Big Win for Iterative Development

September 26, 2013

Team Oracle won the America’s Cup [yacht] race for America in one of those thrilling close victories that only come along once in a quarter century. Read about it here and here. They were down 8 to 1 in September, and the Kiwis (New Zealand’s Emirates team) were looking unstoppable, with only one win needed to clinch the Cup. These huge double hull catamarans are a sight to see. Thirteen stories tall, racing at speeds up to 50 mph. I had the privilege of seeing them compete in Newport, RI as a kid, and my dad worked downstairs from one of the American design teams for a few years, so I got to meet them and see their design facility.

So why was this a victory for iterative development? Oracle beat the Kiwis not by shear guts and never giving up and all that glorious stuff. They beat them by specific, iterative modifications to the boat to improve its performance on the upwind legs of each race, which is where their cat was lagging. They beat them by changing team members to get the right composition to beat an extremely experienced and coordinated New Zealand team. Build it, race it, measure it, improve it, race again. Sound familiar? Congrats to the Oracle team for a job well done!