How Did They Engineer It?

Prime Ministers, Mayors and Ordinary Bears – we are all basking in the stunning win in Bermuda. Taking ownership in fact, despite our complete disengagement for four years.

In the deluge of post-win verbiage, we learn of the areas where a victorious team must excel – management, fundraising, planning, design engineering, construction, support, crew skills, etc. All must be world class. Like any venture taking on the world.

The regatta’s audio commentary was well done – informative, balanced and frank. Ken Read told us frequently that the other competencies were subordinate to the main factor – in the America’s Cup, the fastest boat always wins.

So to my question – how did a New Zealand enterprise out-design, out-engineer and out-build the world’s best to create the fastest boat? How did we assemble a team possessing such advanced skills and thinking – in yacht architecture, design, mechanical engineering, hydraulics, flow, hard materials, control systems, composites, fabrication and testing.

We ought not to be the best!

  • The Number Eight Wire fable is passé;
  • Unlike the Northern Europeans, we do not have an affirmative culture of engineering and technology professionalism throughout secondary and tertiary schooling. E.g. the Germans have a recognized and high status pathway through Hauptschule to Technische Universitat or Fachhochschule;
  • We are unimpressive on PISA scores in science and maths, slowly slipping down the charts;
  • We struggle to escalate our STEM graduate numbers because we cannot find enough Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths teachers;
  • Our only world class Engineering and Technology school is Auckland, ranked at 68th of Top Universities, behind six Australian universities and many American, British, European and Chinese ones;
  • The Productivity Commission reckons our universities are not helping our economic performance enough – the Commissioners’ recent trip to Switzerland confirmed their view;
  • Our Immigration Skills Shortage Lists feature all types of Engineers and Technicians as both Immediate and Long-term Shortages;

The only evidence I can find to support a view that we are world class in Higher Education and Training is the Global Competitiveness Report, which ranks us 10th in this determinant.

Observable evidence of our real shortcomings in Engineering and Technology is all around us – uncompetitive building construction, snail’s pace civil engineering, project management and quantity survey failures by leading companies, building railway stations without exits, the Kiwirail ferry saga. The biggest snafu though is surely the leaky building debacle. $30 billion and counting!

So I ask: – How on Earth did we manage to build the fastest cat?

I would be delighted if you would blog your view,

An Old Yachtie