The British challenger for The America’s Cup looks to the past as it endeavours to shape the future
ELEANOR Roosevelt said the future belonged to those who believed in the beauty of their dreams.
At INEOS TEAM UK’s base in Portsmouth, those dreams – sketched out on paper about 18 months ago – have just become a reality.
INEOS’ involvement in The America’s Cup challenge was always going to produce something spectacular. And it has. In the shape of a futuristic racing yacht that can ‘fly’. “This is unlike anything ever seen on the water before,” said Chief Designer Nick Holroyd.
The boat, with its torpedo-style hull, has been christened Britannia in memory of the Royal Family’s famous racing yacht which notched up an enviable 231 wins during its lifetime. Back then, Britannia, built for King Edward in 1893, really did rule the waves. The INEOS boat – the team’s first – was officially unveiled in October.
Sir Ben Ainslie, who hopes to lead the first-ever British team to victory in The America’s Cup 168-year history, spoke before INEOS Founder Sir Jim Ratcliffe and his daughter Julia named her Britannia.
“I am biased of course but I think Britannia is a wonderful acknowledgement of our maritime history,” said Ben.
The 75ft AC75 is now being put through its paces on the waters of the Solent, the strait that separates the Isle of Wight from mainland England. It then moves to Italy to make best use of the winter wind and weather off the coast of Sardinia. How it performs at sea will determine what changes are made to the second boat, which will be launched in February 2020.
“This is a really critical period in the campaign,” said Ben. “The learnings will go into our second race boat and into the America’s Cup itself in 2021.”
Despite many attempts, no British crew has ever managed to land sailing’s most coveted trophy. “The quest to win has required a fresh approach, a new strategy and serious support from INEOS to focus entirely on the mission in hand,” said Ben.
The first opportunity the British team will get to test their design against their four main rivals will be in Cagliari, Sardinia, in April 2020, when all the yachts will compete in the first of the America’s Cup World Series races. The 2021 America’s Cup Match itself will be contested in March 2021.
Although the team has “a reasonable idea” of what to expect from its AC75, thanks to simulators which the design and sailing team use ashore, the dynamics are hard to predict.
“They are likely to present new challenges to the sailors,” said Ben.
Lessons are already being learned by the crew who will be bidding to rewrite history in 2021. Exactly what, is being kept under wraps, but the design of the INEOS Team UK’s second boat will be refined.
“We already know many things we would do differently for our second boat,” said CEO Grant Simmer.
The clock has now really started ticking for all teams, who are due to compete for the coveted America’s Cup.
Grant said Sir Ben Ainslie’s British crew wanted to launch a test boat early.
“Our first test boat T5 was really good because it gave us a programme and project to work on early in the campaign,” he said.
“It was good getting the shore team and sailing team together and getting some systems in place. We learnt from just getting out and sailing a boat in this configuration.”
Their aim now is to maximise their time on the water with their first AC75 ‘Britannia’ and study the designs of the other teams’ boats.
“Those two areas will lead to the design of our second AC75,” he said.
One boat they were not able to study performing on the water until very recently was Emirates Team New Zealand as they didn’t build a test boat, and instead launched straight into their AC75 programme.
“Since the last Cup they’ve relied a lot on their simulator - like all the other teams – but I don’t think their strategy was that risky,” said Grant.
Grant said New Zealand’s deck layout was very simple with a strong emphasis on energy production. But with potential speeds reaching above 50 knots, the competition is wide open.
“We could very easily see failures because these boats are very light and can capsize,” he said. “A major structural problem close to the cup could definitely lose it for anyone.”
Construction hours: 50,000 +
Design hours: 90,000 +
CNC Machine hours: 45,000+
Individual parts: 25,000
Estimated top speed: 50knots /57.5mph /92.6km/h
Length: 22.76m with bowsprit (20.7m without)
Max Beam: 5m beam
Weight: 6,450 tonnes
Hull and rig construction: Carbon fibre
Rig: Double-skinned soft-wingsail
Crew weight: Max 990kg