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MBA Sailing Club Pushes The Boat Out For Leadership Lessons

Sauder's MBA Sailing Club set sail to develop next generation of business leaders.

Devin Durrant enjoys a challenge and is not afraid to get his hands dirty – or wet. The aspiring entrepreneur has a penchant for sailing and business school in Vancouver, Canada allows him to bring study and sport into the same boat.

As president of the MBA Sailing Club at the Sauder School of Business at UBC, the MBA student and his crew are embracing their passion for ‎sailing and are vying for silverware in the process.

Competition is intense. From the UK to Italy and from Denmark to the US, top business schools are setting their sails in great numbers. International regattas are now commonplace and are becoming full to the gunwales.

Sauder’s club benefits from developing myriad soft skills – sailing hones team-work, and leadership and strategic abilities.

Devin pushes the boat out. Vancouver has a strong culture of sailing and the team are on the water competing up to three times a week. A former marina manager, he worked as a self-employed consultant prior to the UBC MBA at Sauder’s Robert H. Lee Graduate School. Before that, he held various positions at Agility Fuel Systems in California, a designer and producer of alternative fuel storage and delivery systems.

A leader among sailors, the skipper will hope to steer this capability into a business environment. Anchors aweigh.

What are the club’s main goals?

The Sauder MBA Sailing Club was created to train a competitive racing team to win international regattas for the [UBC] MBA program. The club has grown to embrace the goal of sharing and fostering a passion for sailing amongst Sauder's MBA students, staff and alumni.

Why is sailing popular among so many business schools?

The main reason is because sailing is fun, and it is a great way to connect with peers.

For a lot of students, business school is a time for self-discovery. Trying something new like sailing is a great way to learn about oneself and develop new skills in the process.

Sailing is a lot like business: you can set your course and your sails, execute strategies to compete with other boats, and you can be at the mercy of external factors like the wind and currents.

How can the students benefit?

By developing teamwork skills; learning something new or honing skills; and networking with peers and alumni.

How strong are the opportunities for leadership development?

Leadership on a sailboat is huge. Every team member has a role and responsibility in their particular area – whether it is the skipper steering the boat, the tactician deciding strategy, or the rest of the crew managing the sails and rigging.

Because there is so much to do, everyone has an opportunity to take a leading role in an aspect of managing the boat.

Which aspects of the club do members value most?

We host a regatta in Vancouver in August that is highly valued. It is the first social event for the incoming class and provides an opportunity to bond, and for students to get a taste of what racing a sailboat is all about.

How rigorous is the training, and how does that impact learning and work commitments?

The training can be quite a commitment. It takes time to set up the boat and get out on the water. Anytime we go out it will be for three to four hours, and we train from March to September, up to once or twice a week.

Is the club able to leverage Sauder’s location?

Being located in Vancouver, with the city’s strong sailing culture, means we have opportunities to race up to three times a week – if we can find the time.

We also have access to some great coastline outside the city, and we organize an annual weekend trip to one of the many local islands.

Sailing is one of the best ways to experience Vancouver. I still remember the first time I was on a boat in English Bay; the view of the city was breath-taking.

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