Kristin Alumni – Team New Zealand
If you watched Emirates Team New Zealand’s Te Rehutai literally fly around the Hauraki Gulf last year, you’ll appreciate the breathtaking pace and engineering mastery that saw them take out the 36th America’s Cup.
Someone who knows more than most about making the boat go faster is Elise Beavis (Class of 2012), who is the Performance Engineer for Emirates Team NZ (ETNA). After graduating from Kristin, Elise completed a Bachelor of Engineering (Hons) from the University of Auckland, specialising in Engineering Science. Elise has worked with ETNZ since 2016 – and 2021 was her second successful America’s Cup campaign!
During her time at Kristin, Elise identified maths and science, specifically physics, as her strengths. However, it wasn’t until Year 12, when she attended a University of Auckland Engineering Science information evening, that she began to see how her strengths could be focused into a qualification that combined her academic strength with her sporting passion – sailing. “After the information evening I researched engineering degrees. On the Engineering Science page were some examples of problems that an engineering scientist may work to model and solve, one of which was around how to optimise a sail for light wind conditions. I was a passionate sailor but not athletically driven or competitive enough to be successful in pursuing the Olympic route. That suggestion of combining my sporting passion and academic strengths really made me commit to doing an Engineering Science degree,” says Elise.
Elise honed her ambitions further – deciding that her goal was to one day work for ETNZ. “At some stage I told my parents, who are neither engineers nor sailors but have some connections to the America’s Cup world through friends. Only recently I’ve learnt that after telling them my goal they discussed it, and both thought that I didn’t really have a chance of getting employed there. What they knew of the team was male dominated and much older and more experienced employees. Between them they decided not to say this to me and to let me have my goal.”
Following some University summer holiday work experience in the yachting industry, during the final year of her degree Elise contacted the head of the ETNZ design team. Thanks to her trademark drive and perseverance, at just 21 years old, Elise landed a role as an intern with ETNZ.
“It was a bit intimidating on my first day. I only knew the names of two people and everyone was in team uniform and obviously knew each other and what they were working on. I was given a pretty cool desk which had a window in front of it looking down from the design office to the boat shed so I could see what was going on, which was pretty inspiring,” she says.
Elise quickly proved herself as a valuable member of Team NZ, transitioning into a role focusing on crew and yacht aerodynamics working with 3D CAD as well as 3D printing, ultimately seeing her travel with the team to Bermuda for the successful 35th America’s Cup campaign.
Fast-forward to a few months ago and the 36th America’s Cup; Elise’s role has evolved to a position in the centre of the action, onboard ETNZ’s Chase Boat 1 during racing. “Being on Chase 1 we get all of the comms from on the yacht as well as the TV during the racing. This makes it pretty nerve-racking as you can’t do anything to help the yacht, but you hear (and possibly misinterpret!) comms from on the yacht which may be suggesting an issue.”
Once again Elise powered up her academic strengths and her sporting passion to help ETNZ bring home the cup: “Towards the end of the campaign I was looking at the performance of the yacht (statistics) and watching the wind triangle (trigonometry and vectors). Earlier in the campaign I looked at wind probability distributions, used calculus for all sorts of things and fitted 2D curves or higher-order surfaces to data.”
Elise was right on hand to join her fellow team-mates at the iconic moment when the America’s Cup was once again New Zealand’s Cup: “Being on Chase 1 put me as close to the action as possible, which meant I was quickly pushed up onto the yacht when the America’s Cup winning champagne began being sprayed. Winning at home with what seemed like half of Auckland out on the water and then a whole lot more spectators waiting to greet us along the wharves was really very special,” she says.
Reflecting on her time at Kristin and her pathway to ETNZ and ultimately America’s Cup success, Elise credits the IB programme for developing her critical thinking skills: “The IB programme (including right back to PYP in Junior School) taught us how to research both online and in books. Knowing how to question critically whether a source is reliable is very important in academia, work and day-to-day life.”
Elise has some sage advice for students: “Challenge yourself at school because the further ahead you can be, the easier it is later and there will be more opportunities available to you. Encourage friends and family to pursue their goals and try to come up with goals which combine your strengths and passions. If you have lofty goals, go for it! And, more importantly, don’t talk down anyone else’s goals.”