Quiet Weapon

It was a rather dull British politician who had just assumed, rather incredulously, the leadership of one of these island’s great political parties that said: “Don’t underestimate the determination of a quiet man.” And those words stuck resonating and reverberating through this owner’s stacked library brain of useless words and quotes but seems apt when describing the subject of today’s post – Glenn Ashby. If you want to know why I think Emirates Team New Zealand are nailed on for glory at Barcelona 2024 then I both make and rest my case at the doors of this affable Aussie. Take him out of the team and they get beat. That’s the truth but having Glenn in the afterguard and quietly leading the team behind the scenes is the ace in the Kiwi pack that is undeniable.

©ACE / Studio Borlenghi

I look at the Land Speed record attempt that Glenn and the team are attempting and here in a nutshell is the DNA of Team New Zealand. It’s a ridiculously difficult challenge with the highest percentage chance of dismal failure or catastrophic calamity but look beyond the press releases, the technology, the sheer bonkers-ness of the task ahead and you trip into the ditch of the team’s psyche.

When everything’s against them they have this admirable ability, a quality that you can’t bottle, to come together, to unite as a team, rally to a cause and take on the impossible. It’s when they are at their very best and as team-bonding exercises go, mid cycle in the America’s Cup, this beats a day out rafting or paint-balling…hands down.

©Emirates Team New Zealand

Right in the middle of the action and the inspiration for the project is Glenn. He’s been Zooming in for a year from Australia and that’s rather telling. If you were the team boss and didn’t really fancy doing this project, that physical distance would have been easy to hide behind and excuse away.

But such is the stardust of the syndicate’s coolest head, that the project is not just a thought, it’s happening. Arriving back in New Zealand as the restrictions ease and the long lost warrior is greeted like the family member he is. The team comes alive when Glenn’s in town but it’s quiet modesty and a deep commitment to the cause that he exudes that galvanises and corrals. That’s powerful regardless of whether it’s looking at components for the Land Speed attempt or sitting in on a design meet with Dan Bernasconi. The temperature rises when Glenn’s around.

©Emirates Team New Zealand

And that’s respect. Sheer, simple respect for a guy who’s the quiet man of the America’s Cup but one of its all-time top winners. Whilst the young turks go out on the SailGP and foiling circuits documenting their travails on social media as they go, Glenn keeps his counsel and his head down. No wonder Grant Dalton rates him so highly and speaks in glowing terms whenever his name is mentioned. When the likes of Burling, Outteridge and Tuke come back into the Team New Zealand fold, as they will in short order, it’s Glenn they have to impress because for sure, he will be the one calling the shots.

We saw it time and again in the last Cup as Glenn corralled and shimmied the afterguard with consistent calls and an expectation of better. Pete Burling had a relentless Aussie parrot on his shoulder and when things started to go awry in the Match, it was Glenn that stepped up the pace. Now with Nathan Outteridge at his disposal, I genuinely fear for the competition in pure sailing terms. If it’s to be dual helms then I’d lay a pretty penny that Nathan will be in the starboard hull and leading Team New Zealand off the start line with Glenn aiding the ‘wind-whisperer’ through the Barcelona chop before transferring across the transom to the speed-freakery of Burling to hammer the port tack advantage. That’s a combination that’s hard to counter. Terrifying in Cup terms.

©ACE / Studio Borlenghi

And let’s say that the Kiwis arrive at the opening race of the Match a dollar down on boatspeed, who’s your money on to turn the tide? I’d back the intellect of Ashby to co-ordinate with Bernasconi at rapier speed to address any issue. And if it’s a sailing problem then in this honest team, there’s no-one more honest or respected that Glenn to sit down with the sailors and locate the issue with pin-point accuracy. Backed by the granite-hard of Dalts and Kevin Shoebridge in the background, there’d simply be no hiding place. The machine would turn and the problems solved. That’s how they roll.

Everyone loves to build up the narrative and hopes of a Challenger win in this cycle but there’s one humungous roadblock in the way in the form of Emirates Team New Zealand and its component parts have a rare element that quietly, efficiently and robustly is the key to success in 2024. Whether the Land Speed record is achieved or not, and it really matters not a jot such is the team-bonding that this project has ensured, my money is on a demonstration in Barcelona by the Kiwis. By their standards, and at their own admission, they feel they under-performed in Auckland, incredible as that sounds, but that lightning won’t strike twice.

There’s no ‘i’ in team as they like to say. Tall Poppies aren’t allowed to grow but Glenn Ashby is the secret weapon, beating heart and stand-out superstar of Team New Zealand.

Mark my words.

2 thoughts on “Quiet Weapon

  1. Excellent article i have always believed as a kiwi that Glen was the sailing leader and now, it looks like design comes with that.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes!
    Jim Collins in his excellent book “Good to Great” says great leaders (ie those that take companies from good to great) are “Self-effacing, quiet, reserved even shy – these leaders are a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will”.

    You could say it’s the kiwi way …

    Liked by 1 person

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