Some of you know I am an avid sailor – and more specifically love long distance sailboat racing in the ocean. Having been racing sailboats for 40 years, I have learned a number of lessons and rules of thumb that I see many successful entrepreneurs also using. At risk of this coming off as hubris, I’ll be sharing these lessons with you over the next few posts – using lessons from successful sailboat racing as applied to successful business.
The Pacific Cup is held every two years – even numbered years. From 45-70 sail boats in several divisions (7-10 boats per division) race the 2070 nautical miles (1 nautical mile = 1.12 statute miles) from San Francisco to Kaneohe Bay (Oahu, Hawaii). I have done this race 12 times on a wide variety of boats from 24 to 73 feet in length and with crew sizes that varied from two people (“double handed”) to fourteen people. It is typically a 10-13 day passage that starts with a few days of “big wind and waves” and then a week plus of “running” downwind with the spinnaker up. Envision several people locked in a small room with a great view for almost two weeks - with the stereo blasting 24 hours per day – and a bucket of water thrown across the room every few hours. And the room is moving like in a strong earthquake. After close to two weeks of this, one gets a week on land spent mostly preparing the boat for the return trip, and then one gets back on the boat for the 16-19 day mostly upwind “beat” home.
You don’t win races if you are not prepared – more prepared then your competition – preparation as a source of competitive advantage. For the race to Hawaii, I am almost continuously preparing – since first acquiring Green Buffalo. I bought the boat knowing I wanted to be competitive (starting with a solid competitive foundation) and then restored and continually upgrade and fine tune to make it ever faster. In this year’s PacCup, I spent the last few months sailing with the crew, analyzing weather patterns, and fine tuning equipment – while most of the competition was scrambling to get the “basics” ready for the race.
As with sailboat racing, you need to be thoroughly prepared - the “basics” must be a given - so you can focus on how to improve. Once in a while someone unprepared gets lucky and wins a race – but over time the best prepared win consistently.