The journey to the final race of the America’s Cup is a multi-year effort, involving numerous rounds of contests, all of which are highly competitive and physically grueling endeavors. “When Argo Group set out to find a partner for the America’s Cup, we looked for someone with similar values: innovation, teamwork and sustainability,” says Gary Grose, group producer management and marketing leader. “Artemis Racing was a perfect fit.”
Artemis Racing is led by team manager Iain Percy, who has an impressive record of sailing success at the international level, which includes two Olympic gold medals and one silver medal. Besides his proven ability to win, Percy is also renowned as a charismatic, likeable and inspirational team leader. His leadership qualities will be put to the test as Percy leads Artemis Racing in competition against the current, and two-time, America’s Cup champion, Oracle Team USA.
Percy has also had to overcome the tragic death of his close friend, Andrew “Bart” Simpson. Simpson died four years ago when the 72-foot Artemis Racing catamaran that he, Percy and other crew members were aboard suddenly capsized and broke into pieces during a training session in 2013. Percy and Simpson had known each other since their childhoods in Great Britain, and had sailed together as crew members in many competitive races. As teammates, they won a gold medal at the 2008 Olympics and a silver medal at the 2012 Olympics.
For the 35th America’s Cup, the competitive differences between leading challengers like Artemis Racing and reigning champion Oracle Team USA will come down to critical factors like a crew’s training, sailing strategy and tactics, and, of course, a team’s management and leaders. Here are four of Percy’s leadership qualities that might give Artemis Racing a winning edge against its formidable competitors:
Percy is the rare athlete who can win at the highest levels of international competition, but is also well suited to be a successful team leader. Not only does he lead by example, as his Olympic medals amply prove, he is also a leader who is admired and respected by his teammates. As Paul Cayard, then-CEO of Artemis Racing, pointed out after Percy first joined the team in 2012: “He’s a winner, and he’s quickly become the center of gravity of the crew. He’s a natural leader; he’s very charismatic. He’s easygoing, but has the intensity needed to win.”
The road to victory is often fraught with unexpected problems, setbacks and defeats. The best athletes possess the grit needed to push these issues aside and keep advancing, with their focus on the final goal. Before the 2008 Olympics, for example, Percy and Simpson competed in the Star World Championships — and finished in 52nd place. Percy’s response? “We went into lockdown and said, ‘We’re not going home until we win this thing,’ ” he has recalled. And in the final Olympic race, they came from behind and beat Sweden, winning the gold medal for Britain.
Performing under pressure
To win in competitions like the America’s Cup, one needs to perform under pressure, with thousands or millions of people scrutinizing your every move. As Percy told the new members of the British Olympic team in 2012: “You are going to wake up on the first morning and think, ‘Oh, my God, it’s the Olympics.’ That is unavoidable.
“What is avoidable is letting that turn into a negative. You’ve got to expect that and almost welcome it because you are going to be nervous. But nerves don’t mean your performance will hurt … Nerves give us the intensity to push that little bit harder.”
Desire to win
After decades of competing, some athletes lose their passion. Not Percy. As he recently said in a Sailing World interview, “I still have an Olympic ethos — that focus — I want to win pretty badly when I’m doing something. Sailing for me has never been a job, it’s always been a passion. Artemis is lucky to have a whole team across all the nationalities who share that, and I think people feel that passion from me as well. We’re very focused on that end goal.”
For Percy, that end goal means winning the America’s Cup.