Coping with an upside down world with coach Nick Moloney

Coping with an upside down world with coach Nick Moloney

Coping with an upside down world with coach Nick Moloney


As the fleet claws its way towards the end of day four in the New YorkVendée solo transatlantic yacht race, competitors are flooding their communication and social media channels with expressions of frustration. I have empathy for the struggling sailors who are battling fatigue and exhaustion, and concern surrounding the weather synopsis affecting the entire North Atlantic race course.

I have never seen anything like it. The world is upside down. I am tearing my hair out!commented Charlie Dalin, one of the fleets best weather strategists, who is currently vying with Boris Herrmann for the race lead.

Sailors have been yelling to the sky, shaking their fists at the wind gods, and doing their best to not let negative thoughts grow wings.

About one third of the race is completed, and the fleet is split into two main packs with around 2,000 nautical miles to go. The lead pack is edging its way into more consistent winds further east, while the second pack still has a way to go before experiencing similar stability in wind direction and speed. From the lead pack, Charlie Dalin also expressed, The weather doesn’t correspond to anything. From one file to another, it changes everything. Systems are not where they are supposed to be.

Scott is placed in the second pack battling with his class of non-foiling designed boats. He has just completed his daily media commitments with the race organisers, expressing how gruelling and challenging the race has been and how the weather is not aligning with the forecasts. Yet, through his struggle, Scott has impressed me tremendously over the past four days. He left Newport, RI (USA), in a great place mentally, and on his passage toward the start line, he texted me, Im feeling ready for thisan expression of confidence crucial for facing such an intense personal and sporting goal.

For those of us onshore, we monitor our skippers and the fleet around the clock. On day one, Scott made it clear he was determined to give this challenge his all. He manoeuvred and changed sails in sync with the wind shifts, attacking the race with focus and energy, rewarded by a good period in the top 10 ranking, and a stint in 4th position among the 28 starters.

From a coaching perspective, we have worked on a process known as knocking off the hills and filling in the valleys. The aim is to develop a mindset trained to retain a consistent mood. If you have a great few hours and pass a few boats, restrict yourself from peaking with excitement, remain calm, and take the success in stride. Conversely, if you lose places, have damage, or get caught in a windless hole, restrict the depth of your low mood response. High peaks in emotions can lead to deep lows, and the aim is to remain as emotionally level as possible.



Scott has a natural calmness. He has always impressed me with how unflappable he can be, and despite the last few days being a huge drain on his tolerance reserves, he has remained incredibly composed. I wont try to paint a perfect picture; he has been frustrated and has cursed, but he has remained focused on the task at hand. This focus has allowed him to stay positive, make strong decisions, tend to inevitable small onboard issues, and change and adjust his sails when required.

We also need to keep in mind that the unstable weather has driven these sailors into a state of severe sleep deprivation. Securing a total of 3 hours of sleep in broken cat naps is doing well, and even in this deteriorated state, Scott is maintaining good consistency. He seems to be revelling in this challenge, even bizarrely loving it.

One aspect that helps balance emotions is self-belief, which can come in many forms. Scott has trained hard for this race, resulting in a healthy level of belief. Every time he passes a competitor or makes a positive change to his setup that enhances his position or speed, this belief increases.

Although this is a solo sailing race and the physical distance between us and these brave athletes can seem far, the messages of encouragement and support fed into Scotts and Canada Ocean Racings social media platforms provide incredible emotional support, fuelling motivation, reducing the feeling of loneliness, and increasing belief in oneself and the purpose. I know Scott is incredibly humbled and grateful for this support, so please keep these amazing messages coming.

As Scotts coach, I am extremely proud of him right now, I am genuinely inspired by his tenacity, focus and determination, and I know that the same pride and admiration are shared by our team and those in his corner.

In a world of unknowns I am excited about what the next 10 days of racing may hold for our fearless, humble and talented leader. Onwards Scott, you deserve every positive break that comes your way.


Nick Moloney is Scott Shawyer’s performance coach. He has competed and coached in the America’s Cup, sailed around the world three times, and set over 15 World Sailing Speed Records including the fastest non-stop and unassisted circumnavigation of the planet under sail. He is also an executive coach, working primarily with Founders and CEOs drawing upon his experience in high performance sport and the analogies between sport and business.