If there’s anything that I love in sports, it’s come from behind wins. It’s a last minute string of goals to take a game to overtime, it’s a birdie to force a playoff, it’s a deadlift PR to reach your goal total. Our top of mind thought for come-back doesn’t typically include sailboats. Unfortunately, when most of us think about sailing, we look like these guys:
My own sailing experience is limited to the sailing merit badge at Boy Scout camp over the summer, but my inner nerd connected with Team Oracle for this America’s Cup. It’s essentially applied physics, bank-rolled by a billionaire. The America’s Cup is likely the most plutocratic of sporting events, making high-end golf look like dollar slots. Seriously, those faster-than-wind AC72’s go for between $8-$10 million a piece.
After trailing 8-1 to challenge Emirates Team New Zealand, Oracle Team USA pulled off what could be the greatest comeback in sporting history, with eight straight wins to defend the trophy.
Before you assume an obligatory “Go Team USA”, you should instead assume an obligatory “Go Team ‘We’re on Top of Logistics and Analyze the Hell Out Of Everything”. The Oracle upset is explained by both intellectual agility and natural ability. According to the LA Times:
“The shore crew came up with technical adjustments — no one is saying exactly what — to increase speed and management decided to switch tacticians, bringing in the British sailor Ben Ainslie, winner of sailing gold medals in the last four Olympic Games.”
From the New York Times:
“The full extent of what Oracle did to change that crucial speed equation is not yet clear. Modifications were made to multiple aspects of its AC72, from the hydrofoils to the wing sail that was its primary power source. And unlike Team New Zealand, Oracle sailed with a new measurement certificate — reflecting changes to its boat’s configuration — for every race as it searched relentlessly for incremental improvements.”
Constant progress. 1% Better. Hell, fractions of a percentage point better. I enjoyed following this America’s Cup not only because of the technical demands of the activity, but because there’s so much goddamn science that goes into it! This isn’t to take away from the natural and trained abilities of the sailors, they put in some work.
The video below is from the Red Bull YouTube account and documents how Oracle Team USA trained for the 17 race affair:
The level of detail that went into the preparation and execution of these races is unfathomable to most of us, and we should recognize that these are the most elite sailors, teams, companies in the world. We should also consider this:
The level of analysis that takes place at the America’s Cup would be disastrous if applied to your lifestyle. However, it’s not impossible to track your progress. In fact, it’s relatively simple.
Track your Macros. Track your workouts. Track how you feel.
There are apps for that. I track everything on Fitocracy and I track many of my meals using My Fitness Pal. Using two different apps is a lot simpler than hiring a multi-billion dollar company to track your progress and make near-infinite adjustments to ensure success. That sounds like lunacy, doesn’t it?
I don’t think it is.
Our bodies are just as, if not more, complex than the AC-72’s that were whipping around San Francisco Bay this past month. We put more love and energy into our selves than those million dollar boats, yet we put far less thought into how we feel, what we eat, and how we train. We’re in the age of apps and analytics yet we live with assumptions.
Stop assuming. Start tracking. Start assessing. It’s the only way to accurately differentiate between modifications and changes that you know can work, and simply guessing and hoping for the best.
Congratulations to Oracle Team USA on defending the America’s Cup.