A shot of adrenalin

All too often I am writing an official statement on behalf of an organisation be it Antigua Sailing Week, the Caribbean Sailing Association or one of my clients for their website or advertising. Because I feel like I am always on official duty I realise that I rarely communicate my own thoughts publicly.

So for once I am going to…….. and hang the consequences, of which there will be none!

Last week I spent 4 days in St Maarten for the annual CSA conference. If you haven’t heard of the CSA it’s the organisation which owns and manages the rating rule which ensures boats of all sizes and types can race fairly by using the handicap rule – or the CSA Rating Rule. From its creation by Trinidadian Al Rapier over 50 years ago it has grown and now has rules for keel boats, multi-hulls, classics and a simplified rule. Antigua Sailing Week uses the rule as do all they big regattas across the Caribbean and it’s kind of special as it’s the only rule designed for our waters here in the sunny Caribbean.

Over the last fifteen years in particular the organisation has grown from a group of measurers getting together annually to talk about the rule and make sure it is still doing its job and relevant into a huge group of regatta organisers, officials, yacht clubs and latterly youth programme coordinators and member national authorities. In short a group of people who when they all get together annual for the conference has a sole aim to raise the game of sailing in the Caribbean.

So as for me I am there with two hats – the CSA as we run the secretariat, no make that three, the board member with responsibility for marketing, and also as the commercial director for Antigua Sailing Week. It is a superb weekend of networking which I have been attending for some years but I have to say each year I come away thinking I could have made more of it- there are so many opportunities to meet your peers and talk about your shared frustrations, challenges or opportunities. I also coming away having learnt so much and received an injection of energy and enthusiasm.

So for anyone who hasn’t been to the conference and really just because I felt in the mood to write it down – here are my personal takeaways which I find I can apply to any organisation I am involved in in some way:

  1. That you can go to a meeting like this as green with lack of knowledge as you like and even if you don’t talk but just listen, or especially, you might be completely bamboozled but you will understand what a fantastic sport you are involved with and how far there is for you to go in it should you want to and how effective it can be in literally shaping the lives of people involved in it. And remember I don’t’ even get on the water very often.
  2. I’ve learnt that in attending a conference of this kind, its as much about what happens inside the room as over the bar at midnight when people are still sharing ideas over a rum and ginger, or three.
  3. I’ve learnt that as challenging and rewarding as it can be when you get a disparate group of people who only meet once a year together on a common cause it can be really challenging to keep the energy flowing year round, but that there are always a few people in the group who will. When you leave the meeting and shape your to do list, you have to remember to stay focussed on what you are or have achieved and not be stressed or disappointed by what you haven’t.
  4. I’ve also realised that you will only achieve 30% of what everyone agrees is vital because life gets in the way.
  5. I’ve learnt that many of the highest achieving people are amazingly open about the decisions they make, why they have made them, what they are trying to achieve and in some cases their intention on how to achieve them without worrying that you are going to steal their ideas. And why? Because it all comes from confidence in THEIR own product. Yes they are going to look at your event or club, but in the end, they have something to deliver for their island with a separate set of objectives with a different set of stakeholders in different circumstances. But by sitting around a table and talking about it you get loads of ideas for how you can approach things differently.
  6. I’ve learnt that you can sometimes get too caught up in how far you have moved things on in your event or organisation and easily get annoyed and frustrated that people don’t understand, just ‘know’ or didn’t happen to read the information about the changes. It reminds you that no matter how fast you are running, you have to take time to make sure that everyone around you knows where you are going or how the heck you got to where you are and why, and by doing so , may actually want to get on board for the ride. Alternatively they may just stop the bus and run like hell in the opposite direction.
  7. I’ve learnt that all too often we stop listening to feedback, or interpret it in the same old way, rather than standing back and listening and re-challenging and I’ve learnt that if you don’t realise that and you don’t stop to listen and rethink and re-strategise, that your event or organsation is going to go down the pan, OR , your steering committee or board are going to start having problems with you. In most of our events it’s not yours, its ours, forget that simple thing and you are on a hiding to nowhere.
  8. I’ve learnt that planning for outcomes is just common sense and even if you never have to pull plans into play, it means as a group, a board or manager, you have gained agreement on potential future actions and allows you to challenge your thought processes and generally brings you together as a group. It makes you stronger.
  9. Whatever you are involved in get more people involved earlier, everyone is so busy its all too easy to delay and then at the last minute when something has to be done, you realise it’s too late so you do it yourself, Your on a hiding to nowhere AKA # 7.
  10. Sometimes it is what it is, and sometimes it really isn’t!
  11. And finally for lots of different reasons giving people recognition for what they do is essential in terms of building goodwill in the organisation, equally recognising when the goodwill they give should be a paid job role or is essential. But more than that – whether it’s for free or paid, contract is still king!

Bottom line, when people with a passion and a common cause get together, great ideas are created. Having a cool board to work with year round to transform even a handful of those ideas into a reality is a pleasure (most of the time). So new president Kathy, Peter, Jaime, Pam, Judy, Chris, Jeffrey and Mike I am looking forward to the next year of what can be achieved and really importantly that as board members we keep on reaching out to the members in the same vein. As a region we have challenges, but we also have an enviable product in our yachting industry. We are the current caretakers of it and along with Sailors for the Sea we have a chance of further developing it for future generations to come.

Footnote: If you have never been to the CSA Annual Conference, just do it! It is an incubator for ideas for our regiona and a charge of adrenalin for anyone involved in the sport of business of yacht racing in the Caribbean. Next year we are back in Antigua – so save the date 21st and 22nd! And if you are not in the sport, find a similar conference and get your annual fix of adrenalin, it will be a game changer for you. Check it out the CSA Conference at www.csaconference.org.