As a leader, what questions do you ask of yourself the night before the ‘Big Game’?

You know last night had to be a long night for both Dean Barker (ETNZ) and James Spithill (Oracle USA) on the eve of what will be the most epic battle in the history of sailing. Sitting in very different places looking at the same objective – they must have been wrestling with very different questions.

Dean Barker ETNZDean Barker – up 8 to 1 a week ago, with just one win between The Cup and his team & country. Now – bearing the mental burden of a staggering losing streak.

James Spithill USAJames Spithill – behind 1 to 8 last week after starting with a 2 point penalty – now riding the wave of one of the greatest come-back stories in all of sport.

And they meet this afternoon (pending wind) in the Super Bowl of sailing – Winner take all.

The Cup brings opportunities AND burdens that go above and beyond any other sailing competition. In addition to the sailing team and boat – there are hundreds (thousands) of people that have made each of these campaigns possible in these areas:
• Technology design, building & maintenance
• Business organization; sales, marketing, finance, legal etc.
• Fitness; nutrition, exercise, rehab
• Media
• Corporate sponsors & private supporters, not to mention…
• Fans with raging national pride

With all that on their shoulders…
 What are they thinking?
What questions kept them awake last night?
What questions did they wake up to this morning?
The questions they ask of themselves will bring clarity of priorities and focus. As stated in the NY Times article ‘Distilling Wisdom of Effective C.E.O’s’ April 17, 2011, ‘The greatest contribution a CEO makes to their organization may be asking the right questions.’

As a leader – what questions are YOU asking of yourself the night before the ‘Big Game’?

AC Stand off

Today’s task: Stay focused – One race at a time!

Katie Pettibone heads out for what may be the final day of racing…
Or not…

I am heading out to San Francisco Bay with the Omega/Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ) America’s Cup VIP boat. There was a strong air of expectancy at the base this morning. A sense of anticipation, nervousness and of holding the collective breath. ETNZ is one race away from winning the America’s cup. This has been a work in progress since 2004 when they lost the cup to the Swiss. They almost won it back in 2007, but the Swiss prevailed with the Alinghi Team. For Oracle this must be excruciating. They now have a yacht that is closely matched with ETNZ, but they have a mountain to climb back. It really would be one the greatest comebacks if they prevailed.

AC Omega

As a sailor I know the teams are just focusing on doing the next thing in front of them – which is simply sail a boat race. Whether it is trimming a wing, looking for wind, grinding or turning a wheel- it’s all been practiced a million times. The tough part is to not get ahead of oneself, and think ahead. Just stay present.

I am hankering to get out there myself. And numerous people are saying to me ‘it may be time for another women’s team’. True. There are no women sailing in this one, and I have heard some male sailors say these boats are too physical. Not true. Although similar to 1995, we would probably have some design tweaks. Ultimately we simply need more teams. There are only four teams competing in the end, and I know a lot of great sailors who didn’t end up racing because there just weren’t enough positions. That will require some different choices by whomever defends the Cup.

Whatever happens today, it will be exciting. Wind predicted between 15-20, true wind speed. We have a strong ebb tide in the second race, which will drop the wind limits for racing, but hopefully we will get two races in. Of course if ETNZ wins the first race, the second won’t be needed. Stay tuned…

Hong Kong press covers Katie Pettibone on Omega/ETNZ America's Cup VIP boat.

Hong Kong press covers Katie Pettibone on Omega/ETNZ America’s Cup VIP boat.

AC: Katie’s perspective on New Zealand & Team Oracle

Watching the AC on my iPhone between legislative sessions 🙂

America’s Cup races 7 and 8 are today here in San Francisco. The weather is predicted to be windy. There is a max wind limit for racing of 23 knots that gets adjusted for tidal flow (tide out the bay lowers the wind limit while tide flooding in raises it because of waves effect). Racing so far has been exciting albeit one-sided with the New Zealand team dominating.

AC US & NZ flying

This past week was the end of the California state Legislature’s legislative session. Between monitoring floor sessions and talking to legislative staff in the Capitol, I would find a bench to sit and watch Americas cup racing own my iPhone. God bless technology! The same story played out though- Oracle racing coming up short again and again. Even a significant crew change (changing tactician American John Kostecki out and bringing in British Ben Ainslie) and some design tweaks have not helped to this point. Currently ETNZ is up 6 races to negative 1 of Oracle. Why negative for USA? Because they got caught cheating in the Americas cup World Series raced in the AC 45’s. Although some have complained that the two point penalty they incurred was draconian for racing in what some have characterized is a farm league, it was part and parcel of the Cup and Protocol designed by Oracle. As was the removal of any appeals process.

Oracle appears a bit faster downwind but ETNZ is faster upwind. Even when Oracle has led, ETNZ gets around them on leg three – the long upwind leg. Some mistakes in tactics by Oracle let ETNZ get by easier but its tough holding off a competitor that is faster. Unique to this Cup, the course is not being adjusted for wind changes which has resulted in skewed courses making it harder to find something to catch up or pass a team ahead. As a competitor I can tell you there is a certain horror you feel when you first realize that your boat is lacking a speed gear or is not as fast as your competitor. I saw that in Oracle in the first couple of races. After that realization there’s a certain resolution and examination of what the options are because not doing anything is NOT one of them. If you listen to the press conference of Oracle and ETNZ after Tuesday- Spithill (driver of Oracle) conveys that very clearly.

AC Orcale

There are two races today scheduled and two tomorrow. If Oracle does not pull a design rabbit out of the hat, then ETNZ could be winners of the Americas Cup tomorrow. I know that the sailors on both teams are trying to take it one race at a time because anything can and will happen. But for Oracle if the design team hasn’t come up with something, the sailors on Oracle are going to have to continue to look for Hail Mary passes. That’s a tough mindset to play from.

Katie reports in from San Francisco ~The America’s Cup Begins!

Three years in the making, yesterday was the start of the 34th America’s Cup. With completely new boats, and completely different type of sailing, the goal is to make it viewer friendly and exciting. The racing is super short ~ around 30 minute races (max: two a day), and it all happens inside of San Francisco Bay.

34 americas's cup San FranAlthough a match race, the rules and course have deviated with the change into giant, wing-sail catarmarans. Previously, we raced monohulls. I liken the change as similar to that from racing helicopters to racing F-16s. We could maneuver back and forward within inches and now it is a speed race with occasions for tight maneuvering. Both are exciting, but just very different. These new boats can go up to 50 miles an hour! Not only is that flying, these things literally raise out of the water in a mode called “foiling.” To achieve the highest speeds the boats rise up on blade foils leaving no hull friction in the water. Extraordinary design, but it will come down to which sailors (drivers and crew) are the best at keeping these massive machines up on their foils. Hulls in the water are slow!

The American’s won the last America’s Cup in 2010 making the US the ‘Defender’ and host of the 2013 Cup. Unlike traditional America’s Cup’s where there are many countries challenging to race against the Defenders, the 2010 Cup was a ‘Deed of Gift’ Match. In short two very acrimonious teams who can’t agree on rules ended up in a one-on-one match where bare-bone default rules written in 1851 are used. (Also occurred in 1988 with Dennis Conor and the big winged NZ boat.) They raced different boats in a best of three races in Valencia. Oracle Racing Team (USA) beat the Swiss and brought the Cup back to San Francisco.

AC first race

The cost: Neither the time and nor resources that would be required of changing to these new multi-hull boats for the 34th Cup was well thought out. Instead of the hoped for 10-12 countries of Challengers, there ended up only being three challengers: Artemis – Sweden, Luna Rossa – Italy, and Emirates Team – New Zealand) who could afford to pay the astronomical sums required to get to the starting line. Exciting but cutting edge changes ended up with the death of a very famous British sailor. Emirates Team NZ (ETNZ) emerged out of the Challenger Series as the one to challenge Oracle easily beating Artemis and Luna Rosa. New Zealand has just over four million people ~ that is the size of Los Angeles, which is just one city in California. ETNZ has been in the America’s Cup since 1995, and certainly have set the standard for winning.

ETNZ and Oracle Racing have not yet raced against each other. How they will line up, and if either one has an advantage remains to be seen. Many eyes will be on this event. Will one boat have such an advantage to walk away or will it be close? Only time will tell! [Read More]

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