Into the Storm: Lessons in Teamwork from the Treacherous Sydney to Hobart Ocean Race

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Winner of the Small Business Book Awards from Small Business Trends 2013

The Sydney Hobart Yacht Race is among the most demanding sailing competitions in the world. Unpredictable seas make the 628-nautical-mile course grueling under the best conditions, but the 1998 race proved to be the most perilous to date when a sudden and violent storm struck. Winds gusted over 100 mph and monstrous 80-foot waves towered over boat masts. Six sailors perished and another 55 were saved in ...

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Into the Storm: Lessons in Teamwork from the Treacherous Sydney-to-Hobart Ocean Race

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Winner of the Small Business Book Awards from Small Business Trends 2013

The Sydney Hobart Yacht Race is among the most demanding sailing competitions in the world. Unpredictable seas make the 628-nautical-mile course grueling under the best conditions, but the 1998 race proved to be the most perilous to date when a sudden and violent storm struck. Winds gusted over 100 mph and monstrous 80-foot waves towered over boat masts. Six sailors perished and another 55 were saved in what became the largest search and rescue operation in Australia's history.

In the face of turmoil and tragedy, a crew of "amateur" sailors piloted their tiny vessel, the AFR Midnight Rambler, not only to the finish but to overall victory. While bigger, better-equipped yachts attempted to maneuver around the storm, Ed Psaltis and his crew made the daring decision to head directly into its path. Their triumph—perhaps even their survival—owes itself to an extraordinary level of teamwork: an alchemy of cooperation, trust, planning, and execution.

Into the Storm chronicles their nearly four-day ordeal and draws parallels to the world of business, revealing 10 critical strategies for teamwork at the edge. Illustrated with examples from the story and compelling case studies, the book sheds light on what teams need to do to succeed in tough times. Finally, Into the Storm provides resources and tools to support teams as they navigate the chaotic seas of business today.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Anyone skippering a boat should buy this. Anyone involved in running a business should do likewise. I highly recommend it.” —Australian Sailing + Yachting Magazine

"… Perkins and Murphy draw up a list of strategies for 'teamwork at the edge' in sharing the burdens and, in the end, the rewards." —In the Black magazine

A Winner in the 2013 Small Business Book Awards in Leadership

"It is one of the most enjoyable team-building books I've read in a while…effective, compelling, and enjoyable..." —Facilities Manager

“…a clear and concise examination of the most effective team building principles for navigating successfully through times of crisis and adversity." Blog Business World

"Perkins weaves an extraordinary tale of great leadership and team work... Ultimately it’s a book about human endeavour and well worth a read." Marinews

"The inspiring story of this team is very applicable for any team enviornment. Into the Storm is a fun read disguised s a business book." —Networking Insights

“…excellent lessons on how to form a team, manage a team and the team dynamics that work best, especially when faced with an extremely demanding challenge.” —Serve to Lead

Winner of the Small Business Book Awards from Small Business Trends 2013

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814431986
  • Publisher: AMACOM Books
  • Publication date: 11/1/2012
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 1,360,824
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 3.70 (d)

Meet the Author

DENNIS PERKINS is the author of Leading at The Edge and CEO of Syncretics Group, a consulting firm dedicated to helping leaders and teams thrive under conditions of adversity, uncertainty, and change. A graduate of the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, he successfully completed his first Sydney Hobart Race in 2006.

JILLIAN B. MURPHY is the Director of Client Services at Syncretics.

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Read an Excerpt

The AFR Midnight Rambler

The 1998 Sydney to Hobart Race proved to be the most perilous in the event’s sixty-five-year history. As the fleet sailed down the coast of Australia, boats were hit by an unexpected weather bomb—a massive storm that created 80-foot waves and 92-knot (105-mile-an-hour) winds. While many crews tried to maneuver around the storm, the 35-foot AFR Midnight Rambler chose to head directly into its path. After battling mountainous waves and hurricane force winds in the Bass Strait, the tiny boat arrived safely in Hobart, three days and sixteen hours later.

Their decision to head into the eye of the storm—along with extraordinary tenacity, optimism, courage, and teamwork—enabled this crew of amateur sailors to beat professionals on much larger and better financed boats. The skipper, Ed Psaltis, and his crew of six were proclaimed the Overall Winners and awarded the coveted Tattersall’s Cup. They were the smallest boat in ten years to win the race.

A number of books have been written about the 1998 Sydney to Hobart Race, but most focused on the tragedy and loss of life. The spotlight was on death and destruction. When I looked further, however, I found that the story of the AFR Midnight Rambler had been almost completely overlooked. a immersed myself in the saga of the Midnight Rambler and the Sydney to Hobart Race. I contacted Ed Psaltis, and the more I heard about his philosophy— and the way the crew worked together—the more engaged I became. It was clear to me that the success of the AFR Midnight Rambler was not a fluke or mere luck. It was the result of a consistent set of exemplary practices that embody the concept of Teamwork at The Edge.

In the years following my initial contact with Ed, I spent considerable time studying the AFR Midnight Rambler crew and the Sydney to Hobart Race. I made numerous trips to Australia and conducted extensive interviews with members of the crew. I also spoke with other accomplished sailors who had won the famed race. Finally, with some trepidation, I sailed the race myself so that I would understand as much as I possibly could about the Everest of ocean racing.

To be clear, the story of the Midnight Rambler is not the only story that can be told about teamwork in the Sydney to Hobart Race. The lessons in this book incorporate insights from conversations with many extraordinary sailors. Roger Hickman, skipper of Wild Rose, is one of Australia’s most experienced offshore ocean racers. “Hicko,” who won the 1993 race and many other trophies, was exceptionally generous with his observations about effective teamwork.

Adrienne Cahalan—navigator of Wild Oats—holds five world speed sailing records and is a veteran of nineteen Sydney to Hobart Races. Adrienne shared her insights from years at sea on a diverse array of boats and crews. Neville Crichton, owner and skipper of the “super maxi” Alfa Romeo, also took time from his busy schedule to speak with me. And, though most of my conversations took place with Australian sailors, I was able to get some “Yankee insights” from the crew of Rosebud—including Jim Slaughter and Malcolm Park. Rosebud was the first American winner of the Sydney to Hobart Race in thirty years.

Each of these sailors contributed important ideas about teamwork that are incorporated into this book. As is the case of Leading at The Edge, however, I felt that the best way to talk about the strategies was to focus on one story. In my previous book, that story was the saga of Ernest Shackleton and the crew of the Endurance. In this book, I chose the story of the AFR Midnight Rambler.

There are a number of reasons why the metaphor of ocean racing can help teams facing today’s tough challenges. Let’s look at some of the core characteristics of the sport:

■ Ocean racing is a complex team endeavor.

■ It’s a test of endurance and tenacity involving a journey into the unknown.

■ Like today’s business environment, racing is characterized by constant change. The weather can be sunny one minute, with gale force winds the next.

■ Ocean racing is competitive, stressful, and anxiety-provoking.

■ While there is a skipper in charge of the boat, leadership can be distributed among other members of the crew.

■ A team that fails to execute flawlessly can lose a race. There are winners and losers in the sport.

■ Winning a sailing race requires clear vision, a cohesive and committed team, and the ability to learn and adapt.

The demands placed on a crew of ocean racers are strikingly similar to those faced by any team working to overcome tough challenges. And I believe that, by understanding the things that make ocean racers successful, we can draw useful insights for a broad range of team challenges.

Having a superb team doesn’t guarantee success, and every challenging adventure involves an element of chance. But I believe that the kind of teamwork exhibited by the best ocean racing teams changes the odds. Every race will still involve rolling the dice, but the dice can be weighted in favor of teams that strive to get everything right—crews that excel in

Teamwork at The Edge.

After sharing the story of the AFR Midnight Rambler and the 1998 Sydney to Hobart Race, I’ll explore the strategies that I believe provide the foundation for their success, and for the success of other ocean racers. Then I’ll suggest ways that these Teamwork at The Edge strategies can be applied to your own challenges.

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Table of Contents


Map of the Sydney to Hobart Race vii

Preface: At The Edge ix

The Role of the Leader xv

PART ONE The Story of the AFR Midnight Rambler and the Sydney to Hobart Race 1

1 The Everest of Ocean Racing 3

2 The Patriarch of a Sailing Family 12

3 Nuzulu and the Start of a Winning Team 15

4 The Midnight Rambler—A One-Off Boat 26

5 The Ramblers—Run-Up to the Race 29

6 The Aussie Competitors 34

7 Sayonara—The Big Yank Tank 39

8 Uncertain Weather—Buster or Bomb? 43

9 AFR Midnight Rambler—And They’re Away! 47

10 Sayonara—The Best Professional Sailors on the Planet 52

11 AFR Midnight Rambler—Smokin’ 55

12 Sayonara—Temporary Humility 60

13 An Ominous Forecast—Storm Warning 64

14 AFR Midnight Rambler—Hard or Squishy? 69

15 VC Off shore Stand Aside—A Twist of Fate 76

16 Rescue from the Sky—Angels on Winches 81

17 AFR Midnight Rambler—Hell on White Water 89

18 AFR Midnight Rambler—Sharing the Helm 96

19 Sword of Orion—Out of Control 104

20 General Mayday—An Official Catastrophe 113

21 AFR Midnight Rambler—Listen to That 119

22 Sayonara—Tack the Boat 126

23 AFR Midnight Rambler—A Commanding Position 130

24 Sayonara—A Thousand Years 136

25 Go the Rambler! 139

26 Wake of the Storm 144

27 Blue Water, Short Ocean—The Ramblers’ Record of Sustained Success 148

PART TWO Critical Strategies for Teamwork at The Edge 155

28 Introduction to the Strategies 157

29 The Research Challenge 160

30 My Hobart 165

31 Team Unity: Make the team the rock star. 170

32 Prepare, Prepare, Prepare: Remove all excuses for failure. 179

33 Balanced Optimism: Find and focus on the winning scenario. 187

34 Relentless Learning: Build a gung-ho culture of learning and innovation. 195

35 Calculated Risk: Be willing to sail into the storm. 206

36 Stay Connected: Cut through the noise of the wind and the waves. 217

37 Step into the Breach: Find ways to share the helm. 223

38 Eliminate Friction: Step up to conflict—and deal with the things that slow you down. 229

39 Practiced Resilience: Master the art of rapid recovery. 236

40 Tenacious Creativity: Never give up—there’s always another move. 241

A Note to the Skipper 245

The Parts of a Sailboat 250

Acknowledgments 251

Notes 257

Bibliography 263

Index 267

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Customer Reviews

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 25, 2012

    AMAZING! The story is gripping, and the writing makes the inform

    AMAZING! The story is gripping, and the writing makes the information incredibly easy to understand and apply. I actually find myself applying the teamwork strategies as much to my family and friends, as I do at work. A must read for anyone who loves teams that run smoothly, instead of wasting time being slowed down by inefficiency. "Into the Storm" is easily the best and most effortlessly applied book I've ever read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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