Ed Danby, Shore Manager for GBR Challenge

Ed Danby calls himself the oil that makes the cogs run smoothly.  Ed is the GBR Challenge Shore Manager, it’s his job is to ensure that two of the World’s most technologically advanced racing yachts are in the water every day and are sailing to peak performance. All the needs of the thirty-five crew members, the shore team, two racing yachts, five ribbed inflatable powerboats, a towboat, all the specialised dock equipment and the shore base itself is down to Ed. And then there’s the paperwork. Virtually the only thing he isn’t responsible for is how the crews perform. His desk is where the buck stops.

He starts at 7am and finishes at 8pm, but sometimes he’ll work through the night to ensure the boat is ready to sail the next day.

“The moment you walk through the gate you have no idea what you will have to deal with that day. All the best-laid plans go out the door. You are making on the spot decisions all the time on a day to day basis. Nothing is certain until it is finished. You can make a simple decision for say a ten minute job and then something changes or something goes wrong and you have to figure all that in.”

Ed is a professional sailor himself and he doesn’t want his shore job to mean he gets out of shape for racing so he starts each day training in the gym with the crews. After the work-out his first responsibility is to make sure the boats get out of their dockside cradles and onto the water quickly and efficiently. Ed has honed the process so now it only takes forty-five minutes to get each afloat. Ensuring that the launch runs smoothly means the sailors have more time out at sea training for the race. Even so there are always last minute tweaks to the winches, hydraulics; some vital part that demands attention.

Once the boats are out of sight, other matters need his time. It may be making sure the sponsor’s cars are washed, getting a leaky window in one of the portacabins fixed or having special glue that can bond carbon fibre to aluminium flown in from the States by the following morning. Whatever the task Ed has a maxim that keeps everything well oiled,

“Make easy jobs easy – and then the hard jobs get easier too.”

Getting the job done is what Ed is good at. He’s been a professional sailor since 1989; he’s crewed boats in the Americas Cup, the Whitbread Round the World race and numerous other ocean races. He’s acquired a great deal of knowledge on a wide range of sailing subjects, but he’s not an expert on everything. As Shore manager he needs to take an interest and get to know as much as he can about anything that could have an impact on how well the sailors and the yacht perform. That is a daunting responsibility but one Ed feels confident about.

“I’m happy to tell people to do a job and delegate on the spot whether it turns out to be right and wrong.”

After a hard day’s race training the crews come back to port and the boats have to be taken out of the water again. These yachts are precision instruments. They are not designed to be in the water for more than eight hours at a time. Every screw on the boat has a line painted on it that corresponds with a mark on the fitting so that even slight movements can be detected. Each must be checked. The rig is inspected and adjusted, the sails are unloaded, the whole inside is washed with fresh water then a dehumidifier set up to ensure it is dry again by morning. The boats are lifted up onto the dock and into their cradles and then hull is cleaned. First it is washed with a high pressure hose and then any filling, sanding and painting that is needed gets done. All this happens twice a day, every day, and all of it watched over by an attentive Ed Danby.

“There’s no one that wants my job. The responsibility is intense. I spend the day surrounded by people needing guidance to make their decision, “Ed should I put my left foot in front of right foot or my right foot in front of the left? Ed can I blow my nose”? I love it.”

 CNN Traveller, July 2002

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