BOOK REVIEW: 'Into the Storm': Leadership, Business Lessons in Teamwork Derived from Competing in One of the World's Most Dangerous Ocean Races

Reviewed by David M. Kinchen
BOOK REVIEW: 'Into the Storm': Leadership, Business Lessons in Teamwork Derived from Competing in One of the World's Most Dangerous Ocean Races

In an era when business leaders and others in search of leadership principles turn to sources as diverse as Attila the Hun and the ancient Chinese leader Kuan Tzu (see reviewer's note), as well as psychopaths (link to my review of "The Wisdom of Psychopaths": http://www.huntingtonnews.net/48743), it doesn't seem far-fetched to believe we can learn from ocean racers who participate in the Sydney to Hobart race described by Dennis N.T. Perkins and Jillian B. Murphy in "Into the Storm: Lessons in Teamwork from the Treacherous Sydney to Hobart Ocean Race" (Amacom, 288 pages, map, color photo insert, notes, bibliography, index, $24.95).

Under normal circumstances Australia's "Hobart" -- held every year since 1945 on Boxing Day, the day after Christmas -- is among the most demanding sailing competitions in the world. Unpredictable seas make the 628-nautical-mile course grueling under the best conditions.

 

Conditions in the 1998 race were anything but normal, turning the yacht race into the most perilous in its history when a sudden and violent storm struck. Winds gusted over 100 mph and monstrous 80-foot waves towered over boat masts. Six sailors perished and another 55 were saved in what became the largest search and rescue operation in Australia's history.

 

In the face of turmoil and tragedy, a crew of "amateur" sailors piloted their tiny vessel, the AFR Midnight Rambler (AFR is short for Australian Financial Review, a business newspaper that was a sponsor) not only to the finish but to overall victory, winning the race's handicap-based Tattersall's Cup. While bigger, better-equipped yachts attempted to maneuver around the storm, Ed Psaltis and his crew made the daring decision to head directly into its path.

 

You may experience landlubbier seasickness like mine when you read about the conditions faced by the sailors: "Hurricane-force winds howled, reaching speeds of over 100 miles an hour. Waves as tall as 8-story buildings dwarfed the 35-foot sailboat, AFR Midnight Rambler. Rain and spray pelted the sailors’ faces like gravel, and the screaming of the wind made communication nearly impossible. The boat would fly off the back of an enormous wave, and the Rambler would be suspended in midair —then drop 30 feet or more. The impact, when it came, was like crashing into cement. Then the boat would be knocked down the face of a mountainous wave, and the crew would struggle to stay alive and avoid a fatal capsize. No one said it aloud, but they all knew that they could die in the storm. Yet in spite of their paralyzing fear, the crew held together—and they supported each other with remarkable teamwork."

 

Combining an action adventure story in the style of Sebastian Junger's "The Perfect Storm" with teamwork principles that can be applied in everyday life, "Into the Storm" chronicles the nearly four-day ordeal of Ed Psaltis and his crew and draws parallels to the world of business, revealing 10 critical strategies for teamwork at the edge. Illustrated with examples from the story and compelling case studies, the book sheds light on what teams need to do to succeed in tough times. "Into the Storm" provides resources and tools to support teams as they navigate the chaotic seas of business today.

About the authors

 

DENNIS N. T. PERKINS is the author of "Leading at The Edge" and CEO of The Syncretics Group, a consulting firm dedicated to helping leaders and teams thrive under conditions of adversity, uncertainty, and change. A graduate of the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, he successfully completed the Sydney to Hobart Race in 2006. He lives in Madison, Connecticut.

JILLIAN B. MURPHY is Director of Client Services at The Syncretics Group. She works in the areas of leadership, executive coaching, and team effectiveness.

Publisher's website: www.amaconbooks.com

Reviewer's note: To read the above referenced material on Attila and Kuan Tzu, click hereAttila and Kuan Tzu

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