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Integrity at sea

Winning may be the goal, but it needs to be earned, and it’s the experience that matters most in the end.

Deloitte LifeIt seemed to be time to celebrate. Having completed his fifth prestigious Bermuda Race in June 2010 in a little more than 95 hours, Deloitte’s Scott Bearse and the eight-man crew of his 44-foot sailboat, Slide Rule, had just been told that they had won first place in their division. But had they?

“In my head, I had us in third or fourth place,” says Bearse, a leader in the Strategy & Operations practice with Deloitte Consulting in Boston. “I was excited, but my math is generally good, so when I saw the posted results, I looked at the calculations and found an error.” When applying the complex handicapping used in timing sailboat racing, event officials had inadvertently transposed the position of the hundredths and thousandths digits in the handicap. The error had vaulted Slide Rule to the top on corrected time.

Bearse immediately contacted the race chairman to tell him about his discovery. “At first they doubted an error had been made,” he says. “But I told them that I work for Deloitte and we know how to dot our i’s and cross our t’s. I assured him he needed to check the numbers and he did.”

It turned out that Slide Rule and her crew ended up in third place – the best finish ever for Bearse in the competitive biennial Bermuda Race. “We sailed a great race, but it’s not right or satisfying to be credited with something you didn’t achieve,” he says.

The race organizers appreciated Bearse’s actions, making him the focus of an article on integrity in sailing. “Integrity is essential in sailboat racing,” says Bearse. “Someday I’ll win the Bermuda race, but I will do it the right way.” In March, Slide Rule appeared on the cover of Sail magazine; an action shot of Bearse at the helm at the start of the 2010 Bermuda Race.

A life on the water

His father and family history have fueled his lifelong passion for sailing. “I have photos of me as a youngster on board a boat with my father,” says Bearse, whose family has lived on Cape Cod since 1639. “My ancestry is littered with ship captains. It’s almost as if I’ve been compelled to take up sailing.”

And indeed, Bearse has been sailing his own boats since he was 8 years old. Over the years he has captured a couple national championships, and other race wins, along with his fair share of learning experiences. But Bearse says he enjoys his time at sea more for the quality of the experience than for trophies and headlines.

Each trip brings its own memories, such as dodging a massive humpback whale off the coast of Nova Scotia in July. He remembers his first trip to Bermuda, in the darkest part of the night, a dolphin churned up billions of phosphorescent plankton, creating a spectacular light show. Sailing is filled with unique experiences. I’ve seen dolphins, porpoises, sea turtles, whales, waterspouts, sunsets, storms and calms. “Something memorable happens all the time,” says Bearse. “It always keeps you looking for the next wonder.”

Start to finish

When it comes to racing, Bearse is all business. “Running a good race is like managing a complex project,” he says. “You need to be prepared and organized. You have to be able to motivate people and coordinate all the logistics for the boat and crew. It takes an incredible amount of time and effort.” Preparing for a major race may require six months or more.

“When we are at sea for days at a time during a race, our success is dependent upon my ability to get the best performance from each team member,” says Bearse. “Coaching and training the whole team versus the individuals has been an interesting learning experience for me. You just can’t be successful with a few ‘stars.’ You need to get the full potential from everybody around the clock, even at 3 a.m.”

Not surprisingly, Bearse sees parallels between his roles as captain and as a director at Deloitte Consulting. In fact, some of his project teammates at work call him “the skipper.” “I’m grateful for the opportunities Deloitte has provided me since I arrived from Arthur Andersen in 2002,” he says. “I enjoy the people and the challenges we face together. I expect myself and our team to perform at the highest level every day for our clients, even during the tough moments when we face our greatest challenges.”

As for integrity? It’s a given. “Working for Deloitte requires that we all be held to the highest standard of integrity and ethics,” he says. “It’s fundamental to our work and has to be a part of everything we do.”

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