America’s Cup: Extracting the potential

Published on June 17th, 2020

Forging an America’s Cup team into a cohesive unit capable of winning is the task taken by James Lyne as he works with American Magic, New York Yacht Club’s challenge for the 36th Match. For Lyne, a 16-time World Champion coach, his role is to manage the process and the intangibles.

“With American Magic, it’s my job to try to balance two things,” explains Lyne. “How do we sail the boat fast enough to win, and how do we produce the intangibles of a team, the winning mindset?

“There’s no off-the-shelf ‘Bill Belichick cookbook’ that says ‘if you have this amount of magic pixie dust and this amount of Tom Brady, that we’re going to end up winning.’

“So that’s a little bit of where a coach comes in, and the input of proven leaders and winners like Terry (Hutchinson), Dean (Barker), Goodie (Paul Goodison), Andrew (Campbell), Marcelino (Botin), Anderson (Reggio), Tim (Hacket), Tyson (Lamond), and many, many others.”

Each sailing session onboard DEFIANT, the team’s first of two AC75s, generates terabytes of data and seemingly equivalent volumes of observations and opinions. Without coaching, the pursuit of progress and breakthroughs could easily obscure the end goal: victory in March of 2021.

“It’s going to be a continuing internal struggle, this Cup, because you’ve got to have enough design power that you’re fast enough,” says Lyne. “But we’ve still got to be able to sail the boat well enough around the course to extract that potential.

“So what’s the coach’s role? I’ve been around long enough, and been a part of enough winning regattas, that it comes down to leveraging the individual strengths of your people. People like Terry are incredibly good at building ‘juggernaut trains’ like BELLA MENTE and QUANTUM RACING.

“Key to those juggernauts are a design team, a shore team, a sailing team, and a production team, and keeping them in sync. The coach can make sure that the juggernaut stays on track on both the strategic level and during debriefs. To make sure that it doesn’t get deflected, or get going down dead ends. That often just means tapping gently on the sides of the train to keep it going straight.”

With American Magic sailing operations suspended since early March due to COVID-19 and a shipping period to Auckland, feelings of urgency, excitement, and ambition will be at high levels when the team reconvenes at its new base in New Zealand.

“From whenever we start sailing in Auckland, there’s going to be a path to winning the Cup that fits within the number of days we have left,” notes Lyne. “How we choose that path is the main determiner of our success. The longer we’re unable to sail, the harder and narrower our path becomes.

“We’re going to need everybody’s enthusiasm because we are about to begin what I call our ‘two minute drill.’ We’re going to be calling ‘audibles.’ The days of early testing in Newport and Pensacola, where we could look at some specific piece of software or hardware for a full day, that’s going to change in Auckland. The days are going to be multi-tasked to a much greater degree.”

In terms of success factors for the final months of the campaign, Lyne was quick to produce two.

“The first and biggest thing is ‘people management,’ because we could easily burn people out. Our sailors, shore crew, and the performance analysts in our program have to be fresh enough that we’re able to compete to our maximum potential. Second, we need to sail our boat for enough days and hours that we’re good enough to win the America’s Cup. These factors don’t really compliment each other, and that’s the challenge.”

With no AC75 regattas yet held, and with an America’s Cup World Series event along with the challenger selection series and 36th defense of the America’s Cup still months away, Lyne sees an intriguing competitive landscape between Emirates Team New Zealand, Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli, and INEOS Team UK.

“For better or worse, all the teams are in a position where they haven’t done enough sailing yet because of the one-design foil arms delays, the pandemic, shipping around the world, and their own unique issues,” said Lyne. “Nobody’s been able to execute their campaign just as they have wanted to. It’s just how we deal with it from here, and how we execute from the moment we get to Auckland.”


Source: American Magic

36th America’s Cup
In addition to Challenges from Italy, USA, and Great Britain that were accepted during the initial entry period (January 1 to June 30, 2018), eight additional Notices of Challenge were received by the late entry deadline on November 30, 2018. Of those eight submittals, entries from Malta, USA, and the Netherlands were also accepted. Here’s the list:

• Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL)

• Luna Rossa (ITA) – Challenger of Record
• American Magic (USA)
• Malta Altus Challenge (MLT) – WITHDRAW
• Stars + Stripes Team USA (USA)
• DutchSail (NED) – WITHDRAW

Of the three late entries, only Stars+Stripes USA remains committed, however, it is unclear what entry payments have been made, nor is there knowledge of a boat being actively built or sailing team assembled.

Key America’s Cup dates:
✔ September 28, 2017: 36th America’s Cup Protocol released
✔ November 30, 2017: AC75 Class concepts released to key stakeholders
✔ January 1, 2018: Entries for Challengers open
✔ March 31, 2018: AC75 Class Rule published
✔ June 30, 2018: Entries for Challengers close
✔ August 31, 2018: Location of the America’s Cup Match and The PRADA Cup confirmed
✔ August 31, 2018: Specific race course area confirmed
✔ November 30, 2018: Late entries deadline
✔ March 31, 2019: Boat 1 can be launched (DELAYED)
✔ 2nd half of 2019: 2 x America’s Cup World Series events (CANCELLED)
✔ October 1, 2019: US$1million late entry fee deadline (NOT KNOWN)
✔ February 1, 2020: Boat 2 can be launched (DELAYED)
✔ April 23-26, 2020: First (1/3) America’s Cup World Series event in Cagliari, Sardinia (CANCELLED)
✔ June 4-7, 2020: Second (2/3) America’s Cup World Series event in Portsmouth, England (CANCELLED)
December 17-20, 2020: Third (3/3) America’s Cup World Series event in Auckland, New Zealand
January 15-February 22, 2021: The PRADA Cup Challenger Selection Series
March 6-15, 2021: The America’s Cup Match

AC75 launch dates:
September 6 – Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL), Boat 1
September 10 – American Magic (USA), Boat 1; actual launch date earlier but not released
October 2 – Luna Rossa (ITA), Boat 1
October 4 – INEOS Team UK (GBR), Boat 1


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