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Enduring Leadership Lessons from the Ocean: Culture
Jessica Watson
Posted May 16 2018

©ACEA/ABNER KINGMAN. Two-time Americas Cup winning skipper Jimmy Spithill.  

A culture of success on the water is supported by group ‘norms’ and requires team members to fully buy into the collective vision.

Harvard Business School Professor Richard Hackman (1) expresses what is now a widely held belief, that a vision or ‘compelling direction’ energises, orients and engages a team. Statements of such a vision or mission are commonly presented as an expression of a company or team’s culture. But when it comes to high-achieving teams on the water, it isn’t enough to simply have a stated vision; team members also need to fully buy into it.

Two-time America’s Cup winning skipper Jimmy Spithill believes that a ‘successful culture’ is only achieved when the team’s vision is prioritised over the individual's ego, when ‘all actions and decisions are based on what will help the team win, regardless of who is on and off the boat or what role they are playing’.

The importance of this commitment to a collective vision is also evident in Eleanor Learmonth and Jenny Tabakoff’s (2) investigation of maritime disasters. They found that survivors who were able to ‘fight the mindset of individual self-preservation’ and commit themselves to the group’s collective survival drastically improve their odds. Tim Jarvis and his crew’s successful re-enactment of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s famous 1916 Southern Ocean voyage is another demonstration of commitment to group survival, with crew members willingly risking their own lives while helping to better the odds of the group’s collective survival.

When it comes to building commitment to the collective vision, both Jimmy Spithill and Clipper Race skipper Wendy Tuck suggest that the entire team’s involvement in the initial development of the vision is beneficial. The process of involving the entire team in the formation of a collective philosophy was also used by the successful 2003 America’s Cup challenger Team Alinghi (3), who prioritised this before their intensive training programme began. However, in circumstances when the collective development of the vision is not possible, such as the late induction of a new crew member, Jimmy suggests that it is still possible for the new member to ‘buy in’ if the team’s philosophy is well explained.

With a vision set and the team’s commitment to it established, culture is then reinforced through what Richard Hackman (1) describes as ‘group norms’, or the behaviours that are deemed acceptable. An example of the policing of such norms for Team Alinghi (3) was the policy of removing ‘high-spirted’ or ‘trash-talking’ sailors from the boat. Or, for Tim Jarvis, a committed work ethic and the constant re-evaluation of processes during expedition preparations were established norms.

A few words about this blog series:

Sailing, whether for survival or competition, is an unforgiving business. The teams that excel in such environments provide a multitude of learnings for leaders back on dry land. So through this blog series, I’ve set out to explore some of the most important and universally applicable leadership lessons from the oceans.

Based on existing research, interviews with some very well-credentialed sailors and my own observations, I’ll be posting weekly, covering trust, communication, diversity, culture, leadership styles and team formation. I wanted to include a breadth of insight from the different extremes of sailing, so you’ll be hearing from legendary America’s Cup winning skippers, a skipper charged with leading largely amateur crews through some of the world’s most dangerous oceans, and a man who re-enacted one of history’s greatest survival voyages.

Occasionally I still see some of the concepts that will be covered in this series – such as trust and diversity – considered ‘fluffy’, nice ideas, luxuries that are secondary to a team’s core business. So by showcasing their importance in such punishing, competitive, life-threatening, and typically masculine environments, I hope to prove their worth.

1. Richard Hackman, Leading Teams, 2002

2 .Eleanor Learmonth and Jenny Tabakoff, No Mercy – True Stories of Disaster, Survival and Brutality, 2013

3. Wolfgang Jenewein and Christian Schmitz, Creating a High-Performance Team Through Transformational Leadership: The Case of Alinghi, 2007

5 people found this helpful. Do you?Thank Jessica Watson
2015 Haines Hunter 585R Review
Graham Lloyd
Deckee Pro  Posted July 30 2018

2015, July; Sydney Middle Harbour: Whilst there are numerous specialist designs available these days, most trailer-boat buyers are looking for a multi-purpose craft and the Haines Hunter 585R fills the bill admirably. Haines Hunter invested quite a deal of research and development into this hull to have it meet performance expectations from offshore fishing to inshore cruising and watersports.

For convenience and extra value, the company has 585R packages with a Mercury outboard and Easy-Tow trailer. This heavily-optioned 585R was priced at $84,500 ready-to-go; pricing starts at around $79,800 (all prices at time of writing).

An integral bowsprit with inset anchor roller is a neat feature at the stem and carries the overall length from the 5.85 metres implied by the model name to an overall length of 6 metres. The beam of 2.4 metres gives a spacious interior and the cuddy cabin offers shelter and overnighting ability in vee berths that convert to a double with an optional infill.

Also optional is a toilet, either electric or a Porta Potti; there’s no provision for a sink or stove but there are plenty of camping set-ups that could be taken onboard for simple cooking and cleaning tasks if weekends away were part of the plan to enjoy the 585R. The cabin is both practical and appealing; the small floor area is simply flow-coated but the cabin sides are carpeted with shelves plus there is lots of under-seat stowage and an overhead hatch.

The latter opens for easy access to anchoring/mooring duties with a generous anchor well under its own foredeck hatch; an electric anchor winch is a desirable option which was fitted to this boat. A stainless guard rail protects the foredeck and forward side decks, whilst low profile grab rails run up the transom quarters.

Two rod holders are standard in each cockpit side deck and our review boat also had an optional well-designed stainless targa arch above the bimini with a six-pack of rocket-launcher rod holders. Also optional was a cork-finish sole to the cockpit that looked very smart as well as being practical. Bi-level side pockets, with rod racks in the lower pockets, plus a large underfloor storage locker would absorb all the tackle needed for fun on the water.

A half-beam lounge cleverly folds out-and-down across the centre-back of the cockpit, and behind that a clip-out vinyl screen gives access into the aft bilges which hold dual batteries plus other engineering accessories and a bilge pump. A hatch to starboard of the lounge gives quick access to the battery master switch, and above that in the aft deck is a hatch for the live bait tank.

There’s provision for a bait prep board to fit centrally above the mini aft deck while to port is an entry passageway from a transom boarding step that’s fitted with a drop-down swim ladder.

The seats for the skipper and first mate are mounted above optional storage lockers with a stainless door under the skipper’s seat opening to reveal tackle drawers; a moulded door under the first mate’s seat is for another stowage locker. The seating is ideally positioned giving good protection from the breezes of passage behind the curved and raked screen which has a stainless grab rail fitted around the inside of its frame.

Sight-lines from the driving position were perfect with a clear view through the screen when seated and, naturally, an even clearer view over the top of the screen when standing - if more wind-swept at speed.

Dominating the dash in front of the wheel was a Simrad NSS9 combination GPS/plotter, depth sounder and auto-pilot with easily viewed displays of graphics and digital data. Offset to the left and above that was a Mercury VesselView 4 display that also combined graphics and digits in a variety of scroll-through options to give a wealth of information about the Mercury 4-stroke 150 on the transom.

The 585R is rated up to 200 hp, but the Merc 150 proved a superb companion for the hull with smoothly quiet running at all speeds. Acceleration from rest and through the mid-range was gratifying; cruising anywhere around 3,500 to 4,000 rpms gave an easy-loping 38 to 49 kph whilst opening the tap all the way sped the Haines Hunter to a top end of 69.8 kph at 5,350 rpm. The stainless 3-blade 17-inch pitch Enertia prop was a wise selection; the Enertia range is new from Mercury and designed for 4-strokes to give strong performance whilst emphasising fuel efficiency.

At the helm, the 585R lived up to high expectations with a soft ride through wakes and washes. The hull carries a deep vee with a rounded keel and two strakes either side inside quite wide chines. The latter helped with forward lift and pushed the wake and spray clear of the topsides for a clean running angle. Bow lift from rest was minimal with the Mercury trimmed in, and a short trim-out once on plane had the 585R scooting along very nicely indeed.

The Ultraflex hydraulic steering was well weighted to give a good feel for how the boat was handling. And it handled just fine through turns - the hull showing aplomb through close-coupled manoeuvres. The alloy-spoked Monza sports wheel was not adjustable but it had been mounted in the right spot for me to be comfortable whether seated or standing, and the skipper’s seat fore-aft adjustment put me at my preferred arms-reach to the rim.

The throttle/trim/shift controls were also sensibly located on the cockpit side, and I’d have been entirely happy to stay at the wheel all day. The 585R was not sensitive to the outboard’s trim, but it responded quickly and would put a smile on the face of any skipper who likes to play around with trim to get the most from their boat – whether that be for speed or economy.

As Haines Hunter intended, the 585R is a superb all-rounder; it’s good looking too and, especially with that famous name on the builder’s plate, it should prove a valued life-style investment.


Length (overall): 6.00 metres

Beam: 2.40 metres

Weight (boat only, dry): 950 kgs

Fuel: 230 litres

Power (as tested): Mercury four-stroke 112 kW (150 hp)

Price as tested: $84,500 (including options, on trailer, ready to go)

Top Speed: 69.8 kph

Was this helpful?Thank Graham Lloyd
Vintage boat review: Savage Tasman 52 SP Mark II
Graham Lloyd
Deckee Pro  Posted May 3 2018

1997, January; Port Phillip Bay: Most boatbuilding companies specialise in one material, usually either aluminium or fibreglass. J. J. Savage and Sons is probably the only builder in Australia that uses both materials and, whilst most models in the Savage fleet feature aluminium, this Tasman 52 is an example of the company's skills in mouldwork and 'glass construction.

With rounded 'Euro-style' lines, the Tasman is a very contemporary design that's focused on fishing but perfectly suited to family cruising and other water sports too. The layout is quite straightforward, but includes plenty of clever touches that make the boat that much more usable, and more enjoyable.

The cockpit has lots of room with a carpeted floor and plushly upholstered aft quarter seats that drop down out of the way when not needed. There's a neat panel between the seats, also nicely trimmed, that innovatively drops down to form a bait workbench with a cutting board. With the quarter seats down and the baitboard up, there is a full width padded 'leaning board' against which you can comfortably and securely brace whilst working fish astern.

Big sidepockets have moulded liners for a clean and tidy appearance, with brackets for rods and recessed grab rails. On the side decks, just aft of where they flare up into the cabin, are teak boarding pads with rod holders about half way back to the transom. Behind the aft seats, on either side of the engine well, are live bait wells or storage lockers.

Up front there is a pair of superbly padded and trimmed swivelling bucket seats. The skipper has a good office, with the gauges mounted in clear line of sight above the wheel. The first mate is equally well cared for with a grab rail and an extra storage pocket to port, and with a drink holder and glovebox in front. There's another grab rail below the centre of the curved screen, just above the companionway into the cabin.

The latter has comfortable seat cushions down each side and centrally forward. All three have stowage below, and there's padded sidepockets to take more essentials. There's just sitting head room at the aft end of the seats. A nice touch is the moulded steps on which you can stand to work mooring or anchor lines through the quite big hatch. Split bowrails, a good anchor locker and solid deck hardware make everything very practical and easy to use.

The Tasman had a 75 Honda four-stroke for power and it delivered plenty of punch to give the cuddy-cab pleasing levels of performance. The hull swept swiftly on plane, and ran easily with a soft and controlled ride. Turns in both directions were as tight as you'd like to make them, with hull and prop working perfectly together. The Tasman showed no signs of anything other than good manners and exemplary handling.

The best cruising speed seemed to be around 4,000 rpm when we had 39 kph showing on our GPS. Pushing the throttle all the way forward took us to 5,600 rpm and 58 kph, which is pretty good for 75 hp on a boat this size. The 90-litre underfloor fuel tank would give a good cruising range.

The skipper's seat is adjustable fore and aft, so you can get the distance from the wheel that best suits you. The only thing I noted as a point to improve was that the throttle did come a bit too close to the rim of the wheel at times, but that didn't stop me having a highly pleasurable time driving the Tasman.


Length: 5.20 metres

Beam: 2.11 metres

Deadrise: 18 degrees

Weight: 620 kgs

Fuel: 90 litres

Power as tested: Honda 75

Price (at time of review): Around $25,500

Was this helpful?Thank Graham Lloyd
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