The America's Cup: it's more than a race, it's a tech showcase, says Ian Taylor

  • Innovation/Design
  • September 19, 2013
  • StopPress Team
The America's Cup: it's more than a race, it's a tech showcase, says Ian Taylor
Image via maoritv.co.nz

Dunedin-based company Animation Research Limited is behind the amazing on-screen graphics and very popular mobile apps for the America's Cup and while the chatter about the event is mostly positive, its chief executive Ian Taylor has penned a strongly worded missive saying that certain media commentators, politicians and, by extension, the general public are missing the point of the America's Cup. 

As evidenced by the ratings, there's no doubt a large number of Kiwis are excited about the possibility of Emirates Team New Zealand bringing the cup back (with the added sweetener of beating a team with a lot more capital at its disposal), but Taylor believes it's about more than winning, it's about showcasing New Zealand as a technological centre of excellence. And he was compelled to put that into words after an interview on Radio New Zealand with what he called "two ignorant, dismissive commentators on a fully tax payer funded radio station". 

As he wrote:

Hi everyone from San Francisco. 

As our time on the Board/advisory group is drawing to a close I thought I might share a couple of things with you from up here in SF. 

As everyone starts to get excited about the potential for ETNZ to bring the Cup home (and I know it is still early days) I believe most in the country, including our ministry charged with Innovation, Design and, dare I say it, Science has missed the whole point of what is happening here. This is not a story about a boat race. This is a story of world class, world leading technology, innovation, engineering and design. This is the story that should be be being told - win or lose on the water this team has been a shining example, an eye opener, on what we are capable of. And as Lord Ernest Rutherford said: "We haven't got the money so we have to think." That should be our mantra. In a place like this, next door to Silicon Valley, he should have been our talisman.

We aren't winning this race solely because of our sailors. We are winning it because of innovation on board the boat that not even Oracle had thought of. A leading edge to the wing that can be twisted to optimise wind flow across the sail. A self setting gyb that gains the crew critical seconds in tacks and gybes and a fibre optic network on board that fires updated data to screens around the boat all built in a container on Pier 32 by 3 guys. One of them an American genius attracted to live in New Zealand because of the culture of this team and the beauty of our country. Check out the engineers setting this boat up every morning - not a spanner in sight - all hand held tablets. And we bemoan the $36 million investment made in this technology company called ETNZ!

As proponents of a Ministry charged with promoting our country as a leader in innovation, technology and smart thinking we should be shouting this from the roof tops. Instead our PM says we haven't achieved anything unless we win this thing. We shoudn't even be here but we are. And yesterday you saw the panic that this technology has put into Oracle Team US. 

What has brought me to this is an interview I did last night with two ignorant, dismissive commentators on a fully tax payer funded radio station [starts at 15.55]. 
 

Taylor also mentioned a clip created by Animation Research called, 'Kia Kaha San Francisco', which is "presented as a gift from a Nation Born of Sailors to the Best Sailors in the World; all four crews that have taken part in the Louis Vuitton Challengers Series and the current America's Cup Challenge... and to the people of San Francisco."

Some background on this. We sought funding to produce because we thought it was an important story to tell in the context of the Cup and our history as a Nation of Sailors. No one would fund it so we made it anyway.

Two guys from Google saw it at the waka two days ago and suggested we put it on YouTube. We did. As at this stage it has had over 16,000 views, it has been picked up by Louis Vuitton for their guests, Emirates has requested a copy to show on their planes, it has been Facebooked all around the globe and the Warehouse and Noel Leeming chains are now screening it in their store around the country. It is being used to open hosted evenings in the Waka and the official AC Park big screen has requested a copy and, what is most heartening, everyone has identified the fact that no other country or billionaire involved in the America's Cup could tell a story as powerful as this. An unbroken line of design, engineering, technology, seamanship and navigation from our Maori ancestors who sailed the Pacific to Aotearoa to this hi tech flying machine called Aotearoa, representing us so superbly on the waters off San Francisco Bay.

There are times I feel ashamed at the way we treat our real innovators. This is one of them.

In an email exchange with Peter Townsend from the Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce, Taylor said one of the commentators had called to apologise. 

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