The secret to Team New Zealand winning this Cup is hidden in plain sight. It’s the lead video on their website. Anyone can watch it. It’s on YouTube. Everyone can see it but only those on the inside really understand it. Technicians have pored over it but have come away none the wiser. Sailors don’t like seeing it, it scares them. Team bosses point at it. Managers can only aspire to it. But it’s the thing that, when all is said and done, will win the Cup this cycle and that, my friends, is teamwork. And Team New Zealand have got the art of ‘team’ down to a tee. My case for the evidence is here in this video…
This is the story of building a rocket ship during Covid and it’s an incredible testament to the true unsung heroes of this Cup winning campaign – the boatbuilders. Team New Zealand lists 35 boatbuilders on their website as equals to the star names of the syndicate. The BAT Squad (Burling, Ashby, Tuke), the superstars of world sailing, are just other names in the scrum. Cogs of a bigger wheel and they know it.
It’s the boatbuilders that are the focus and rightly so. Those guys who scraped their knuckles to the core sanding away the hull at 1am. The ones itching from carbon strands as they get home to their girlfriends at 4am after pulling an all-nighter. The ones that said “nah, I’m good for a beer tonight, I’ve got work tomorrow.” The ones that gave it their all in a national effort with pride to the flag. The unsung heroes who will rightly take their place on the ticker-tape parade down Queen Street. The ones that delivered the ultimate platform two weeks early. New Zealand as a nation should be very proud of these guys.
There’s a line in the video from Kurt Reichelmann, Senior Team Leader, talking about how much the young boatbuilders, who were drafted in after lockdown, had ‘learned’ and there in a nutshell is Team New Zealand.
Can you imagine being, I don’t know, an 18, 19 or 20 year old and you get the call to come down to the shed and work on the boat? I would have been down there like greased-lightning. Working in that environment under the leadership of guys like Geoff Senior or Scott Stokes – yeah I’ll sand that deck moulding until my arm falls off. What an experience. What a learning curve. And you know what? In 10 years time, those kids will be half way up the team. In 20 they’ll be building the next TNZ rocket-ship. That’s the team. That’s the continuity. That’s the dynasty. That’s why they are the All Blacks of world sailing.
And interesting to note Dan Bernasconi’s comments. As Head of Design so much rests on his shoulders but it’s clear that aero performance and getting early lift from the wet stuff to perform across all wind ranges was his brief. Frighteningly clinical. Very hard to execute. And I didn’t know that Te Rehutai was the first boat ever designed and built completely within Team New Zealand as he says. Wow. That’s quite some achievement.
It’s great when you get a view into the DNA of a team. It’s quite rare in the Cup as you are fed so much nonsensical spin. Show it to us straight. Acknowledge the struggle. It endears the public and the commentators and it’s okay to square up and say that not everything went to plan and as Reichelmann humanly put it: “good to get the bloody thing out of here!” We all know that feeling. We can all relate to that.
So whilst the BAT Squad will be the ones holding the trophy and taking the plaudits, take a moment to look a few cars down on the Parade and give an almighty cheer for the true unsung heroes of this Cup campaign. They’re the ones that gave their all with everything against them.
And if any of the team want to come and do some gelcoat work on my little 28 footer – you’re more than welcome lads. I’ll even buy you a beer.
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