I travel so much to trade shows and meetings around the world that when I return to my home in Sydney, Australia, it feels like a holiday.
Living in the city, we dont have a large home, but it is quite convenient to the Sydney Opera house, the airport, and most important, five minutes from the beach and my boat, A-BUS. I am a classic workaholic with no patience for gardening or fishing. When I am at home, my family and I go to the beach every day before going to work, and I sail up to three times a week. Sydney Harbor is a fantastic waterway, and one of the worlds best harbors for sailing. A-BUS sails in summer and winter, and I often sail on other boats as well. Sometimes I am the skipper, but Im just as happy to crew. Sailing is my passion, and interestingly it mirrors my approach to business.
Sailing seems to defy physics sometimes. A friend once asked, How can you sail into wind? Logic says you cant. No boat actually sails directly into the wind but the better the boat, the more into the wind it will sail. To go upwind you need to tack (or zig zag) your way, presenting some interesting challenges. The more into the wind you sail, the slower the boat goes. But when you sail from the wind to make speed, you have further to get to your mark. You also constantly adjust your sails for optimum wind flow; too tight and your sails act like a wind dam slowing the boat down, too loose and you dont catch enough air for optimum speed. Then of course, the wind direction changes, so you need to concentrate on always maximizing your trim. This might seem complicated, but Ive been doing it all my life.
Sailing is a lot like a business. You need to get the best boat for your purpose, it has to be well maintained and prepared, you have to anticipate changing conditions, you need a team with the right skills for each job, and it is a very competitive environment. One big advantage to sailing is that you dont have to pay your crew. However, if you are going to abuse them on the water, you had better remember to buy the beer for everyone after the race.
Another parallel between business and sailing relates to the crew. My crew loves the water like I do, but its a challenge to get them in the right place and working efficiently. An effective crewmember preempts the skippers action. Many dont, and when its time to come about or put up a spinnaker, the skipper has to rouse them to carry out their duties. I often turn into a bit of screamer, but thats the skippers prerogative.
My boat is not a one-class boat, meaning that it sails against many different boats, so we rarely get the gun for being first over the line. Every boat has a time handicap. In theory, when the handicaps are added in, everyone is on an even footing with the same race time. The first four boats are recognized for their achievement with a prize. The A-BUS races whether I am home or not. I get quite upset with my crew if they get a place while I am away, because I hate to ruin my handicap.
Some days it cant be helped. My boat does quite well in most weather, but in heavy conditions it is much more stable than other boats. So while competitors are fighting every gust, we can be sailing right through them. On days like that, we are quite happy to have visitors go with us. They sit on deck and make great splashguards for the crew in the cockpit.
During my CES/IBS trip to the U.S., my crew got two second places. I was not pleased, but during my first race back, the wind came up more than expected and we changed to a smaller headsail just before the race. It turned out to be a good decision because we won by 4.5 minutes. The crew all wanted to share right away in the prize: a bottle of good Australian rum.
While out on the water, we are all very competitive. If a boat tries to pass it sets off quite a tussle. It can take you way off course and you have to know the rules of the road. Again, just like in business, you are constantly interacting with other boats for the best advantage. But after the race, when were all in the bar together, any situation on the water becomes a great reason to have a good laugh and a drink.
Australians are competitive, but we love to have our fun at the same time. We are a small country but truth be told, you are bound to find an Australian at every sailing event anywhere in the world.
Happy trails or should I say sails to you.
Andrew Goldfinch is managing director of LeisureTech Electronics, based in Sydney Australia. He is the co-inventor of A-BUS, the patent-pending multi-room audio technology, which is licensed throughout the world. As one of the pioneers of custom installation in Australia, in July 2005 Goldfinch received a Lifetime Achievement award from CEDIA.