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Yachting Model


The yachting model is designed to help guide someone in making decisions within conflict and better understand conflict structures. By applying simple yachting manoeuvres or situations, we look at the number of behavioural and emotional variables within a conflict situation. Functions and benefits of conflict are explored within the model and conflict styles extended. The approaches, avoidance and engaging behaviours are applied to examples to better understand variables within conflict. Responses to conflict deliver a range of options with models to help make decisions in the workplace.


In dealing with conflict situations, the nature of human behaviour must be considered from a number of angles. This Yachting Model has been designed to interpret different situations, taking into account the many different approaches and behaviours.

A yachting day involves quite simply, a number of easy to understand elements. The different sizes of yachts, the number of crewman, the challenges faced with winds and the nature of the day itself. Conflict can evolve from many areas and can structure itself quite differently. The wind can be seen as the conflict and if not managed properly, progress cannot be made. The surrounding yachts may cause the conflict with their behaviours. Our opinion of what the conflict is may differ from the other party. How one responds to conflict must be explored to help manage or rectify a situation. Paying attention to the differences in cultures, personalities, values and beliefs, helps us understand that flexibility is required to address conflict. By breaking down the structure and components of conflict this model will enable us to apply examples to clarify situations seen in projects or the workplace.

Conflict Styles

Conflict can become present within our lives in many different styles and forms. Understanding the conflict requires us to focus on several elements including the values, styles and preferences of the participants involved. Understanding the conflict is achieved by paying attention to the structure of the conflict itself and the individuals involved. Each person reacts and deals with conflict in a different manner and one of the most important features is the flexibility of ones self when responding to conflict. The Yachting model can be related to this in the scenario where yacht A suddenly turns which forces yacht B to manoeuvre to avoid collision. Yacht B’s style of approach to conflict can vary dramatically. The variables in styles to approach conflict can be divided into 3 major groups, those relating to a persons cognitive style (their way of understanding conflict), to their attitudes towards conflict, and to their behaviour in conflict.

The way in which people make sense of conflict is their ‘Cognitive variables’.

Analytical Versus Intuitive-Yacht B looks analytical at Yacht A’s reasoning for a sudden turn

Linear Versus Holistic-Yacht B considers all facts from Yacht A and takes each issue one at a time
Integrative Versus Distributive-Yacht B considers the joint gain in such a manoeuvre from Yacht A
Outcome focused versus process focused-This conflict needs to be resolved to an outcome immediately
Proactive versus Reactive-Yacht A radios through and immediately suggests there was no foul play and the turn was unavoidable

Emotional variables relate to the attitudes within conflict and how one handles their feelings within conflict.

Enthusiastic Versus Reluctant-Yacht B welcomes the conflict from Yacht A and encourages such behaviour, whereas Yacht A would avoid it.
Emotional versus Rational-Yacht B expresses that the crews feelings have been upset with the scare and Yacht B gives logical processes to resolve.
Volatile versus Unprovocable-Yacht B expresses a tantrum for nearly colliding yet Yacht A seems un emotional and mature.

These variables can be dependant on another and result in a magnitude of conflict styles seen in day to day experiences. The Yachting Model outlines a simple manoeuvre of one yacht toward another and describes the many variables and styles of conflict it may encounter as a result. Different styles and perceptions of conflict affect the approach to management of each situation.

Levels of Conflict

Yachts present themselves in varying shapes and sizes and perform differently, and so too with conflict. The model can be applied to a number of regatta’s or sailing trips.

Firstly, an individual can have a personal conflict within him/herself with any number of topics, known as Intrapersonal or intrapsychic conflict. To relate to this model, a crewman is upset with himself for not attending the guide ropes quicker than him himself would normally like. Secondly, Interpersonal conflict may arise between two people of one yacht or between two individuals in a solo yachting regatta. Thirdly, Intragroup conflict is known as the type of conflict apparent within a group or team such as, Yacht A begins arguing amongst themselves as to the correct direction to take. The final level of conflict is Intergroup conflict, which is conflict that arrises between organizations. The crew on board Yacht A enters conflict with crewmembers on Yacht B, for race moves untoward.

Functions and Benefits of Conflict

Conflict generally represents as a negative influence within most instances. Its perception is that it creates a destructive element and that if conflict is present that something must be wrong within the project or organization. Conflict can cause miss-communication, competitiveness, blurred issues, emotional situations, escalation of conflict and rigid commitments to name a few. It’s easy to have the perception of a destructive nature yet there are productive elements too. Conflict creates personal development and creates awareness to issues. It strengthens relationships and heightens moral. The aim is to manage the conflict to generate the most out of it and promote the productive aspect. Though people at times hold their own perceptions, it is possible for individuals to maintain their beliefs and at the same time understand, accommodate and accept the beliefs and behaviours of others1. Effective conflict management manages the independencies associated with conflict and develops an understanding of the platform on which it is based and the goals associated. If we look at this model within a Sydney to Hobart regatta, conflict can be viewed by a number of angles. Do the Yachts need to work together to achieve a goal, is it simply a competitive race where winner takes all, or will at some stage one yacht call on another for help, say in distress. The wind can be viewed as the conflict presenting itself in many different speeds and directions. The yachts sails and direction the yacht choses to take, is the form of conflict management the crew decides to use. If the wind is seen as the conflict, it can most certainly be a positive influence on the yachts moving forward. This conflict shows that a correct management of the conflict can have a pro founding positive spin, the yachts make progress and without it, they cannot. The same is in day to day conflict in many instances.

Understanding the concerns of both yourself and the other party can increase effective conflict management. Knowing the co-operative and assertive position of each party within conflict may help in the correct strategies that may assist.

Are the yachts racing or are they working together to reach a common goal to raise money for charity? Is one party racing and the other simply enjoying the sunshine at sea? If conflict arrises then knowing the position of each party may quickly resolve a situation.



I chose this model as it helps to clearly define a persons or company’s position within a conflict quite simply. It can be used in most conflict circumstances yet I would suggest that the interdependencies within the conflict be looked at and if too complex, another model be used.

Behaviours in Conflict

Due to the fact that everybody has a different range of values and beliefs, the behaviours within a conflict situation varies dramatically. What one person views as conflict another may not. Where one party may be uncomfortable within a conflict situation, another may flourish and welcome it. Peoples cultures, beliefs, ideas, senses, feelings and trusts combine to exhibit different behavioural patterns that should be understood to manage certain situations. An individuals ability to jump from avoiding conflict to engaging into it can be both an emotional and behavioural one. A persons ability to be calm can be instantly replaced with a much more confrontational, emotional or rigid approach. The switch between avoidance and engagement can increase energy levels and dramatically change the conflict environment. Kenneth Thomas 1983 suggests a model which outlines five general strategies people use to approach conflict. The varying relationship of one persons interests compared to the other are reflected within this model and is a useful tool in analysing the different approaches that people take to conflict.

Kenneth Thomas Model 1983 used within the Yachting Model

Eg An International Yachting Regatta sees Yacht A hitting Yacht B at a marker, causing injury to one crew member.

Collaboration-Where Yacht A tries to resolve both his interests and Yacht B’s interests. Yacht A could offer Yacht B a replacement crew member to continue the race before Yacht B notifies officials. Both sets of interests are resolved.

Accommodation-Yacht A offers to help Yacht B so they can continue with the race. Focusing on satisfying the other persons interests

Competition-Yacht A continues the race to win at any cost. Emphasizes own’s interests.

Avoidance-Yacht A lets Yacht B pass to avoid any conflict. Involves a low commitment to conflict.

Compromise-Yacht A offers to share crew members and winnings to Yacht B. Shares losses and gains jointly

Bernard S Mayer suggests that this model has its limitations due to people moving around several of the strategies. I agree in a more complex conflict yet find that simple conflicts be managed with combining avoidance and engagement as orientations. This model can be used on a broad level, particularly in a corporate environment where forthcoming meetings suggest possible conflict.

Conflict Avoidance

There are a number of approaches to conflict avoidance which exhibit different characteristics. Certain people try to stay removed from the situation and others become aggressive in an effort to avoid conflict, passive avoidance and aggressive avoidance. The Yachting model can suggest a number of avoidance characteristics. Yacht A suggests to officials that Yacht B has the wrong sized sails. This is known as ‘passive aggressive behaviour’. Not bothering to tell officials this fact as Yacht A feels they wont win anyway can be ‘avoidance through hopelessness’. Avoidance through denial sees people who deny that a conflict exists at all. Yacht B insisting there is no need to check the sails as they are within the specifications can be seen as ‘premature problem solving avoidance’. ‘Folding avoidance’ would be Yacht B insisting “things are now fixed, is there anything else you feel the need to check?”

Mayer (2000) describes what he considers the major conflict avoidance styles.

Conflict Engagement

Personality preference and company ethics and values can have an impact on how one engages into conflict. After relating the Yachting model to approaches and avoidances to conflict we now apply it to how individuals and companies engage in conflict. As Ury, Brett, and Goldberg (1988) suggests, there are five main styles of engagement into conflict.

• Power-based Engagement – Yacht A demands Yacht B to fall behind as they completed an illegal manoeuvre and have the power to engage officials if they don’t.

• Rights-based Engagement – Yacht A demands Yacht B to fall behind as they have broken the rules.

• Interest-based Engagement – Yacht A and B discuss the situation together to explain the importance of the position to each party.

• Principle-based Engagement – Yacht A suggests to B that they have done the wrong thing so they should rectify by dropping back.

• Manipulation-based Engagement – Yacht A suggests to B that they have been successful in the past with such manoeuvres yet do they comply with today’s regatta rules?

The Yachting Model outlines how a range of engagements to conflict may change or vary the conflict situation and how it can have an impact. It can help with interpersonal cues, looking for responses of aggressiveness or raised voices. These signs, including shifting blame or delayed responses to conflict help us manage the situation.

Responding to Conflict

As we have seen so far, simplistic situations within a yachting race can have a variety of affects in how we perceive the situation. Approaching, avoiding and engaging a conflict situation can have diverse thinking patterns with any two individuals. It must also be said that once within a conflict situation, the way in which we respond to conflict can also be a skill and something to manage.

To correctly address or manage a conflict situation, we must know the other parties actual conflict, their motivations and needs.

If Yacht A is being aggressive towards Yacht B, is it because they need to win the race or is it because Yacht B refused to help them at an earlier rest stop with supplies? Responding to conflict in any project or organization requires us to learn the other party’s position within the conflict and what their concerns and anxieties are.

Mapping the conflict allows us to learn the other party’s position with more clarity and understand what is driving them.




I chose this model as it can be widely used by anyone in nearly all conflict situations, whether it’s interpersonal to intergroup.

If for instance we are sailing around the world and in a particular section of the course Yacht A experiences conflict with Yacht B. They may have an opinion of what the conflict is about yet may not know the exact driving force or motivations from Yacht B. It could be race tactics, not helping out, wanting to sail together, wanting to win or simply a misunderstanding of the conflict and actually it was the winds direction causing the conflict. At the rest stop, using this model allows a quick understanding of the conflict and enables you to better assess the options to settle. Look for assertiveness to needs and concerns and make sure of open-ended questions to bring out discussion.


If in fact the conflict remains, an effective means of settling a dispute is negotiation. Negotiation is considered when the parties depend on each other to achieve their own preferred outcome. Lets look at an intragroup conflict situation where Yacht A has a conflict situation on board between their crew and cannot finish the round the world regatta unless the conflict is resolved. The parties depend on each other, becoming interdependent, to finish the race. I recommend using the CMI Seven element preparation tool, to settle both positions and interests of both parties.

Before Yacht A reaches the rest point, which they only have a few hours to rest and gather supplies, it’s vital to use the time effectively. Preparing for negotiation is essential as the rest stop could be wasted and the conflict may progress into the next stage of the journey. The same with any project or organisational conflict, preparing to negotiate is the key to successful settlement of disputes.


If the conflict is between Yacht A and Yacht B, they may choose to mediate to try and resolve the conflict situation. It is a voluntary, flexible process that empowers the individuals to settle their own disputes by a facilitator assisting them to negotiate a solution. An Alternate Dispute Resolution is a great model in either a process orientated or substance orientated approach, to settle disputes.


Understanding what a persons or corporations values are can help in understanding their decision-making, actions and communications.

Is Yacht A determined to win as it’s in their nature or are they simply hoping to finish to raise more money for charity? Understanding peoples preferences and priorities can add to achieving a better outcome.


Understanding the differences in individuals makes us realize that managing conflict must be a flexible process to each and every instance. The yachting model captures how approaching, avoiding and engaging into conflict is so vast from variable angles and styles. We applied examples of yachting manoeuvres to describe the differences in a simplistic form that can be extended to workplace conflict situations. Yachts faced with conflict such as varying wind speeds and directions manage this conflict to enable progress. The functions and benefits of conflict from this model can be applied into the workplace in many aspects as the productivity gained from managed conflict can benefit as discussed. Limiting ourselves to opinions closes the door to options to resolve or understand certain situations. We applied the model to describe the levels of conflict, which reflects ourselves to large corporations dealing with conflict situations. Alternative options for settling disputes were discussed in certain circumstances. The yachting model can be used to guide you to making decisions when faced with or managing situations that involve conflict.

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