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Sailing away - how Team New Zealand won the America's Cup

Paul Brislen, Editor. 27 June 2017, 8:26 am

Not to put too fine a point on it, Team New Zealand's America's Cup win against the buying power of Oracle is a David and Goliath story that speaks to innovation and working smarter, not harder.

Oracle, backed by Larry Ellison, had a practically unlimited budget to build the perfect racing boat, but it was Team New Zealand which won through on the day in emphatic form built on the back of that awful series of defeats in the last Cup.

Over at Newsroom, Suzanne McFadden takes a closer look at the ethos of innovation, the programme of work that Team New Zealand undertook and why it was so successful.

The whole piece is worth reading from an innovation and culture-building perspective but in short Team new Zealand was more willing to try new things, even when what it was already doing was working and winning races.

The creation of this historic team began with the deconstruction of the 9-8 nightmare of San Francisco 2013. The key lessons learned from an extensive campaign review filtered through. The main moral of the story: don't stop developing.

"We recognised we had locked in our technology too early in San Francisco, and it just got us through to eight wins," [Team New Zealand chair Sir Stephen] Tindall says. Team NZ's 2017 maxim was to keep developing until the final race of the America's Cup.

They stuck to their word - still building new appendages the night before the deciding race.

Having a team that was flexible was also key, especially once the decision was made to ditch the traditional arm-based grinders in favour of the "bikes on boats" approach which served two purposes - faster grinding and freeing up hands to do other jobs, which earned Team New Zealand valuable seconds during tacking manoeuvres.

If there is a moral to the story it's probably that teams should be willing to disrupt their own processes and winning ways even when they are winning in order to be the best they can. Team New Zealand didn't wait for the next regatta to implement new approaches to sailing - they did it in the heat of the moment and that made all the difference in the world.


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