It was the greatest comeback, a moment in sailing history, when the US Oracle team fought back from the brink of defeat to beat the New Zealand boat by 44 seconds in the final race of the America’s Cup in September 2013.
Ben Ainslie was recruited as a replacement tactician. He saw his role as a ‘chess master’ charged with anticipating what the other boat would do. He had to ‘read the wind’ and be responsible for all boat-on-boat manoeuvres. His decision-making was flawless.
In the 2016/17 America’s Cup series, Ainslie fulfilled a lifelong dream to participate in the race in a British built boat with a British Crew. Hence the establishment of Land Rover Bar.
Before the series started, Ainslie gave an interview to a business publication. He was asked what qualities of leadership he thought he had to take on this enormous challenge. “One of my greatest challenges was to change my mindset. Up till now he had sailed singlehanded and lived or died by his own efforts. “Leading Land Rover Bar, you are only as good as your team ‘s performance. I had to learn to delegate and give key people clearly defined areas of responsibility.“
Communication skills are essential. Instructions have to be clear and concise. Angry and aggressive exchanges in stressful circumstances achieves little, causes resentment, and, thus, morale suffers.
Ainslie said he was always fully prepared for any eventuality. He consulted widely when preparing draft plans. “Discussions help to build a strong cohesive team, one in which everyone has the same vision and strives for the same goal. However, when the chips are down, you have to take full responsibility for your plan.”
“A leader must show confidence at all times, even when your back is to the wall.” Ainslie radiates positivity. He holds to the belief that they can do it. He is calm, knowledgeable, authoritative and inspirational.
What forges the men of character is often adversity in earlier life. He was bullied through childhood, but his fiercely competitive nature led to Olympic success and helped build up self confidence and disguised his essentially introverted nature.
Asked what would he do If the project failed, “I’m determined to get the cup to Britain. If it doesn’t happen this time and doesn’t happen the next, well, we are going to keep going till we do” — and he will.