To run sailboat races well at the highest levels of international competition is a tricky business with a lot of personalities and moving parts. You need the command and credibility of Head NFL Referee Ed Hochuli, the communications skills of Ronald Reagan and an Arthur Fiedler-like touch of achieving symphonic accord among your own team, the competitors, jury members, coaches and organizers. In short, it’s wicked easy to suck.
Tom Duggan and I first interacted in 2006 around the (very fun) Buzzards Bay Regatta. As organizers, each time we tried to button up or close a loop with him by phone or email, we essentially got a “Don’t worry, it’s going to be great”. We laugh looking back at it but we admit we thought, “Who is this guy? He sounds so calm. Is he ‘that’ good, or is this just a disaster in slow motion?” I didn’t know it then, but our event was almost certainly the most casual on his summer dance card. It turns out he is world class. Why so?
What sailing leaders told me about Tom:
“Strong-willed and opinionated with but with no ego, how often do you see that?”
“He’s just so far out ahead of what is happening at the time. It’s his ability to anticipate that allows him to be calm.”
“He’s so approachable at events, he’s genuinely open to criticism and feedback and willing to poke fun at himself.”
“If you disagree with a decision he makes, he tells you what he was thinking at the time and then leaves it at that. He doesn’t NEED to be right. He doesn’t NEED to prove you wrong”
“He takes credit for NOTHING, it’s always about the team.”
Yup, that’s the guy I know. Here’s an interview “Two Things” recently did with Tom.