Alex Phillips, winning skipper of leg one of the BT Global Challenge, reports on what life has been like on Quadstone and what she believes has given them the edge so far:
‘One of the hardest things for each crew volunteer to come to terms with must be spending so long in a confined space with so many other people. I must admit that during leg one, my crew seemed to adapt really well; there was the occasional niggle, but all the causes of potential argument – queueing up to put on or take off foulies at the beginning or end of a watch, cooking in rough conditions, waiting to use the heads – none of these seemed to bother them.
‘Maybe it was something to do with the amount of time we spent talking before the start, establishing an on-board culture that suited all and developing our team charter, that relies heavily on tolerance and no blame, as well as the desire to do well, have fun and give each other space when needed.
‘One of my concerns prior to the start was that I would find it hard to get enough sleep. If very tired, I lose the power to make sensible decisions and begin to lose the patience that I need at all times with a crew of so-called amateurs. Both are essential if the whole team is to perform well.
‘I am lucky enough to have a very good crewmember who naturally took the role of first mate. Although his racing experience is limited, he makes up for it in many other ways, and the system that evolved on board took his abilities and my need for sleep into account.
‘Ian, my mate, and I both stay out of the watch system, while the watches are run by two very competent watch leaders: Sharon and Dan. Ian and I take it in turns to sleep. If one sees the other getting tired we will let them sleep for longer to catch up. While I am asleep, Ian will have a clear set of parameters to run the boat by. Our navigators monitor wind speed, direction and course over the ground (among other things!) constantly and Ian and the watch leaders will always know when I would like to be called.
‘On average, I reckon I slept for six to seven hours a day on leg one; I even found time to chill out with a book and personal CD player. There was one time, though, when two depressions rolled through in quick succession and I got far less for a couple of days. I knew I must have been tired when I went below to do some work at the chart table and woke up an hour later with my head on a chart!
‘It is vital, in my mind, for the crew to know that they can wake him whenever they have doubts or concerns. Mutual trust is essential; if I know that I will be woken when the crew have any worries or are unsure of anything at all. I will sleep soundly, but if I have doubts about this I will lie awake, listening for any signs of change. On the other side of the coin, the crew need to know they can wake me for any reason and not be greeted with: “Why the hell did you disturb me for that?”
‘As the crew of Quadstone develop and grow as a team, their power to make tactical and other decisions will increase. I am very keen to teach and coach the crew and involve them in as many of the decision-making processes as possible. After all, the more the crew learn to do for themselves, the more they will get out of the race.
‘It doesn’t always quite work this way, though; there is the odd time when something needs to be done quickly and there won’t be time for explanations. Although I try to remember to explain afterwards, sometimes if there is a lot going on, it will slip my mind. My crew is so hungry for information. Since January, I have watched them develop from 17 individuals into a very cohesive team that is always asking questions. The need for continual briefings is vital: the more they know the fewer questions they will ask.
‘The Quadstone team is also very good at looking for ways to improve their performance continuously. Each watch is encouraged to develop their own ways of doing things, sail changes for example, and