The first of which is the role we all associate with the coach for an Olympic team or aspiring championship winner. This is event preparation; working with the sailors on racecourse strategy, tactics, rules and all the other traditional racing skills – creating the playbook!  This requires the fundamental skillset of any coach – a smart and immensely experienced pair of eyes to observe and help the sailing team improve. 

© Cameron Gregory

 The second and where an America’s Cup coach’s role starts to differ significantly from that of an Olympic coach is during the design and development phase. The rules that control the America’s Cup yachts have always had a lot of latitude, creating huge design opportunities and challenges. During the development phase the whole team must be focused on extracting performance from the race boat. 

© Cameron Gregory

The coach has always been at the nexus of this process. Originally, back when data collection was much more limited by the technology, this could only be achieved by watching, or videoing the action. It was then the role of the coach to discover and explain what was quick and what wasn’t; be that in the set-up of the boat, or the crew’s techniques. 

© Cameron Gregory

This input is still vital now but the role has changed and become more complex in recent years, as the application of data analysis has become more widespread throughout the sport.  The difference now is that the coach’s input must be integrated with that from the performance team and the data they are receiving from the thousands of sensors on the yacht.

© Cameron Gregory

So, in addition to a world class understanding of what makes a sailboat go fast, the best coaches must also be excellent communicators. The sailing team, Performance Analysis team and the design team must be on the same page. If everyone is pulling in the same direction… magical things can happen! 

INEOS Britannia Performance Coaches:

Rob Wilson  

Xabi Fernandez