Can you explain your role within the team?
I’m the coach to the Sonar class: the three person Paralympic event. I also deliver tactics and other technical modules to the Olympic Development Squad in all classes. Within the team there are often opportunities to get involved with other sailors’ programs, for example last year I was lucky enough to spend a week supporting Nick Demsey:  it was fascinating to understand the tactical common ground and fundamental differences between windsurfing and sailboat racing.

How did you start coaching?

My first Olympic class coaching was at the first ISAF world championship back in 1994, with the 470 class. At that time I was Director of Proctor’s dinghy mast division. As well as being fun and rewarding, at that time, coaching was a way for our brand to be more directly involved with the best sailors in the world.  In 2002, after 20 years wearing a tie to work, I returned to self employment: I soon found myself pretty busy combining professional sailing, writing, consultancy, and coaching. Since then, the coaching side has steadily taken over more and more of my working time.

Can you explain what a normal day coaching involves?

There is no such thing as a ‘normal’ coaching day. Today I got off an aeroplane from Miami, and spent the day in the office preparing for next week’s Ods (Olympic Development Squad) camp in Weymouth.  That’s doing one day with each class focused on rules and tactics at the leeward gate, in 20 less degrees than yesterday!Last week a normal day went something like: 07.30 get up, shorts on, breakfast while studying weather forecast.8.15: cycle from Key Biscayne to Coconut Grove, Miami 09.00: brief Sonars on land: weather scenarios, likely priorities of the day, rig set up. 09.30: fuel rib, tow to start, compare expectations with reality.10.45 final on the water discussions.During race: noting wind trends, reviewing rig choices and strategic decisions, videoing key points, after race providing  feedback, support, and sustenance, getting set for the next race and so on.15.30 ish; debrief, review of any relevant video. Food!

What are the differences, if any, involved in your approach to coaching the Development squad to the Performance squad?
When asked about special needs for Paralympic sailors, Sparky once said “all our sailors have special needs, that includes Olympic sailors”. You could make the same comment about the sailors within performance and development squads: the approach has to be adapted to suit the individual and the situation, all the time.

What are the differences or challenges between coaching crews compared to solo sailors?
With a crew there is an automatic team dynamic going on.  The helm and crew can help each other through the highs and lows and the various challenges, as well as the coach.  So there’s a three or four way dynamic – for input, learning etc.  Sometimes the trick is to let the team work it out for themselves –with a bit of guidance.    With a single handed sailor it’s obviously more one to one, and sometimes as a coach you have to know when to not over-coach, and give them a break.

You must work with very driven people 24/7 – what’s your approach

I’m passionate about sailing and have always enjoyed helping people get the most out of their sport too.  That was true when I was a Director of Racing Sailboats, selling equipment, and at Proctors and then Hyde’s selling rigs and sails.  And it’s still true now.  It’s important to be driven to achieve success, but I believe that  it’s equally important to keep perspective and enjoy the sport.  So I try to make my coaching sessions for my team fun as well as serious.  That includes taking an interest in the local environment and nature, and  sampling local food and culture.

If someone has underperformed what’s the best way to get him or her back on track?
There’s no one formula.  I think it’s about building the relationship with our team.  Sometimes they don’t need you to say too much – just the space to recognize where they are at and make some adjustments. Other times, they need a lot of emotional support, a complete programme to address an area of improvement, and maybe bring in some help from other members of the support team.

If you weren’t a coach what else would you be?
Cruising around the world.

Best moment in your career so far?
There have been plenty of special moments, (and a few down times).  In sailing, as a recreational sailor, beating some of the best dinghy sailors in the world to win the Lark Nationals three times with my wife Liz was up there.  As was learning to crew so I could join her on the podium in the Fireball worlds (she would have won if she had a decent crew!). Glyn Charles was one of my closest friends at home in Emsworth; he was lost in the 1998 Sydney Hobart race: finishing the Glyn Charles Memorial Pursuit race in his Ultra “United Airlines”, crewed by all his friends, right at the top of the Emsworth Channel opposite his home was a pretty emotional experience. It was fun winning the 1720 Europeans in Cork, with a young James Spithall in second place. That event was proof that in a big competitive fleet, consistency through the event will always win out over the occasional spectacular race win. Rewarding coaching moments aren’t exclusively the big wins: it’s also great to see a move which you have been discussing and practicing for some time being pulled off to perfection in a world championship.  And its rewarding when an improving SB3 sailor uses the skills he has learned during a day’s private coaching to give us a pasting on the start line!

What’s your greatest fear or phobia?
In relation to coaching, it’s making sure I haven’t ‘missed the obvious’ through getting too closely involved with the team or a specific project, and making sure we’ve left ‘no stone unturned.’

What would you love to do but never have the time or money for it?
Buy a bigger cruising boat and spend some time serious time sailing in it to distant shores. We’ll get there eventually.

What’s your worst habit?

Too many to list!   This month it’s getting too engrossed with my new iphone!

Name three things that are always in your shopping trolley?
Cotes de Rhone, fresh fruit to make smoothly, a selection of cheeses.

What was the last book you read?
John O’Farrell – An utterly exasperated history of modern Britain.

What’s your favourite boat to sail?
Racing would probably be the Ultra 30: six identical boats, huge rigs, 9 trapezes, short circuit racing: that was terrific fun. For cruising, of course our 28ft traditional wooden long keeled “Honeybee”: that’s how we get away from sailing!

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