America's Cup - what needs to change
As the dust settles on Oracle Team USA's victory, it's an opportune time to revisit Andy Lark's NBR guest post from August 20. Fast forward to the paragraphs in bold for his ideas on what needs to change (the rest you'll have to read with a what-might-have-been nostalgia). — CK
AUG 20: Dean Barker’s comment at the end of the third race said it all, “We had what felt like a yacht race, a little bit unique”. He was speaking about the briefest of moments - the start of race three of the Louis Vuitton Final of the 2013 America’s cup. Shortly thereafter Prada suffered another gear failure and retired.
On Sunday afternoon, that was Team New Zealand’s fate - and what many might have missed, the fate of Oracle out for a practice spin. This is a competition in which the technology is pushed to its very limits by the machines it powers.
What we have now is a series in which Team New Zealand is by far the superior boat and only gear failures stand between it and a showdown with Oracle.
The changes that should be made to the competition are clear - a competition in which any nation can compete on a reasonable budget; where races aren't a technology experiment but decided by fierce sailing; where the official challenger is actually competing and providing the necessary check and balance to the Cup holder.
Without these changes it is going to be very hard to attract sponsors to the sport, let alone spectators.
As it currently stands, you’d just submit to the statistics and let the more competitive and faster boat progress to the final - avoiding any risk that you might not even have a final based on a massive gear failure. These boats aren’t built to last.
Understandably, some are cynical about what we are seeing. One seriously rich man resets the rules forcing nations and teams to rise to a financial and engineering challenge that we will likely never see again. At least, not if NZ wins.
He made one mistake. He underestimated Kiwi ingenuity and passion.
New Zealand has stepped up to an unprecedented challenge. Against the best in the world, our designers have built a boat of incredible strength and speed. It’s up there with our greatest feats of engineering. Sitting behind it in a chase boat you cannot believe what you are seeing.
On board, the sailors lead by Dalton and Barker are giving us a lesson in concentration and competitiveness. They are so much faster than the Italians, and the Italians so statistically unlikely to complete a leg, they could be treating each race as a Sunday afternoon spin. They aren't. Just listen to the audio feed. They are as precision guided as the machine they are driving.
We can go on all we like about the money spent and other more deserving causes. That’s a zero-sum game. There will always be losers in the world of sports funding.
But’s it’s a rare day you get a chance to but the very essence of New Zealand’s brand on stage for the world to see and marvel at - both in person and machine.
And that’s something every Kiwi should be proud of.
Andy Lark is a director at No. 8 Ventures - backer of the upcoming Morgo entrepreneurs' conference in Queenstown. His previous roles include chief marketing officer at ASB parent CBA and VP & general manager, large enterprise marketing & online at Dell.