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Despite what many people may think, the 35th America’s Cup Campaign for Emirates Team New Zealand is in full flight, full frenzy mode. Same old story. So much to do, so little time.
Amazingly there is just over one year to go until the first race of the Louis Vuitton Qualifiers in Bermuda.
By this stage of the last 34th campaign towards San Francisco we were well ahead of the other teams we were just about to be the first to launch an AC72 race boat and begin the relentless process of testing and development on the Hauraki Gulf, doing our very best to hide the amazing innovations our design team had conceived in the hope they would be enough to win back the America’s Cup.
It was a full-feel good campaign. We were leading the way, the other teams were having their challenges in design, breakages, speed, control, tragedy - you name it. Everyone was in uncharted territory. Emirates Team New Zealand was strong throughout, we had an amazing team of talented people all working tirelessly towards the elusive goal, which all of a sudden was becoming less and less elusive all the way up to what was seemingly the last decimal of time of the entire campaign… then we all know what happened.
And that’s what made the loss so devastating to everyone involved. It was the perfect storm, 9-8 to Oracle, one race we were leading, which ran out of time two minutes from the finish and another 0.1 of a knot over the wind limit, again while well in front after the overall race limit had been dropped 10 knots (yes, 10 knots) since we had built our boat. How do you bounce back from that? Something that was so close.
At the time you don’t know how you will find the motivation to dust yourself off and get back in the ring, not give
up and have another shot at winning. Deep down you know there is one thing you need to find to take that first step…resilience. It is something everyone has. No one goes through life without having to be resilient at some point in time for some reason.
I guess, looking back over my career and sailing around the world seven times, there are probably not many more stark environments in which to develop a strong sense of resilience than offshore sailing. You have no choice, every day on board an ocean race yacht you live with setbacks and unknowns; you need to find and have resilience.
Let me paint a picture: it is freezing cold on deck, in a howling southerly gale, you haven’t slept in what seems like days, you are hungry and counting the seconds until you can go off watch to hop in your bunk to thaw out.
Suddenly your big downwind sail rips, all hell breaks loose, and it’s all hands on deck to regain some form of temporary control. It takes an hour to get things sorted. You know your competitors are eating miles out of you like Pac-Man eating Pac-Dots. The sodden sail is dragged downstairs along with many gallons of water. Your bunk is now wet and downstairs will be like a sail loft for the next 24 hours. The person to take over your watch is now repairing the sail. You face another four hours on deck before the oasis of a now wet bunk becomes a reality. It seems things can’t possibly get any worse, which of course they can and sometimes do – the replacement sail you have hoisted rips apart!
It is this sort of experience that teaches you about resilience.
It’s not a situation where you can just say, “OK that’s me, I’m out”. There is no escape, you just have to keep going, take one step at a time, keep your eye on the objective and grind your way to a better space. Sure enough you will get some sleep, you will get to eat some food, the sail will get repaired, the conditions will ease and become better and with a bit more determination you will gain the miles back on the competitors.
The world of America’s Cup is a similar roller coaster. Not so much physical and mental like a round the-world race, but more emotional because you care about the team and its people, its sponsors and supporters.
Your deep-down desire to win is a fire that never diminishes, so anything other than winning every single race doesn’t feel good.
So from where we stand now, just over a year until the business starts in Bermuda, taking a look back to how far we have come since San Francisco in 2013, it has probably been one of the hardest periods in the team’s existence. It’s more a case of what hasn’t happened rather than what has happened.
Some things have played out in the media, but a lot more serious, dramatic and dangerous things have played out behind closed doors. Without the resilience of the team members themselves, the support of our sponsors, suppliers, and the everyday supporters, and the relationships built up over many years and many campaigns, this team would probably not exist.
No team in the history of the America’s Cup has the heritage, success and most importantly resilience of Emirates Team New Zealand, and that goes back long before my time with the team. The magic and real resilience of this team is in its people. The men and women who work so determinedly and focused each day with a finite goal in mind; if we do our work right each and every day until that point, then we might have a shot at winning. If we don’t, we won’t.
Wrapped around the people of the team are sponsors like Toyota; sponsors and suppliers that believe in what we do enough to literally invest in our ambition. Then another layer is wrapped around that layer, and that’s the supporters and fans who provide the energy to be the best the team can be.
Support breeds resilience and this team has plenty of that.
Source: Believe Magazine - Issue 13 2016