Video: The History Of America’s Cup Foiling

May 7, 2017

Cutting-edge technology has been at the heart of the America’s Cup since its inception and this year’s sporting spectacle will be no different as teams go in search of any crucial advantage.

“The biggest revolution has come in the shape of the boats themselves with controversial yet innovative changes in recent years transforming the very essence of the Americas Cup Class beyond recognition,” the ACEA said.

“The Yacht America, the original winner of The America’s Cup in 1851 and the boat which gave its name to the trophy, was a 101 foot monohull schooner which had nearly 5,300sq ft of sail volume when sailing upwind.

“In races of the past, these monohulled yachts with traditional sails, cruised far from watching spectators at a somewhat pedestrian 17 miles per hour.

“In stark contrast is the America’s Cup Class [ACC] yachts, the almost 50ft long carbon fibre catamarans that will be raced in the 35th America’s Cup in Bermuda and which feature wingsails and hydrofoiling technology that enable the boats to ‘fly’ above the water.

“The impressive illusion is achieved by the boats being lifted above the water by a carbon fibre fin about the size of a surfboard – known as a foil and so as the boats speed up, they also lift up out of the water.

“Using lift generated by the winged daggerboards and rudders, the idea is to keep the hull off the water completely; sailing instead on a pair of inverted-L carbon-fiber foils that act as a lifting device.

“The result created, in contrast to the beautiful but slow boats of the America’s Cup’s past, is that today’s high-speed catamarans will ‘fly’ much closer to on-looking fans on Bermuda’s Great Sound and in the America’s Cup Village, at speeds reaching almost 50 knots [93kph], or, to put it into context – almost three times the speed of wind!

“‘Foiling’ technology is not new to sailing, in fact it has been around for decades, and it was introduced in the 34th America’s Cup by the New Zealand team, but now it is an integral part of the America’s Cup and a huge area of design and research focus for the teams.

“This year’s evolution has also seen another step forward in advancements with a key design priority focusing on computing power, and the use of stored energy to operate hydraulics that control the wingsail and foils.

“Another key change in modern-day America’s Cup racing is the use of rigid sails, again more akin to the wing of a jumbo jet passenger airliner aircraft.

“While [somewhat] traditional headsails are still part of a modern America’s Cup boat, the main source of propulsion is created by wingsails, in scientific terms, a “variable-camber aerodynamic structure” that has now replaced the more conventional soft sail, and something that would utterly bewilder a sailor from 1851.

“Back then, the sails were canvas, incredibly heavy, slow and ponderous to control or adapt and required hundreds of man hours to make and maintain. In addition, repairs or updates to sails took days, if not weeks, to effect, and the crews had to contend with a vast number of sails on board, all of which required huge amounts of people and time to put up, change or take down.

“Now, America’s Cup boats use wingsails which are similar to the wings seen on aeroplanes or F1 cars, with the main difference being that they are designed to provide lift on either side to accommodate boats sailing on either tack.

“The geometry of wingsails provides significantly more lift, and a better lift-to-drag ratio, than traditional sails, and they are infinitely more complex than conventional sails, but they also help to create incredible racing action.

“The revolutionary change, and that search for technological advances to further their performance levels this year, has led to competing teams entering into technical partnerships with companies specializing in aerospace technologies.

“Land Rover BAR has gained strong Formula One allies with Red Bull Advanced Technologies, headed by ten-time Formula 1 World Constructor’s Championship car designer Adrian Newey, as well as hiring Martin Whitmarsh, former CEO of McLaren Racing, as CEO.

“Meanwhile, Oracle Team USA has entered a technical partnership with Airbus, while Artemis Racing has allied with high performance engineering giant Cosworth, all helping to shape what promises to be an exhilarating and breath-taking high speed spectacle on the water this summer.”

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