5 sailing essentials for successful teamwork

A great team is as they say, “Less me and more we.” And really, that gets to the root of brilliant teamwork. However, many workplaces struggle with getting their people to pull together when it’s needed most. OK yes, facing adversity is a tough test, but even seafaring pirates – often a bunch of mismatched misfits – managed to work together to claim the treasure.

So what can we learn from them and their crews?

Sailing is rich with business parallels: sailing close to the wind, slush fund, learning the ropes, windfall and even sea change are all (now commonplace) expressions from the seafaring life. So why have we so frequently co-opted their language? Because of the many similarities between a capable crew and a productive and efficient workplace team.

To sail successfully, you need a crew that works together – having a shared purpose, able to make on-the-spot decisions, good at problem solving and communicating, trusting of one another and actively participating in the goal at hand. Sound familiar? It should… that’s exactly what a great team does.

So how do you build that same sea-based focus into your work-placed team? By choosing a fun, challenging and teamwork-based activity that will naturally foster cohesiveness, while also letting everyone’s competitive side come out for the betterment of the group… a yacht sailing regatta!

Here’s the five sailing essentials for a successful RedBalloon team building challenge:

1.    Take the helm

Teams of 7-18 people are allocated to yachts ranging from 33-45ft. An experienced skipper leads your team; providing positive feedback, encouragement and makes sure each team member is having fun and pulling their weight.

2.   Trim the sails

After boarding the boats, teams have a safety briefing and are off to practice their race moves. On-board, co-workers quickly learn they must abandon pre-existing relationships and solve problems together – helping to build team cohesion and break down silos.

grind the winch

3.   Grinding the winches

Now it’s time to put your race face on. Teams jostle for position on the start line before the race begins, but once the gun goes off, it’s all hands on deck to make it happen. This creates the opportunity for both self and group discovery, lets natural competiveness shine and fosters the shared goal of maximising the yacht’s potential.

4.   Learn to tack

Sailing simulates your work environment – constant changes and 'unknowns' emerge and your team must adapt and deal with the situation. Sailing around the natural landmarks on Sydney Harbour, you learn to watch the water ahead, judge the wind and adjust your course to make the most of the opportunities.

5.   Safe to harbour

Everyone is encouraged to participate and no previous sailing experience is required to capably reach the finish line. As a team building activity, it uses techniques that highly competitive yacht crews use and converts them into learning experiences that your team will never forget.

So me hearties, what say ye to a spot of sailing on the high seas?


Di Mace is a freelance story-making brand writer, strategist and purpose-digger. She turns boring brand messages into content and stories that matter. Find her at www.wordswords.com.au.