I believe there’s a direct correlation between how much you enjoy your sail with how good you find the skipper to be. So what does it take to be a good skipper, and how can you become someone people love to sail with? Here are some of my thoughts about the difference between a good and a bad skipper. Any missing? Let me know!

  • A good skipper is calm and confident. A bad skipper is nervous, easily flustered and has the crew feeling worried.
  • A good skipper has, in advance, considered what to do if things go wrong. A bad skipper is lackadaisical and unprepared.
  • A good skipper keeps the crew informed about what’s going on, and why. A bad skipper makes decisions which leave the crew in the dark.
  • A good skipper wants the crew to learn; they impart knowledge willingly and with patience. A bad skipper keeps things to themselves, and gets frustrated if things need to be said more than once when the crew just doesn’t seem to “get it”.
  • A good skipper delegates. A bad skipper tries to do everything themselves whilst the crew stand idol.
  • A good skipper is considered and decisive. A bad skipper makes panicked decisions and changes their mind, leaving the crew confused.
  • A good skipper communicates legitimate concerns. A bad skipper communicates irrational anxieties.
  • A good skipper communicates with clarity and precision. A bad skipper stands behind the helm, pointing and yelling orders at the crew.
  • A good skipper is cheerfully available at all times, whenever called. A bad skipper gets grumpy if woken by a crew on watch, especially if it turns out to have been unnecessary.
  • A good skipper explains the objective (the “why”) behind what’s being asked. A bad skipper gives orders without context.
  • A good skipper is fair and allocates tasks equally between the crew. A bad skipper gives all the fun stuff only to certain people, leaving others feeling unfairly treated.
  • A good skipper knows the boat, makes regular checks and does preventative maintenance. A bad skipper figures most boats are roughly the same, assumes nothing will go wrong and ignores (seemingly) minor things.
  • A good skipper tries to distract and keep busy those who are feeling seasick. A bad skipper lets them sit in the cockpit whilst they tell graphic stories of others who have sundered the same fate.

👩‍💼 Good skipper, good business leader?

When I was writing this I realised there are many similarities between being a good skipper on a boat, and a good leader at work. These two articles sum it up really nicely.

The Skipper & the Startup CEO: How I learned valuable lessons on leading during a sailing trip.

How lessons learned racing sailboats apply to managing a highly functional business.

How to be good crew

I couldn’t find many good articles on this subject. This one on WikiHow gives a pretty decent overview, and if you’re going on a long passage, this one is for you.

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