Coaching the Upper Echelon

Published on August 14th, 2018

by Dave Powlison, Sailing World
It’s been a stellar few years for James Lyne, coaching teams to world championships in four highly competitive classes—Maxi 72s, Farr 40s, Melges 32s, and TP52s. This self-professed winning addict (“In 2016 I coached boats in 32 regattas, lost three of them, and I’m still pissed about that.”) who will coach the New York YC’s American Magic sailing team for the next America’s Cup, shares what it’s like to work with teams laden with talent.

Talk about the background of the people you’re working with.
Especially on Quantum Racing, from the front of the boat to the back, they’ve all raced in the America’s Cup, in either the Louis Vuitton finals or the America’s Cup. It’s almost like the range is from having participated in the America’s Cup to having won it multiple times. There are also Olympic medalists, so there’s a whole other level there. On Belle Mente, which is a more offshore-oriented program, we’ve got a lot of Volvo racers. If you chose to do the America’s Cup, and started with crews from either Quantum or Belle Mente, you’d have an awesome team to go and win it.

As coach, what do you bring to programs with this level of crew experience?
They’re all great sailors, so they don’t need me to tell them how to sail, but I can accelerate our learning. And it’s not just regatta-to-regatta but within the regatta. We go out one day, and we’re not quite so fast for the conditions. We see the same conditions coming for tomorrow, so in the morning debrief, we go over the lessons learned and take that into the next races. I feel I can make a difference in that incremental, day-to-day improvement.

How do you establish credibility with such high-level people?
You have to do that from day one. If you’re wrong on the first day with your suggestions, then you have no credibility. But you don’t go from 0 to 100 percent. It’s incremental. I remember coaching Terry [Hutchinson] for the first time in Key West in 2013 on Barking Mad. Terry gave me that look of “I am not buying what you’re saying.” – Full report.

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