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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

Dubai Police learn leadership skills from record-breaking rowers

A record-breaking rowing team who overcame adversity at sea to complete a gruelling 4,800-kilometre trek across the Atlantic Ocean are using their oar-inspiring achievements to help police in Dubai.

The Latitude 35 Racing Team endured extreme weather and required emergency assistance when two crew members were struck down by illness and mental fatigue, but remaining crew members Jason Caldwell and Thomas Magarov still managed to complete the Talisker Atlantic Challenge in 2015.

The pair’s combined efforts to continue the race over the next 41 days helped them not only to finish in Antigua, but to reach a creditable eleventh place, breaking the American record for the fastest four-person row across the Atlantic Ocean in the process.

The determined crew made a triumphant return to the race a year later, claiming victory in a time that shattered a Guinness World Record.

Now they have swapped choppy waters for dry land in Dubai to share their journey of success and improve the leadership and teamwork skills of crime fighters in the emirate.

Latitude 35 team members have secured eight Guinness World Records across three oceans and four continents.

Th team-building exercise required participants to all pull in the same direction to reach their goal. Victor Besa / The National Section
Th team-building exercise required participants to all pull in the same direction to reach their goal. Victor Besa / The National Section

When the team is not racing or rewriting the record books, they travel around the world to share their Latitude 35 Rowing Experience - a programme that combines leadership and team-building techniques with rowing.

Their latest stop-off was in Dubai, for a 10-day programme involving Dubai Police, as well as gas company Dolphin Energy and team leaders from a raft of UAE organisations.

The training involves participants splitting into two teams, agreeing on a plan of action for their rowing race and forming a three-word motto for their challenge before taking to the waves at Sofitel The Palm.

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For officers at Dubai Police, the exercise taught valuable skills they will be able to use in the line of duty, including that every link in the chain of command must be strong.

“When you are a manager, your lowest level worker should be able to tell you if you did something wrong,” said Khalfan Al Muhairi, a fire investigator at Dubai Police.

He said his work in the forensics lab is always as part of a team, so the experience helped him learn new skills that he could apply while controlling and investigating a fire.

“The accidents that we face are not something we can prepare for, they occur suddenly, so we need to have leadership skills to control the situation.”

Dubai workers swapped the office for the waters to boost their teamwork and leadership skills. Victor Besa / The National
Dubai workers swapped the office for the waters to boost their teamwork and leadership skills. Victor Besa / The National

During the programme, participants have to learn to work as one to achieve their goals.

Jason Caldwell, Latitude's team captain and founder, had sage advice for the nautical novices as they got to grips with their task.

“When you feel you are out of rhythm, take your oar out and wait for the next stroke.

“You’ve got to have short term memory with that stuff, every stroke is a new step.”

The teams discovered that each person on the boat has their own important leadership role, which they must take responsibility for, in order for the crew to all pull in the same direction.

They are skills that can be used in the workplace, whether to tackle crime, put out fires or steer a business.

Farhan Al Bastaki, a member of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Impactful Leaders programme that brought Latitude 35 to Dubai, said he felt that having a racing team train the country’s future leaders would help the UAE stay on course for a flourishing future.

A rowing team that set a series of world records has offered guidance to Dubai Police and other oranisations in the emirate. Victor Besa / The National
A rowing team that set a series of world records has offered guidance to Dubai Police and other oranisations in the emirate. Victor Besa / The National

“What distinguishes Latitude 35 from other leadership companies, who have PhDs and best practices, is that they are a racing team that lived the situation, where they raced and failed and learnt from their failure and then won and broke the world record.

“I felt that we don’t have a racing team here that does leadership programmes. They are all academic.”

Mr Al Bastaki is also the chief executive of Sharaf HQ, the company that owns Adventure HQ which co-organised the course.

Upcoming Latitude 35 courses in Dubai will include elements from the UAE heritage and desert.