Best in Class

Like most of you, I have known some great sailors over the years – sailed with (and against) many, cruised with some, and witnessed the performance of scores of others. We have read the accounts of those who have overcome the challenges and forces of nature, as well as those who have ventured to sea in search of adventure and the thrills of exploration. We are grateful for those accounts, as they add a certain richness to our own experiences and serve to validate our own perception of the sea and places both near and far away. From my childhood, greatness was personified in the stories of Slocum and in the performance of Mosbacher. We also know that inherent in being a great sailor is the essential quality of seamanship…..the skills and the ability to handle a vessel under a myriad of conditions; the knowledge of and appreciation for the power and unpredictability of the sea.

But great sailors rarely achieved their fame alone (sorry Slocum), as they depended on crew and their effective interactions to set them apart from their challengers. It is seamanship paired with “teammanship” that creates the winning and admired combination. Like any successful leader and role model, they know how to support, guide, lead, and challenge in order to attain maximum performance and to help all fulfill their own potential. Over my years as a young sailing instructor, I hope that I brought along more than a few.

On February 17th, Mystic Seaport members have a chance to meet and listen to a sailor who is best in class; who is at this moment a cut above all the rest. Anna Tunnicliffe, just recently selected as the 2010 Rolex Yachtswoman of the Year (third consecutive!), will speak to us about her achievements and help us to understand just what it takes to become so widely competent and so highly respected. When I muse about the qualities that someone like Anna must possess to be so consistently successful, I wonder which of the following make the greatest difference: decisiveness, confidence, fearlessness, spatial awareness, physical fitness, intuition, or preparedness(i.e., practice). Surely, it is a combination of most if not all along with some intangibles (DNA?), but I wonder which quality Anna most depends on. Perhaps she’ll tell us….

A final thought. You know when an individual has attained a level of greatness when the younger generation admires and wishes to be “just like her.” In the case of Anna, I know of a young man who will travel some distance to be in the same room as Anna on Feb. 17th with the hope of meeting her and then learning that special something which will help him go just that much faster. In this young man’s mind, there is no one better or more worthy of her distinction than Anna Tunnicliffe. Come join him and see what sets Anna apart and makes her “best in class.”

Steve