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Land Rover sailing to success to create fastest America’s Cup boat

PUBLISHED: 14:18 13 March 2016


The LandRover BAR America's Cup T2 boat.

The LandRover BAR America's Cup T2 boat.

Lloyd Images

Land Rover is riding the crest of a wave with British sailing legend Sir Ben Ainslie in a bid to create the fastest America’s Cup boat.

Land Rover, best known for its go-anywhere off-road ability, has taken to the high seas to help create the fastest America’s Cup boat with Land Rover BAR (Ben Ainslie Racing).

Typically shrouded in secrecy by the teams racing to win the America’s Cup, it revealed the technical areas of collaboration currently in development before it got off to a winning start at the first 2016 event of the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series in Oman, Muscat.

Land Rover is applying its design, technology and innovation expertise to the America’s Cup Class boat, a multihull catamaran code-named ‘R1’.

The boat, weighing more than two tonnes, will be capable of speeds in excess of 50 knots thanks to a technique known as foiling where the boat lifts clear out of the water to fly on hydrofoils, reducing drag and increasing boat speed and efficiency.

With less than 11 months until the launch, the Land Rover Advanced Engineering team has been working in collaboration with Land Rover BAR’s designers and engineers, developing a series of prototype test boats. The results of the development process will be applied to designing the world’s fastest America’s Cup Class boat.

Tony Harper, head of research at Jaguar Land Rover, said: “Since the birth of foiling, one of the biggest challenges is understanding how to control these massively-powerful machines while balancing on a comparatively small surface area.

“We have delved into our talent base at Jaguar Land Rover to identify the most skilled engineers within the fields of aerodynamics, machine learning and advanced data processing which are an integral part of the workstreams with Land Rover BAR. The ocean is new terrain for us and we plan to apply our findings into the final boat design across the next 11 months and ultimately back into our own research and development units.”

The first key area of collaboration and development sees Land Rover focused on the development of the wing, a 78.6ft carbon fibre ‘hard’ sail the size of a Boeing 737 aeroplane wing. It provides the boat’s only source of thrust. By linking computational fluid dynamics (CFD) and finite element analysis (FEA) technology – programs integral to Land Rover product development – the team is able to analyse complex aerodynamics to increase boat speed.

Land Rover is also making its enormous data processing ability and advanced machine learning expertise available to the team, to help optimise the performance of the boat through identifying trends in the sailing data.

Martin Whitmarsh, Land Rover BAR chief executive officer, said: “I think people will be surprised at the rate of improvement spanning the four years between each America’s Cup.

“This is Formula 1 on water and, just like F1, traditional methods of engineering and design don’t cut it anymore. The boats are getting quicker, not just in terms of their top speed but also in terms of their acceleration and ability to change direction. We need to not just keep up with, but beat the competition and this is why we need Land Rover to tap into their vast engineering expertise and available testing tools.

“We are only at the starting line and there is a long way to go but we are making great strides and I can’t wait to see the results over the next year.”

Under the current America’s Cup ruling, the boat cannot hold any stored power so all power generated must come from a combination of the the wing and sailing team, commanding peak levels of fitness during the racing period. Land Rover’s expertise in the field of human/machine interface technologies (HMI) will be used to develop displays and controls to ensure optimum use of the available power.

Sir Ben Ainslie, Land Rover BAR team principal and skipper, said: “Ultimately this race needs to be won on both land and water. The America’s Cup is the pinnacle of sailing. It requires the finest sailors in the world and the best team but, importantly, every team is searching for marginal gains from design and technology expertise to create the fastest boat.

“The biggest challenges for us are the aerodynamics, given most of the boat is out of the water, optimising the boat’s power supply and understanding the control systems through data analysis. The competition is intense and races have regularly been won by a matter of seconds and that’s why having Land Rover involved in this project will help give us an advantage.”

Despite a race weekend in Oman, Muscatof light winds, penalty starts and a collision, Land Rover BAR’s fast boat speed and good tactical decisions allowed it, in true British style, to recover from the brink to win the first Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series regatta.

The British Challenger is the only team to have won two of the four regattas in the America’s Cup World Series, since the series launched at the team’s home town, Portsmouth, in June. The 76 points secured in Oman halves the gap with Emirates Team New Zealand in the overall rankings and the team now sits just one point behind Oracle Team USA – in third place with 185 points.

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