America’s Cup – What does a Performance Coach do? Oracle’s tells
This week, Kiwis have been hearing a lot about the role of a Performance Analyst and Coach, with Emirates Team NZ claiming that the function will be vital to their success in the 2017 America’s Cup.
Philippe Presti, a top Match Racer, Olympian and Finn Gold Cup winner was in that role for Oracle Team USA in the last America’s Cup, and those on the water would always notice that the Performance Coach’s boat was always the first alongside at the end of each race, with Presti and others being the first aboard USA-17 to make a point to the individual crew.
In this story published last September, in Sailing World magazine, Presti describes what a Performance Coach does and how they were able to effect the catch-up on Emirates Team New Zealand during the final half of the 34th America’s Cup Match.
What is the most important skill set that you bring to a campaign?[Laughing] You need to ask Jimmy [Spithill, OTUSA skipper]. I am a sailor, but I am not on the boat. I can offer an objective perspective and give the team more information that they otherwise would not have. I bring something extra from the outside. It is important that I am a sailor and have experience driving America’s Cup boats. I know the pitch and the feeling and what they are going through. I also didn’t need to keep Jimmy focused. In fact, you have to even distract him from the target sometimes [laughing]. There was never a single moment when I thought that he wasn’t focused.
How would you describe your coaching style?
A lot of my coaching is based on a playbook, which we developed for the smaller AC45 as well as the AC72 boats. What I like to do is to study a video of different scenarios, whether when training or during a race. From there, I draw a sketch with a software program I use and add it the playbook. It is sort of like a tree: There is a problem, and for each scenario, there are different options to solve the problem. It is a very collaborative effort. The team analyzes the situation and decides what the best options are. It is a brainstorming process. The most important people in the process are the sailors who ultimately make the choices.
We have four large screens connected to a PC that stores our database. Sometimes we have five cameras on the water, which are synchronized with the data, totaling 200 gigabytes per hour of sailing. There are 300 sensors on the boat that generate 30,000 data points per second. The heard rate of grinders, the turn rate of the winch, and the ratio of the bow to the stern are just a few of the data points collected. As a coach, I have to connect all of the pieces of information together and extract the most important things from the huge database. I look at the pitch of the board at a certain moment. If the pitch is wrong, I look at a graph of the pressure to analyze, for example, what valve was open and when it should have been closed. My goal is to analyze all of this information and make it useful for the next morning.
by Richard Gladwell