Two weeks before the start of the last ACWS event in Bermuda, Ainslie’s Land Rover BAR team has launched its eagerly awaited second development boat. But as Matthew Sheahan reports, with three boats now in the British team’s stable, it is easy to get confused with which boat is which.
A year after the launch of its first boat, Land Rover BAR has splashed their next development machine. T2, as she is called, follows on from their first boat T1 which was a heavily modified former AC45.
This new boat is a big step forward for the team and brings them into line with what Artemis and Oracle Team USA have been up to this year.
While T2 is around the same length as the previous boats, she is wider and significantly more powerful. But the most obvious difference from the outside at least, is that she has a cockpit for the crew and wheel steering for the helmsmen.
Yet underneath these key differences lie a whole host of new developments that the team is keen to keep under wraps.
Nevertheless, in broad terms one of the big steps forward aside from the continuing development of the foils themselves, is in the control systems that are becoming ever more complex and refined. Moving a, ‘highly loaded board the size of a wake board yet carrying the weight of a fully occupied London taxi’, as the team describes it, requires precise control. And while the marine industry has been used to hydraulics aboard racing boats for many decades, the speed and precision required to change the angle of attack of a Cup foil takes the technology requirements onto a new level all together.
The marine world had little, if anything, that would fit the bill. But the aerospace and automotive industries are used to such accurate yet heavily loaded movements, so in order to achieve this and avoid trying to reinvent the wheel, Ainslie’s team has drawn heavily from these industries.
Andy Claughton, who is Land Rover BAR’s Chief Technology Officer and two times America’s Cup winner with a lifetime of Cup experience behind him, is quite clear about how big a step forward the new technology represents.
“This is the most technologically advanced sailing boat I’ve ever been involved with,” he said. “It’s the vital next step on our path to developing the boat that will challenge for the America’s Cup, containing some of the most innovative and powerful technology ever used in this competition.”
“T2 is an extraordinary achievement; everyone on the design, engineering and shore teams have put everything they have got into this boat,” he said. “Power is nothing without control, and there has been no compromise in the pursuit of both. All of the sailing team are grateful and privileged to get the opportunity to test fly this unique craft.”
So while this might sound like the normal buoyant comments from a team that high hopes for is new steed, there is little doubt that this is indeed another big step forward for Cup technology, and not just for the Brits.
Oracle Team USA has said very little about what they are up to with their development programme as indeed has Artemis, yet both teams have been working on the complex systems that will shape the next Cup rather than focusing too much on ACWS events in what are now quite crude boats by comparison.
Artemis’ Iain Percy admitted to me a few weeks ago that this was one of the key reasons for their poor performance in the two ACWS series events in Portsmouth and Gothenburg. Switching from the complex Turbo, as they call it, to the more basic AC45f caused a few problems for the team.
Interestingly, with the Artemis experience in mind, the timing for Land Rover BAR’s new launch seems a little odd given that the team will be heading off to Bermuda to sail the AC45f in the last of the year’s ACWS events.
But the launch of Land Rover BAR’s new boat will also cause some confusion for those that are trying to keep up with the rapidly developing 35th Cup cycle. Ainslie’s team now has three boats and none of them will be used come the Cup, so what are they all for?
Here’s a quick summary.
AC45f – These boats are strict one designs used for the ACWS events. They were originally the AC45s from last time that were modified to fly on foils. The control systems are pretty basic using control lines and winches for most of the adjustments, apart from the raking of the dagger board which allows the angle of the attack of the horizontal part of the foil to be changed.
Dagger boards can only go up and down and fore and aft.
The boat is tiller steered and the crew have to hike and crew are limited to the number of days that they can practice aboard this boat.
T1 – This was the first development boat for Ainslie’s team. This was also based on an AC45 but with more sophisticated control systems for moving the dagger boards fore and aft, up and down. But the boards on this boat can be canted as well.
The crew have to hike and the boat is tiller steered.
T2 – Is Land Rover BAR’s second development boat designed to ramp up the technology in order to understand what they might need in the Cup boat proper. Wider, more powerful, wheel steered, cockpits and very sophisticated electro-hydraulic control systems take the development onto a new level. (This style has been referred to as the AC45 Turbo’s by Artemis and Oracle)
Cup Boats – These will be 50ft LOA, so slightly bigger than the previous boats and are expected to be significantly more powerful.
Teams aren’t allowed to launch their Cup boats proper until 150 days prior to the first scheduled race of the America’s Cup Qualifiers, (roughly speaking, the end of 2016), hence the focus on the development boats.
While there has been plenty of comment from some observers that the event will lack impact without the large 60 – 70 footers that had been planned, others believe that these boats will be as quick, if not quicker than those of the last Cup and certainly be more nimble which should help to create closer racing.
To draw an automotive parallel, the current development in Cup technology is a bit like the huge leap in power output over the last couple of decades for a 2.0 litre engine in everyday saloon cars.
Big doesn’t always mean better and over the next few months I wouldn’t be surprised to see boat speeds for the big teams take another significant hike.
The technology race continues.