Dan Bernasconi's name is on the award given in honour of a legendary late motorcycle designer.

But the Team New Zealand design boss accepted the John Britten Black Pin last night on behalf of two dozen others.

They're the members of the design team that worked together to help carry Aotearoa, and the dreams of a country, over the finish line more times that rival Oracle in this year's America's Cup.

Bernasconi was feted at the Best Design Awards, organised by the Designers Institute of New Zealand, and joins include former Apple designer Danny Coster, Fisher & Paykel's Gary Paykel and Nike designer Matt Holmes in receiving the award.


The pin celebrates an individual who has achieved significant success in the field of design both nationally and internationally. It's named for the man who created the Britten Motorcycle Company to build self-designed machines made of light materials.

It's an honour, but not one he alone can accept, Bernasconi told the Herald.

"As designers we're all happy that the sailors get most of the limelight. Most of us are a little bit reclusive. We're happier in front of a computer than a camera. But for sure it's great that the design team gets recognised now and again and on their behalf I'm really honoured to receive that award."

Team New Zealand's design triumph wasn't the work of "one big name designer with lots of juniors just dotting the i's and crossing the t's," he said.

"It's a really mixed team bringing together a lot of people with expertise in a lot of areas. A lot of those guys are at the top of their field. There's no one person at all that could've got anywhere close to where we got to without the contributions of the team."

Team New Zealand design boss Dan Bernasconi is the latest recipient of the John Britten Black Pin. Photo / Tom Hollow
Team New Zealand design boss Dan Bernasconi is the latest recipient of the John Britten Black Pin. Photo / Tom Hollow

A key in the design team's, and therefore the entire team's, triumph was the use of a sailing simulator.

"We struggled for funding at beginning of the campaign so we were not able to build multiple iterations of test boats say 'go and go try it on the water', which is always what sailors are keen to do," Bernasconi said.

"We didn't have that luxury, but to me that was almost a benefit ... it meant we could really work more on the academic and technical side of it without having to devote a lot of resource to the nitty gritty of getting drawings out, getting parts built and getting tested."

Other teams had previously tried simulation, but he did not believe their sailors had embraced it to the same degree as Team New Zealand's sailors, Bernasconi said.

The result was a big surprise for rival teams when Team New Zealand eventually made it onto the water.

"Probably the other teams, when we finally got on the water,[were] expecting us to be playing catch up. But I think when we launched we were almost ahead of the other teams in terms of our foil development."