Every day is race day | Trust makes it possible for American Magic
The Patriot has landed. In Auckland, New Zealand.
The New York Yacht Club’s team American Magic likes being first. They were the first team to launch their foiling AC75 monohull – the Defiant, in September 2019. The Defiant was the result of more than 76,000 man-hours of high-stakes development and work. Then, more than a year and countless hours of testing and development later, they were the first team to launch their second AC75 – the Patriot. On the face of it, these two boats look similar, but there are a number of differences making Patriot a much more streamlined machine than its predecessor.
Now, the 150-person strong team has their eyes dead set on crossing the finish line first in the 36th America’s Cup and bringing the highest prize in sailing back to the United States. If successful, they’ll honor their name and live up to the New York Yacht Club’s long and proud America’s Cup history. To make it possible, they have spent the last three years developing a boat that has become an engineering work of art, building up a strong team spirit with mutual trust among each member, and ensuring they are equipped with the most lightweight, aerodynamic, and protective gear possible.
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Reinventing the sailboat
In 1851, the oldest trophy in the sports world was won for the first time by the radical-looking schooner America of the New York Yacht Club. Following the original race, the New York Yacht Club defended the trophy with the boat Magic in 1870 and went on to win the next 23 editions of the Cup before losing to Australia II in 1983.
Team American Magic is named after the Magic‘s success, and with Patriot, the New York Yacht Club is back in the America’s Cup for the first time in 18 years, ready to race against the most advanced sailboats and best sailors in the world.
The boats in the America’s Cup have always represented the most technically advanced craftsmanship in the sport of sailing, and the 36th edition lives up to this tradition, perhaps more so than ever, with foiling sailboats reaching speeds over 50 knots. The AC75 Monohull represents a completely new racing class, and in many ways, a reinvention of the sailing boat. This puts huge demands on the crews. It’s been said that today’s America’s Cup also has led to a reinvention of the sailors – that they’ve become a new breed, part machine, part scientist, who perform at the edge of what’s possible.
So, what does it take to compete in the America’s Cup? Or rather, what does it take to fly a 75-foot boat?
Trust makes it possible
They could never imagine this, the seafarers of 1851, how a boat in 2021 would fly above the ocean at speeds over 50 knots.
Today, trust makes it possible.
Of course, the story is a bit more complex, maybe even magic, but it all builds on trust and the fact that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Imagine this for a second:
You’re at the helm of a 75-foot long monohull sailboat. The 7.8-ton vessel is moving at 45 knots. 11 men are working at full capacity, their muscles in rapid motion, some of them producing hundreds of watts as they grind furiously to keep the oil pumping through the hydraulics. Two 1200-horsepower speed boats carrying professional safety crews are blasting along a few meters away from you, the roar of their engines is almost buried by the intensity of the wind. You are holding on to the handles, stabilizing yourself against full-on G-forces, trying to avoid being tossed around too much. Cues are shouted through comms into your earpiece: “Pressure coming” / “The breeze is building” / “Set up to tack”. In a few seconds, the windward foil will be dropped and you’ll be in the midst of a 90-degree turn before you manage to catch your breath. A massive spray of water comes off the foil. You’re living on a thin line and every decision must be made on instinct – an instinct you share with the rest of the crew. An instinct slowly crafted by seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years of deliberate training, of slowly crafting your expertise.
Welcome to the world of American Magic – a world where you need to be fully present in the moment and ready to act at a split-second’s notice. The team members are among the world’s best sailors and at the top of their game, but this alone doesn’t make it possible to compete in the America’s Cup. What makes it possible is their trust in each other – a trust that has been built through years of training as a team.
Trust through time
To compete at America’s Cup level, they needed to create a team where everyone is allowed to be vulnerable and encouraged to build mutual trust among each other. It’s a trust that needs to be built every day. Together they must surpass yesterday. And tomorrow they must feel that they have surpassed today. And on it goes. Their success is dependent on practice and drills in an environment of trust. Repetition creates habits, and habits are what enable mastery. With commitment and perseverance, there is no end to their mastery of the Patriot.
A boat like the Patriot demands a lot of every member of the diverse team. In addition to the sailors, there are designers, production, IT, paramedics, rescue divers, engineers, and a number of other key roles. And the main source of earning and building trust between each team member is time. Trust can best be earned after years and hours of working and training together, and with so much time spent with one another, the team can learn from each mistake and push each other to strive for even greater achievement. With time, relationships are built, communication is strengthened, knowledge is developed and experience is gained. The sailors must trust the designers and engineers to put their best work forward in a boat that can go faster than ever, and the design team and engineers must also trust the sailors to push themselves to make the boat sail as fast as it was built to go. This kind of trust must be built between every member of the team through time in order to achieve their shared goal of winning the 36th America’s Cup.
Though spending time together is essential to earning each other’s trust, trust is also earned through the time each team member spent individually, often before joining the team, honing their own personal skills. Every member of the American Magic team has immense experience with sailing, boats, or working on water, and those years of experience contribute to earning the trust of the entire team.
And as the 36th America’s Cup unfolds, when all is said and done and the only thing that remains is to follow their instinct in a real-time race, they will hopefully honor their name and share some magical moments.
Trusted by Professionals
Weight matters in sailboat racing and the rules of America’s Cup are strict. With the introduction of the AC75 class at the 36th America’s Cup, a different weight concept has been introduced. The rules impose a maximum weight, in contrast to the minimum weight that most regattas use. Normally, you just sail with a disadvantage if your boat is overweight. At the 36th America’s Cup, the teams won’t be allowed to race until their boat is cleared by the scale.
The 11-person crew can carry a set weight of gear on board, including all clothing, communications, safety equipment, food and water. With only a few kilos of gear allowed per person, this means that wetsuits, shoes, life jackets, jackets, pants, helmets, sunglasses, headsets, radios, and so forth, need to be as light as humanly and technically possible.
Helly Hansen is the official apparel sponsor of American Magic challenger for the 36th America’s Cup, and it’s an honor for us to be a part of their mission to bring the Auld Mug back to the United States. The America’s Cup is all about pushing the limits of technology, and every fabric, seam, panel, and zipper make a difference in enabling the crew to execute their responsibilities to perfection on deck in such a fast-paced environment and to get within the weight target. In the end, every gram goes straight into reducing the crew’s wind resistance and making the Patriot faster.
Through valuable time spent with the team, our designers have gathered insight and feedback, enabling us to develop gear as performance-driven as the American Magic team itself. With the Foil Pro Softshell Jacket, we have created the most technical sailing jacket we have ever built. It’s an incredibly lightweight and aerodynamic jacket, designed for maneuverability at high speeds, with a four-way stretch fabric and ultrasonic-welded seams, which means no stitches and thus no leaks. When push comes to shove, you’ve got to feel fast to be fast.
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