Unexpected links between sailing and facilitation skills!

Hilde Nicasi is partner at Progress Consulting. Next to her job as a trainer and a facilitator, you will find Hilde at sea! Which sailing skills does she use when facilitating groups? She shares her secrets, useful both as a sailor and as facilitator!

Hilde, tell us a bit about your passion :

In my private life I am a big sailing fan. As a child my favorite place would be sailing harbors and I would dream about the big voyages sailing boats would make around the world. As a 55 year old, I am now trying to realize the dream of sailing around the world. Therefore I need to practice, practice a lot 😊. So I am an active member of Sailing for Think Pink, a not-for-profit organization that tries to raise funds for breast cancer research, by organizing sailing events (www.sailingforthinkpink.be).

I am also sailing with the Sailing Betties, another not-for-profit organization that is trying to get more women and girls interested in sailing, as sailing still is a merely male world. We practice in smaller boat (SB20 type) with experienced instructors, and do local races from our home port at the Royal North Sea Yacht Club in Ostend.

What are the connections between sailing and facilitation?

The link between facilitation of a group and sailing lies in the principles and skills that are essential in both contexts. You can discover my top favorite connections.

These connections illustrate how skills and principles from sailing can be relevant and beneficial for facilitating a group effectively. Whether it’s fostering teamwork, communication, leadership, adaptability, trust, problem-solving, or goal-setting, these overlapping aspects can enhance your facilitation skills.

  1. Collaboration and teamwork : sailing requires effective teamwork and collaboration among the crew members to operate the boat efficiently. Similarly, as a facilitator, you aim to foster collaboration and encourage participants to work together towards a common goal

2. Communication: Clear and concise communication is crucial in sailing to coordinate maneuvers, relay information, and ensure everyone’s safety. As a facilitator, you also need strong communication skills to facilitate discussions, convey ideas, and ensure that participants understand and engage with the process

3. Leadership and decision-making: In sailing, the skipper plays a clear leadership role, making decisions based on various factors such as weather conditions, navigation, and crew input. Similarly, as a facilitator, you provide leadership by guiding the group through the process, managing conflicts, and making decisions that support the group’s progress.

4. Adaptability and problem-solving: Sailing often involves dealing with unpredictable conditions, such as changing winds, currents, or equipment failures. Adaptability and problem-solving skills are crucial for finding alternative solutions and navigating challenges. Likewise, as a facilitator, you need to be adaptable and adept at problem-solving to address issues that may arise during group sessions. Expect the unexpected!


My favorite piece of advice? Trust and relationship-building: Sailing requires trust and effective relationship-building among the crew members, as their safety and success depend on each other. Similarly, as a facilitator, I strive to create a safe and trusting environment where participants feel comfortable sharing their thoughts, collaborating, and building relationships with one another.

Discover the selection of trainings recommended by Hilde to boost the skills useful both on a boat or during a facilitation