Life lessons from boat racing – keep a light hand

This year we have been struggling a bit with the balance of the boat. Once the wind pipes up a bit, there has been an ever increasing amount of weather helm.

After significant fiddling around, including taking the furling apart, we have managed to adjust the balance of the rig a little further forward and now seem to have it  mostly under control. Going upwind now in a 15 knot breeze gives a small amount of weather helm and that can be tuned out to a neutral helm using the traveller.

The issue we had before is that the excess weather helm was causing significant added drag under the water. We would need the rudder significantly off the center line to counter balance the weather helm and keep the boat on track. This meant that the top speed was knocked down a bit and more significantly the boat was slow to accelerate out of a tack. It also meant that you really needed to pay attention to your line as the boat would tend to head up with even a split seconds wandering of concentration by the helm.

Now the boat is in balance, the helm can steer with two fingers and we are minimizing extra underwater drag. It is simply a more pleasant boat to sail, not to mention faster.

The application of this to the business world is that in any organization you need to look for situations where the organization is out of balance. Maybe this is due to inadequate or even potentially over staffing, it could be because of poor or over complex business processes. The list is potentially endless, but the bottom line is that the organization is having to work a lot harder to produce results than it needs to. Dealing with this may be easy, or it may be hard, but the rewards are significant, both in terms of productivity and also your business will be a more pleasant place to work as the frustration level will fall.


From a management perspective, just like on the boat, you will be able to steer your organization with a much lighter hand.

Public transport

Except in the City of London in England, the majority of public transport systems seem to have the aim of turning a 30 minute journey, nice and warm and listening to tunes you like by car into a 2 hour torturous assault on the senses. In London – the Tube is the only really viable mode of transport, but that is mainly because the capital is gridlocked above ground,

Too hot, too cold, noisy, crowded, smelly, slow. We all have stories of the person next to us, with the objectionable personal habits and overabundance of garlic, or if not a main route journey, you can’t get there from here without 4 changes and hanging around on street corners for an hour, and that is no fun in Canada in winter. It is egalitarian transport at its worst. At rush hour, incredibly crowded and at other times, buses run with little or no passengers.

The defenders of this will claim other, but it is a simple truth. If you have a choice, you don’t take public transport.

Not only that, but whether you use it or not, you are paying for it. Public transport is very expensive to run, to the point that most systems are not even close to break even on operation, never mind capital expenses, and rely heavily on subsidies from government of various levels, which in the end means your taxes pay for it.

In Toronto, the public transport network consumes 18 percent of the cities operating budget and a whopping 56 percent of the capital budget, and there are other subsidies from provincial and federal levels to the capital costs.

So there you have it. A system that no one uses unless they have to, that costs an arm and a leg to run for both riders and non-riders alike.