipper and mate and their word is law. They are responsible for the boat, the crew and everyone’s safety. The buck stops with them, they are wholly responsible for whatever happens on board to the crew and the boat. You may not like your skipper, you may not always agree with them but you do have a great deal of respect for them. You learn a lot from your skipper and to a certain extent, they do from you. You can have a great relationship and have a laugh but at the end of the day, what they say, goes. But if you need someone to talk to – the Skipper is always there for their crew.

On board everyone has something to do, there’s no place for someone who wants to sit back and watch everyone else do the work, or even worse – watch and criticise. (That’s the Skipper’s job! 😉 )

Everyone knows the boat won’t go anywhere without teamwork, everyone has to play their part and you have to work together. No one person could sail that boat on their own. Skipper included. Communication is also incredibly important, the crew need to know what is happening, what they should be doing and when. For everyone’s safety and for everything to go smoothly, the entire crew have to know what is happening, what their role is and of any potential issues.

For the time you’re on the boat, your crew are your family and like all families, you might not all get on. it might just be a temporary tension caused by something going wrong, or maybe you just can’t stand them. Whichever it is, you just get on with it. You work together and get the job done, you find a way of working with each other that doesn’t make everyone miserable. As they’re part of your crew, no-one goes anywhere without them so you may as well just get on with it and make the best of it. Back biting, sniping and moaning about other people to the Skipper just doesn’t seem to happen. Most of the time, if you actually sit and talk about the problem anyway, it can be sorted easily enough. By working together you can achieve great things.

You also look out for each other. If someone is having a hard time, a rough day, not feeling well, are down for whatever reason, you make allowances. You do what you can to help them through, give them a hand, make them a cup of tea, give them a hug. Whatever they need. Everyone helps everyone else.

While there are ego’s on board, there are no individual secret crew agenda’s to gain personal advancement, particularly at the expense of other crew members – there is the boat agenda and everyone works towards making that happen. Everyone has an opinion on everything, how important they are and how great their sailing skills and knowledge are. But what you tend to find, is that translates into helping everyone else, knowledge and experience is freely shared so that everyone learns and can improve. As that benefits the whole crew and therefore the performance of the boat.

There is no blame culture on the boat; if something goes wrong you’ll talk it through so everyone learns from it. There won’t be any finger pointing or name calling, it is what it is and you’ll all learn so it doesn’t happen again. No-one will try to use someone else’s perceived mistake to make themselves look better.

Everyone takes pride in their boat and what their boat has achieved. One of the first topics people talk about when discussing their training is what boat they were on and who their skipper and mate was. They might only have been on that boat for a few days, but it’s “their” boat and “their” skipper and they like to know they’re doing well!

So, what are the differences between sailing and politics?

Well, exchange the word “boat” for “council” and the word “crew” for “councillors”. Now you tell me 😉





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