Many of you know I am a keen sailor and although I prefer cruising to racing, I have been glued to the coverage of the incredible Volvo Ocean Race that is on at the moment.
There are many reasons why I love this race and find it so amazing:
> Unlike many yachting races, the yachts are all identical (design, size, weight etc), making winning or losing all about skill rather than who has the fattest wallet.
> It is sailed by the best-of-the-best yachtsman in the world.
> It is a true test of endurance and has been described as grueling and even brutal!
> It is no doubt the leading round-the-world sailing race for teams, with a series of stops that give the sailors a break and also allows spectators and fans the opportunity to mix with the crews and enjoy the in-port celebrations.
> The race crosses 4 oceans, 11 countries and 6 continents, covering 38,739 nautical miles (approx. 71,745 kilometres) and stops in 11 ports along the way.
> They use all things digital to give us (the fans) fantastic coverage and footage of the race.
> The entire race spans over nine months making it the longest sporting event in the world!
The sailors endure the persistent pounding of waves, extreme temperatures, constant dampness, sleep deprivation, cramped quarters, and isolation. It is a true test of endurance both emotionally and physically.
The current race is the 12th edition and it started from Alicante, Spain on October 4, 2014 and finishes in Gothenburg, Sweden late June 2015.
There are seven teams from around the globe competing, well actually…… now just six, and this gets me to the point of this blog.
Unimaginable Disaster Strikes:
Just after sunset on the 29th of November 2014, on the second leg (a three-and-a-half-week-long sail from Cape Town, South Africa, to Abu Dhabi) one of the teams onboard their six-million-dollar, three month old yacht, travelling at 19 knots (approx. 35 km/hr) crashed into a coral reef, part of an archipelago named St. Brandon, two hundred and sixty-eight miles off the coast of Mauritius.
John Clarke a journalist reports. “The immediate damage was massive. The collision broke off the twin stern rudders and punched through the boat’s hull, flooding the berth with seawater and eventually swamping the electrical system.
Within minutes, the skipper (Nicholson) alerted race control in Alicante, Spain. The nine crew members were uninjured, so his initial plan was to remain on board until daybreak, waiting for rescue with life rafts deployed. The challenge would lie in trying to hang on to a crippled boat while getting pounded again and again onto the reef. The bow was now jutting out and facing the waves.”
To cut a very long and incredible story short, the crew were all safe without any major injury, (a miracle in itself) and when the yacht was no longer safe to be onboard, they ferried themselves ashore in their life rafts where they sat on a very remote and deserted island and waited to be rescued.
They salvaged what they could from the boat in the days after the crash and have since been back and salvaged as much of the wreck as possible. More to ensure that it does not pollute the ocean than believing it was going to be salvageable and sail-able again. Thanks to an incredible sponsor they are attempting to build another boat in time to re-join the race for the last few legs.
You can view amazing footage of the crash here: NB: language warning, a few expletives are spent in the midst of the collision!
How did it happen?
How could the best sailors in the world get it so wrong? At a press conference the skipper admitted that the crash appears to have been caused by “a simple human error”, the navigator, did not zoom in enough on his charts. Race organizers have pointed out that it was a high-stress situation caused by approaching bad weather.
This is an extreme example of disaster striking but I thought one that we can learn some valuable lessons from. There is no doubt that what led to the collision was a series of errors but it has been recognised by many in the yachting world that what happened after the crash was a series of great decisions and judgements which resulted in no loss of life or even injury. The skipper and crews were prepared and trained to deal with every situation that may present itself at sea and their post crisis actions were truly commendable.
What is Crisis Management?
Definition – Crisis management is the application of strategies designed to help an organisation deal with a sudden and significant negative event.
How prepared are you?
Regardless of the size or type of your business, a crisis can happen. Being prepared is no doubt the most important part. Don’t assume things won’t happen to you or your business, if one of the world’s very best navigators can make an error, it proves it can happen to anyone. Here are some tips that may help you better manage a crisis.
During a crisis:
Being prepared (as much as possible) for the unforeseen is key:
The old saying that, “any publicity, is good publicity”, is simply a farce. We all love to use our PR teams to share all our good news but being prepared on how to deal with bad news, poor publicity or a crisis situation is just as critical.
Those who offer a swift and effective response will minimise the effect on their business and stakeholders and if handled very well can even boost a brand reputation. You should know that the skipper still has his job onboard the new boat that they are building, giving credit to how well he handled this dire situation. Well done Nico, I hope you and your crew are back in the race soon!
“There cannot be a crisis today; my schedule is already full” Henry Kissenger
You can visit the Volvo Ocean Race website here.
Please share any tips or advice you may have experience in dealing with a crisis situation, I would love to hear your comments in the box below.
Kim McKee - founder of Kee Marketing.
Kim Is an experienced marketing consultant specialising in assisting companies develop cutting edge websites.
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