Only time will tell whether history is made this year. But everyone on INEOS TEAM UK, down to the man who has to weigh every nut and bolt, is focused on bringing home sailing’s greatest prize for the first time – and ending 170 years of hurt for Britain. “Until we have won it, we haven’t achieved our goal,” said skipper Sir Ben Ainslie.
As INCH went to press, the INEOS team, though, were literally flying after a shaky pre-Christmas start to their America’s Cup campaign.
During the warm-up races in December, the team struggled with technical issues and lost every race.
But changes have since been made to the boat – and the team haven’t looked back since, winning all of their races to qualify for the Prada Cup Final.
“The last race was a pretty awesome one and great to take part in with lots of lead changes,” said Ben.
In the Prada Cup Final, which will decide which team faces the defending champions, INEOS will race Luna Rossa
Ben, a four-time Olympic gold medallist, though, says it is still early days.
“We have got to keep pushing because the team that pushes the hardest will win,” he said.
“But we have a huge amount of experience. Getting round the course first, fast and safely is what matters.”
The team has been – and is – working in partnership with Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team, who have dominated the world of Formula One racing in recent years.
Mercedes F1 added another dimension to the INEOS team’s race to design and build the perfect AC75 raceboat and, in doing so, took sailing to a place it has never been before.
Up to 30 of Mercedes’ applied science team, led by director Graham Miller, have manufactured some of the most sophisticated technology ever seen in The America’s Cup.
“The attention to detail at Mercedes F1 is phenomenal,” said Nick Holroyd, Chief Designer INEOS TEAM UK. “They have given us a leg-up. They have taken the underpinnings of what we started and added a layer of sophistication and detail to it. They have brought exactness to our campaign.”
That exactness can be seen first hand in the foil wings which have been manufactured at Mercedes F1’s Brackley factory in the UK.
“What we have been able to bring to the table is horsepower,” said Graham. “INEOS is a very capable team and one of the strengths of the F1 team is that it has a lot of capability built up over a number of years. We really have been able to blend with INEOS and help them turn their ambition into reality.”
The Brackley team have also used their F1 know-how to help the INEOS team develop and implement innovations in engineering, human science, simulation and data analysis.
While F1 drivers are in direct contact with the ‘pit wall’ – a place where all strategic decisions are made by backroom staff during a race – such a concept was almost unheard of in the world of sailing. Until now.
During training, a 750-horsepower RIB raced alongside Britannia.
Onboard the RIB was a team of designers and engineers working with some of the most advanced technology in world sport.
For onboard Britannia, and mostly invisible to the naked eye, are about 1,000 sensors feeding over one million bits of data back to the design team every single day.
Everything is monitored and analysed – from the sailors’ heart rates to the speed of the wind.
Some of that data is monitored live to ensure the crew’s safety while out on the water.
During training most of the data was analysed by the entire design and sailing team the following day.
Britannia is significantly different to the team’s first race boat, with noticeable changes to the carbon fibre hull and deck layout. Each of the grinders now has his own individual forward-facing fixed position.
“The biggest change, though, is simply that the fundamental capabilities of our design group have evolved immeasurably over the past two years,” said Nick.
Britannia is made up of about 17,300 individual parts, which were all tested and weighed before they went on the boat.
“There’s no doubt that controlling weight effectively is a critical part of winning The America’s Cup,” said Ben.
According to the rules – set by the current cup holders Team Emirates New Zealand – each boat must not weigh more than 6520kg.
“There is no give or take,” said Ben.
At INEOS TEAM UK, it has been naval architect Alan Boot’s job to monitor the weight of the boat.
His job was to record everything that went on board, from the bolts on the instrument displays to the drive rain assembly, and flag up any potential problems.
To help cut down on the crew’s weight, the wing trimmer, the pilot and Ben all shed a few pounds.
“It’s the grinders we wanted to be as heavy as they possibly could be to maximise the power output,” said Ben.
With the Prada Cup Final now within sight, Ben and his team remain focused on winning that.
For it is the winner of that trophy who will take on the mighty New Zealanders in The America’s Cup in March.
The America’s Cup is the only major international sporting trophy that Britain has failed to win.
For all the latest news about INEOS TEAM UK’s America’s Cup campaign visit: ineosteamuk.com
Britannia has changed significantly from the team’s first race The AC75 cannot weigh more than 6,520kg without the sails and crew.
The 11 crewmen must not weigh more than 990 kg and are allowed a total of 55 kg of personal equipment, including wet suits, shoes, life jackets, radios, headsets and any food and water.
It took 90,000 + hours to design – the equivalent of about 10 years.
Britannia is made up of 17,300 individual parts. Each one is weighed before it goes aboard.
The wing foils were made at Mercedes F1’s headquarters in the UK and enable Britannia to fly.
A Spaniard, who has navigated some of the world’s most difficult oceans, is the team’s weatherman. Juan Vila regularly briefs the team about the weather so they can plan ahead – and know what to expect.
It took 50,000 +
hours to build.
There are about 1,000 sensors feeding over one million bits of data back to the design team every single day.
British company Papercast has designed and built a bespoke, lightweight, waterproof and robust unit that feeds real-time information to enable the team to keep the unstable boat flying flat and fast. The live data is streamed around the boat because every milli-second counts. All of the crew’s decisions are based on the information they can see in front of them.
Elaine does the honours
A retired head teacher, who has helped to inspire millions of children around the world to be active for 15 minutes every day and enjoy the great outdoors, is Britannia’s Godmother. Elaine Wyllie joins an impressive line-up of ships’ Godmothers including legendary Hollywood actresses Whoopi Goldberg, Helen Mirren, Julie Andrews and Sophia Loren.
INEOS TEAM UK had hoped The Queen might do the honours, given that Britannia is named in honour of her great grandfather’s racing cutter.
But due to COVID-19, she has been unable to take on any more engagements.
“I think it’s absolutely incredible to be the second choice after the Queen,” said Elaine, who founded The Daily Mile. “In fact, it makes it even more of an honour.”
Elaine, who was awarded an MBE by the Queen in 2019, will not be in New Zealand to watch the crew race but planned to savour every minute of every race – on television.
“Britannia will be in my thoughts and I will be glued to the TV,” she said. “As well as being a magnificent feat of engineering, she is absolutely beautiful and I am very proud of her and her crew.”
The original Britannia racing cutter – built for King Edward VII – enjoyed huge success, winning 231 races.
In her final years, she was raced by King George V.
His dying wish was for Britannia to follow him to his grave.
When he died in 1936, Britannia was towed out to St Catherine’s Deep off the Isle of Wight and scuttled by the Royal Navy in the same waters where the first America’s Cup was raced in 1851.