2011 Retrospective Part 1 of 4
It is that time of the year again: summer (Southern Hemisphere) and fast approaching festivities to welcome 2012…
I thought it timely to reflect on 2011 and update the blog that has been somewhat neglected among the hectic activities during this very interesting year.
It has certainly been a rollercoaster ride of highs and lows. Very interesting times. Great satisfactions, some disappointments, many challenges, and constant growth and adjustment.
As well as the usual ‘bread and butter’ consulting gigs, Carbonicboats was involved at the start of 2011 in what was then the Australian Official Chellenger for the 34th America’s Cup.
As always, our role was a technical one: in this case co-coordinating the preliminary work on assembling the design and shore team, planning timelines, design strategy, budget projections, cash flow scenarios, logistics, advising on the technical feasibility of offerings made by the marketing team, and setting the foundations for what was to become the team culture on the design and build side of the operation.
Great flexibility was called for as the rules of the game were still very fluid. They were being refined as time went by and feedback materialised.
A rewarding part of the process was taking part in the Competitor Forums, where talented and very experienced brains came together to flesh out the vision of a spectacular, modern, fast and commercially viable reincarnation of the Phoenix that is the America’s Cup.
Hopefully some worthwhile contributions were made to discussions on the Protocol, the Class Rules, the RRS AC Edition and overarching strategic considerations.
Adam South, Dario Valenza, and Nev Whitty (front to back) on the prototype AC45 in Auckland. Image credit: Unknown
History will show that the Australian Team was one of the many that did not make it to the start line in these unique and changing times.
Much was learned and clearly there was a genuine passion driving the initiative.
Perhaps in a bull market the outcome would have been different.
However an honest analysis does reveal certain shortcomings which should serve as case study lessons.
From my point of view (inside the team but outside the PR team), the principal error was a failure to engage those outside the team – the sailing community first, and the greater public as well.
A dedicated group was working hard on the project and achieving significant traction in some key areas, but this was not being communicated to the outside world. The excitement of the new format was not being conveyed. The talents, passion and qualifications of the key players were not being made known.
I believe that such communication would have been instrumental to overcome public skepticism. Only those directly responsible will ever know the thinking behind the decisions that led to the lack of outreach and engagement.
In my estimation there was a need for a concerted effort to communicate, to engage, to involve and to excite.
Instead those in charge insisted on positively excluding the press.
Perhaps part of the reason for the silence was the rivalry between different would-be leaders of competing syndicates within Australia, but that seems like a poor reason for what borders on secrecy in a venture that relies on visibility and fan base to justify investment.
The silence left open speculation about troubling lack of unity within the syndicate leadership, and conceivable conflicts of interest that may have played a role, but this brings us into the realm of conjecture so I shall not probe any deeper in this context.
Australian uniforms on a boat with the iconic Auld Mug logo, for the first time in many years.
Hopefully it will happen again soon.
The work carried out on the technical side was well structured, promising and very satisfying. Analysing the outcomes I am confident that the structure, programme and personalities involved in the design effort were easily up to the challenge of producing a competitive boat, and the connected ‘machinery’ to maintain, repair, and develop it in a campaign under the conditions that were posited at the time, and within the constraints imposed by the initial brief.
In an honest and self critical internal appraisal aimed at improving future performance, very little emerged that our tech team would have done differently if given another chance.
The lessons learned and the relationships forged, beyond making the exercise worthwhile, became valuable tools for the next project.