The Role of Luck – Part 2

The previous blog was about the role of luck in sport, one of several I’ve written recently on the impact of cognitive bias in decision making – looking at the systematically flawed judgements that human beings are hard-wired to make.

The out-take from that last blog was to accept that luck happens -- call it what it is and don’t make poor decisions going forward because you preferred not to believe that someone got lucky.

I’m writing a regular commentary for the Volvo Ocean Race (VOR) and used an example from the fourth leg of that event in the story, so I was particularly chuffed to see this post from Simon Fisher, the navigator on board Vestas 11th Hour Racing, a competitor in the VOR and currently racing in Leg 7.

“Ourselves and TTTOP [Turn the Tide on Plastic, another competitor in the race] just pulled off a nice ‘buffalo girls’ move as the rest of the fleet parked in a cloud. Lucky, but well executed!" Ah, the old buffalo gals move… The reference is to the line “Buffalo gal go around the outside” from the 1982 Malcolm McLaren hit, Buffalo gals.

If you check out the picture below you will see what Fisher is referring to – the lead four boats MAPFRE (white), Dongfeng Race Team (red), Team Brunel (yellow) and Team AkzoNobel (purple) have hit light winds under a cloud and stopped. The boats following their line and coming up from behind – Turn the Tide on Plastic (light blue) and Fisher’s Vestas 11th Hour Racing (orange) – have taken a little swerve and sailed around the outside of their almost stationary opponents to steal a handy five mile lead.



Nice work if you can get it, and all down to luck. The boats ahead couldn’t have anticipated the lack of wind under the cloud, but the boats behind could -- they saw the parking lot in front of them. All they had to do was to steer up and go around the windless hole.

Applause and plaudits for Simon Fisher for calling it what it was; “Lucky” -- albeit with the proviso, “but well executed!” Sometimes we just can’t help ourselves…