Cameron Welter, one of the youngest members of our team, has a fresh perspective. Here he shares how the history of sailing technology and the advancements that have been made today, reframed for him what can be considered ‘impossible.’
As a millennial, I’ve grown up amidst incredible technological change and innovation. That being said, if you had told me about the iPhone 5S 10 years ago, I would have told you “that’s impossible!” (In 2004, the coolest feature on my flip phone was a mirror on the outside of it.) And that’s just one example of how quickly the world is changing. In my short life, a number of things I deemed “impossible” have actually happened. Now, I see the power others harness when they refuse to use this word.
If you haven’t seen the ORACLE Team USA’s “Fun on Foils” video before, you will only need to watch the first 30 seconds to understand what I’m talking about.
The boats used during the 2013 America’s Cup are like nothing I have ever seen – at least outside of a George Lucas movie. As this new generation of boats gets up to speed (using a sail that mimics an airplane wing no less), the boat lifts off the water on a set of stilt-like apparatuses called hydrofoils and accelerates to speeds near 50 MPH.
For those of you unfamiliar, the America’s Cup is a yacht race that originated in 1851, pitting Great Britain’s Royal Yacht Squadron against the New York Yacht Club. Since then, it’s evolved into the yachting community’s equivalent of the World Cup, attracting the world’s most prestigious yacht clubs, the finest sailors and designers, and the business elite like Sir Thomas Lipton and even Oracle CEO Larry Ellison for funding and team management.
Each America’s Cup involves very carefully defined parameters for the boats used, parameters that change each competition as newer technologies become available. This year, teams reportedly spent upwards of $50 million researching, designing, and building their crafts, a model called the AC-72. The result? Speed. Lots of speed. Almost impossibly, these boats can move more than twice as fast as the speed of the wind propelling them.
Even more incredibly, the top speed of the AC-72 is about twice as fast as the boats used in the 2010 contest, which in turn was significantly faster than previous vessels. In fact, if you were to map out the top speeds of the different boat models used since the very first race in 1851, you would see that the top speeds are increasing at an exponential rate.
But what does all this mean for you? It means everything. In the face of increasing competition in nearly every industry and market, there are some incredibly important lessons we can learn about what it takes to win today:
• If you think something is an insurmountable barrier – it probably isn’t. You just haven’t found the right solution to the problem. In 1851, you probably would have been laughed at if you suggested a boat could move twice as fast as the speed of wind. In 2014, not only is it possible, it’s what is required to win.
• What wins today is not good enough for tomorrow in this constantly accelerating world. If you aren’t willing to adapt, you will be left in the dust. If you aren’t constantly looking to better yourself, your company, and your product with the latest technology, you will lose to someone who will, making you the next Blockbuster or Polaroid.
• Impossible is outdated. Gone are the days when we can be content with the status quo. Companies are born and die each day. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezosdreams of delivering your packages with drones in less than 30 minutes; Elon Musk wants you to travel from Los Angeles to San Francisco in less than an hour. Impossible? They don’t think so.
As for the AC-72? By the time the next America’s Cup rolls around, there will probably be a new innovation that makes this boat utterly obsolete. These days, anyone who claims we have maxed out our potential in anything, from boat speeds to mass transit to product delivery, will be on the wrong side of history. These are very exciting times to be alive – anything is possible.