The British team who are plotting to win sailing’s most coveted trophy are on cloud nine.
They believe they may already have designed the boat that can win the 36th America's Cup. But with the race scheduled for March 2021, it is still too early to say and they know there is no room for complacency.
"When we get to the race, we have to know that the team we have and the boat we have, cannot be built any better," said Sir Ben Ainslie, skipper and team principal of INEOS Team UK.
David Carr, one of the sailors, said the team had now entered a new age of America’s Cup racing. “We are no longer floating,” he said. “We are flying.”
The aim is to get their boat up in the air and out of the water for one simple reason. “Pushing a boat through water is harder than pushing it through air,” he said.
Once airborne, the new AC75 boat can travel at 60mph – about four times faster than the speed of the wind.
The boat will be relying on the same technology as an aircraft, using hydrofoils instead of wings to lift it out of the water. The secret is in the shape.
“It is such a unique class of boat we are designing and it is a really big technical challenge,” said CEO Grant Simmer, who has won The America’s Cup four times.
“We are really heading into unknown territory with this class of boat.”
To test what will, what won’t and what might work, INEOS Team UK designed a 28ft boat, known as T5.
“The great thing about the T5 was that we launched it really early so we have been able to learn a lot and quickly about this new style of boat,” said Grant. “And because it is a relatively small scale boat, we have been able to do things fairly economically.”
Ben said the actual race boat would be unlike anything the world had ever seen before.
“Every decision we make will really push the boundaries of innovation,” he said. “But we are not just building a boat. We are building a team.”
That team of sailors is now complete. The 17 athletes are made up of ‘afterguards’ and ‘grinders’. The afterguards’ role is technical; they are not needed to power the boat.
As such, they need to be lean and light – and watch their weight. The grinders are effectively the engines. They get to eat. A lot.
Ben Williams, head of human performance, said the importance of recovery after arduous training sessions had also changed to reflect the new roles in the boat.
The squad was recently issued with top of the range Specialized road bikes by INEOS Chairman Jim Ratcliffe, who is a keen cyclist himself.
“Sitting on a bike in a gym can be quite monotonous and boring, so having access to a road bike where they can have a bit of fun and be out in the fresh air, is great,” said Ben. “The only difference is the grinders get to eat cake at the coffee stop.”
Disadvantaged children are being given the chance to learn to sail for the first time – thanks to INEOS.
The 1851 Trust, the official charity of INEOS Team UK, has been funding 10-week courses across the UK for children from inner-city schools.
The Trust has also been helping to bring science and technology to life in the classrooms and has launched a free, digital education programme for 11 to 16-year-olds.