60% of winning a long race like the Pacific Cup is routing strategy based on the weather. Preparation and crew are just 40% of the winning combination. This means one spends a lot of time tracking weather patterns, reviewing weather forecasts and doing “routing analysis” during the month following up to the race start – and during the race. The hard part is weather forecasts are only accurate for 3-4 days. Though you can get 15 day forecasts, only the first 3-4 days are reliable, a few more days are “iffy” and beyond 5 days are highly unreliable and not to be counted on. So if you are going to take 13 days to get to Hawaii but only have a reliable weather forecast for the first 3-4 days, what do you do? You assume the weather forecast are correct all 15 days and plan accordingly. You then get and analyze weather updates twice per day and adjust your routing strategy based on these weather updates. What one learns over time, what doesn’t work is “guessing”, thinking you know more than the professional weather forecaster with a room full of super computers, or using some non-scientific “someone else told me” approach. One also has to recognize even using the best fact/science based approach; one gets it wrong at times. The weather defies long term prediction. The “best” navigators identify changes in the weather forecast “early” and make the needed changes in boat direction at this early time – while others wait for clearer and more certain changes in the weather forecast – putting them behind. This said, a lot depends on the number of competitors on the race course. If there are just a few competitors, one can wait a bit longer to make a decision as the chance one of them is already “in the right place for the new weather pattern” is slight. If there are lots of competitors all over the ocean, one of them will be in the perfect place going the right direction purely by accident – so you need to see this early so you can stay within reach of the competitor who was lucky.
This very much applies to our business. Some folks are smart and some are lucky. Being “ahead” doesn’t tell you if one has been lucky or smart. Over time, after several key strategic decisions, one starts to see who was lucky and who was smart. Who makes good early decisions time after time – and who gets lucky a few times and then falls back after a few bad decisions. So have a science/fact based strategy and be quick to change it as the environment around you changes. Don’t get discouraged if you are a bit behind as there will be opportunities in the future for you to make a good decision and the competition to make a bad decision. Though you want to be quick to change strategy if the environment changes – if the environment doesn’t change and you have solid fact based strategy, be patient and stick with it. In the PacCup, it can take several days for one’s routing strategy to play out and those who win almost always look behind early in the race – as they pursue a strategy based on what the weather will be like in a few days’ time. When the competition is “close” be patient following one’s strategy – waiting for the competitor to make the first or more mistakes. Business is very much the same. One needs to spot changes in the market/environment early and change strategy to match this changed market – before competitors do – while at the same time following one’s long term strategy and not changing direction based on non-environmental changes (like what a competitor did or said last quarter).