Wiser

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.

© Sailing Energy / American Magic

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.

© Sailing Energy / American Magic

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.

© Sailing Energy / American Magic

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…

3 thoughts on “Wiser

  1. For folks who were paying attention, the lessons of AC35 were clear – when you start foiling you need very different sailing skills and those skills are critical to the design process. CEO Dalton learned this in San Fran but didn’t have enough dough to stay ahead of Oracle. He doubled down by adding Burling and Tuke to Ashby to form the most experienced foiling/high-performance afterguard. He has now won 2 Cups with that team leading the speed development/design process. Dalton doesn’t worry about making videos – he focuses on having the best talent in the right spots (and raising money) – thats a winning CEO

    Not sure how you give a top rating to a CEO who fails to put a good afterguard together. TH and DB are great traditional sailors – but together they don’t come close to Ashby alone in terms of high-performance speed development. TH personally benefitted by being the star of the show – but AM was left without the talent to complete a boat or win races. Not my preferred model for a great CEO.

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  2. My family are road-tripping through New England this week and we were in Newport this weekend. The last time we were there was for the Volvo Ocean Race in 2018 and we had pretty much just been in the Race Village all of the time, so we caught up on things we had missed.

    As a fangirl it was really incredible to visit the Herreshoff Museum (they only reopened on Sunday, so we ended up being their first tour group of the year!). Marble House was the only one of the Gilded Age mansions that was open because of the lockdown, but that ended up being really lucky because I hadn’t realized Harold Vanderbilt had grown up there and there was a really great exhibit about him and his J-Classes in the basement area.

    We also got to eat at the Clarke Cooke House, which meant I could wander around taking photos of the memorabilia and not get kicked out because I was a customer. (I had gone in to look last time but when I tried to go into the 12-Metre room, the concierge had given me a Look… you know, a “You’re In A Denim Jacket With Patches And Fingerless Gloves So I’m Pretty Sure You Don’t Have A Reservation Here On Friday Night Get Out” kind of Look…)

    THAT was really cool, one of the more recent additions to the walls (I would imagine) was a framed American Magic poster signed by Hutchinson. Elsewhere, I noticed that there was a display of the gold cards given to America’s Cup winners that let them get free drinks for life, and I noticed a set for one of the American teams from *1995*, which I imagine must have been created prematurely and never awarded.

    I wonder if they were more cautious this time or if there’s a now-useless gold card with Mr. Hutchinson’s name on it in a back room somewhere?

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  3. Hmmmmmm. Terry a top leader?. Really? I still have dark thoughts after the last time Terry and Dean sailed together. “That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain”.

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