The Volvo Ocean Race will embed a Leadership Development and Team Performance Programme in future editions, based on the experience of the pro sailors and including a ‘Global Team Challenge’ race.
Sponsors have often asked skippers and crew to provide insights into the way they handle high-stress issues of leadership and teamwork during the Volvo Ocean Race. In response to the demand, the race will formalise these experiences and make them available to businesses with on-land and on-water elements.
Launching in the edition after 2017-18, the Global Team Challenge will form the centerpiece of the on-water part of this HR focused programme. This will also act as a new entry point for future sponsors of teams in the race.
This race will provide an extreme challenge for amateur sailors, including those with no prior experience, giving employees a unique experience of offshore and ocean racing, under the highest standards of training and management, but nonetheless in conditions close to those faced by the professionals.
There will be a pre-race programme of individual days to complement the on-land training, as well as pre-race training for crews.
It will then shadow part of the Volvo Ocean Race route, and sponsors will be able to switch out their crew at every stopover to give more people an experience.
Race CEO Mark Turner highlighted the added value the programme will provide to team and race sponsors in different areas.
“The Leadership Development and Team Performance Programme is all about creating new business value for our stakeholders,” said Turner. “The Global Team Challenge will be a big part of that and will provide an incredible way to offer leadership training, team building and incentives to employees.
“It will also provide a key boost to Employer Branding – supporting talent recruitment and retention for global businesses – and creating unique B2B opportunities, for example in giving key clients the chance to do a leg as well as a chance for sponsors to give key target media a real experience and insight in to ocean racing themselves.”
Richard Mason, who competed in the race four times before going on to coach Team SCA in the last edition and then join the race organisation as Executive Director, said smart busnesses would get a lot out of the programme.
“The Volvo Ocean Race drives human relationships from beginning to end,” explained Mason. “You get to know your crew better than your own family, you see them scared for their lives at times. You see your team at their absolute best and absolute worst.
“You’ll see that people have skills that will help you win but you need to know how to bring out the best in them, and it’s not always obvious.
“For a leadership or a management team to be looking into relationships that happen on these boats is smart. We’ve had CEOs who used to fly to every single Host City around the world to just sit in on our post-leg debriefs to understand the crew dynamics and learn from what was happening.”
The Global Team Challenge will be contested in the current fleet of Volvo Ocean 65s, detuned sufficiently to make it possible for non-professional sailors to handle them. Each yacht will have eight amateurs onboard, trained and led by three experienced professional sailors.
Safety will be of paramount importance, not only with the 3-8 ratio of professionals to amateurs, but also in an extensive pre-challenge training period.
“There are so many parallels between running a business and entering a team in the Volvo Ocean Race,” said Race Director Phil Lawrence. “Teamwork, leadership, managing challenging situations, setting targets, delivering on objectives – the issues faced by our teams are just the problems modern business face. They are amplified often 10-fold in the Volvo Ocean Race teams, with many lessons to share with teams under pressure in business.”
Volvo Ocean Race sailor Dee Caffari highlighted her own experience of being in demand by businesses to give insight based on her experience on Team SCA in the last edition.
“The value that companies can get from the team building and leadership is endless – as proved by how much we have all talked about it at conferences and after dinner speeches,” said Caffari. “There is a real appetite for this kind of platform. The sponsor buy-in will also be greater if they have this opportunity as engagement levels will rise and that will help enrich the activation during the race period itself.”