4 Tips for a Terrific Team

September has been a busy and successful month of competitive sailing. In just three weeks, Kim Couranz and I finished fourth and ninth at two very challenging Snipe regattas—our best finishes yet at an international level. We also qualified for the 2022 Snipe Worlds, so we’ll be able to put what we learned to use next year. And photographer Matias Capizzano was at both events to capture our entire range of racing expressions!

On the short drive home from Boston, I got to thinking about everything Kim and I have learned in eleven years of sailing Snipes together. I’ve already captured more boat-specific details in the article I wrote for SnipeToday, but there’s a lot to be said about building and maintaining a long-term team that can be applied to any endeavor.

Photo courtesy Matias Capizzano

1. Write it down

After every regatta I make notes on what I learned, what we did well, and where we need to improve. It’s a brain-spew of information, unformatted and unedited and definitely for my eyes only, but it does immediately bring it all back when I read it again (even years later). Writing things down also helps to separate out the details from what was really important.

2. Know your own strengths

The best teammates bring out the best in each other, and there are several conversations Kim and I don’t even bother having anymore about me hiking harder or starting better or crossing the boat more smoothly in tacks. Instead we talk about going fast, how the boat feels, and what our next tactical move should be. 

3. Work on your weaknesses

This is SO HARD because it’s so much more enjoyable to do what we’re already good at. But the only way to get better is to try to fill in the cracks in the program. Which is why I went to a starting clinic over the summer…

4. Make it fun

When I interviewed Buddy Melges recently, he said, “I strongly believe that when you have to think three, four, or five steps ahead… you do that better when you’re laughing.” I completely agree, and much of the Snipe fleet can recognize Kim’s hearty laughter even from the other side of a boat park or starting area. Taking our sailing seriously doesn’t mean we have to take ourselves (too) seriously. 

As I’ve watched other Snipe pairings come and go, I’m increasingly grateful for the ability to build on what we’ve already learned over the past eleven years. On or off the water, there’s no substitute for a strong teammate. So thanks, Kim. I can’t wait for our next regatta.