Ask me who came out of the 36th America’s Cup with the highest stock and unquestionably I would answer: Terry Hutchinson. Right from the very first press conference through to the last, Hutchinson proved himself to be the model leader, the Executive CEO that could face down triumph and adversity and treat those two imposters just the same.
My tip for the Match, American Magic was skewered after that monster peel off broach as the breeze called in around the top mark with a resultant slam-down capsize whilst a country mile and more ahead of Luna Rossa. From there, it was never quite the same boat again. And if truth be told, it was a moment of definition for the team and the Cup.
As examination questions go, it was a tough one. The Cup community rallied, everyone played their part, the camaraderie shown was exemplary, the Kiwi boatbuilders moved mountains working 24 hour shifts but the event proponents passed the exam with flying colours. It was amazing really. And throughout the catastrophe and indeed the whole campaign, Hutchinson represented the New York Yacht Club with dignity and class.
The CEO of CEOs, he was different to the Olympic guns and the Cup specialists, winning a legion of fans for his cool and calm whilst showing raw emotion in the moment that encapsulated the devastating blow of the near-sinking. He was a credit to his team, its owners and the Club he represented and he continues to be a marvellous ambassador, albeit even wiser, as the Cup goes into hibernation before we start getting some definitive answers on venue and format from Team New Zealand and Ineos Team UK.
In a lovely interview with the equipment supplier of choice – Harken – Hutchinson’s humanity and perspective shines through and it’s clear that THAT moment had far more of an impact than us casual observers can appreciate. Hutchinson contextualises the crash in terms of his return to racing in the Melges 24 at the Gold Cup where he says: “You get tacked on, things don’t quite go the way you wanted on the racecourse…but I kind of got to the spot where I don’t think I’m going to have to face anything nearly as impactful as that one moment was in January.”
It’s always tough washing up an America’s Cup campaign. All those things that you did well are outweighed by the demons of ‘if only we had done that’ and all those should’ve, could’ve, would’ve’s. Hutchinson chose to sit down with some 70 team members informally but with notes, looking them in the eye, thanking them for their hard work and then getting into the nitty gritty in an open and honest way. Wouldn’t you love to read those notes?
To my eye, American Magic were on the cusp of something extraordinary. The pace they showed was phenomenal and from a design perspective, that scalpel hull-form was bang on the money. They didn’t quite have the detailing in the rig and aero as nailed as the Kiwis or the Italians, and they would be the first to admit it, but they were rapidly catching fire and on their day they were quick. The team looked a solid unit, happy, engaged and I genuinely felt that the axis of Barker, Goodison and Hutchinson was a great combination – possibly the best in the Cup. Their communications approach was honest and open. I liked their style.
So what next? Well, the encouraging thing for Cup fans is that American Magic is shrink-wrapped and mothballed down on the dock in Kiwiland ready to go. Defiant has been re-built after being the donor boat for Patriot and all they need is ‘7-8 days’ and they are good to go. Plus if some nascent campaigners want to get on the water quickly, then Defiant is all yours – tricky little mistress to sail but you’ll learn a whole heap before committing to a new build. Pony up a few million dollars and she’s yours.
American Magic though is a team that everyone would dearly love to see racing again. It would actually be a crying shame if the Kiwis and Brits elected to go one-on-one rather than include the New York Yacht Club, the Circolo della Vela Sicilia and anyone else who fancies a shot. The hope is that Roger Penske and Doug DeVos green-light another tilt and that’s more than likely if the Cup stays in New Zealand for the 37th edition. Participation is key and with a turnkey operation down under, it surely has to be a major consideration for the organisers as they wrestle with what on earth to do and the sheer economics and logistics going forward.
A Cup with the New York Yacht Club is richer. A Cup with multiple challengers is plain and simple better. I would like to think that sense will prevail but we’ve been this way before. Expect the unexpected and you won’t be disappointed.
But enjoy this honest video courtesy of our friends at Harken…