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The Dutch Olympic Sailing Team is shortlisted for World Sailing Team of the year. A remarkable accomplishment since they have only 20% of the budget of UK’s Olympic Team and in 2004 they didn’t win any medal at the Olympics. But now, in 2018 the Netherlands is the best sailing nation in the world. What happened?

They dared to focus: traditionally the Dutch are not great sailors in all 10 sailing classes. So they picked their battles and chose the classes where they had the best chances to win Olympic medals with the limited budget. Since we all know that a dog that chases 2 pheasants goes hungry.

The Indaba: every year they bring all stakeholders together to formulate the 9 leading principles of ‘Topsailing’ (All our activities must lead to Golden Olympic medals; We need to fill the pipeline with young talented sailors, and 7 more). Similar to what Jim Collins states in his SMaC recipe (a set of durable operating practices that creates a replicable, consistent success formula). The principles are in place since 2006 and all involved stick to these. It brings a winning culture within the team, the sponsors and stakeholders.

Sailor centered and coach driven campaigns: they attracted the best (international) coaches in the world to set up customised campaigns with the top sailors. They realise that only the sailors know how to improve themselves for the last 5%. But these sailors need structure, feedback and rigour from a coach. Coaches and sailors have build remarkable relationships that led to totally different winning campaigns.

The result: 3 gold medals at the last worlds, 2 silver and 1 bronze. Pretty amazing. Read more about the sailors, the coaches and the winning processes in my book Passie voor Presteren.

Recently I interviewed the head coach Jaap Zielhuis. He shared with me the following:

‘Starting sailors have a steep learning curve. As soon as they reach the world (sub-)top their curve flattens. A standardized program doesn’t work anymore for them. As coaches we can’t assess what they need to learn. They need to be aware of that themselves. They must take responsibility and tell what they need. As a head coach I need to decide if it is valid and reasonable. For the top-sailors we have a bottom up approach that we cherish.’

And about the Worlds in Aarhus: ‘Structured Data are important to see the patterns that go beyond personal biases. In Aarhus there were oscillating wind-shifts every 12 minutes. Sailors tend to tack on the small shifts in between. The sailors that won, dared to wait for the longer persisting shifts and knew to make the big gains. We’re investing in and experimenting with data analysis of the places where we sail.’

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