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Shirley Robertson Podcast: America’s Cup designers

America's Cup

This edition of Shirley Robertson’s Sailing Podcast this month takes a departure from the norm to talk to the design chiefs of each of the four America’s Cup teams.

Each team hoping to win the 36th America’s Cup is currently halfway through a lengthy design process, and with the clock ticking, they are all focusing on the design and build of what they hope will be the fastest racing monohull ever sailed.

The end result of each team’s endeavours will be a seventy five foot long foiling monohull, powered by an innovative double skinned mainsail. The boats will be unique, like nothing the sailing world has ever seen. They will be capable of speeds up to three times the wind speed, and will race each other for the first time in April 2020 at the World Series event in Sardinia, Italy.

Each of the four teams have already launched their initial Cup boats, the first of two boats that each time is allowed to build, as they strive to refine the foils and systems that will eventually be used in the 36th America’s Cup in Auckland, New Zealand.

From the Defenders of the America’s Cup, Emirates Team New Zealand, Robertson talks to design ace Dan Bernasconi. From the Challenger of Record, Luna Rossa, she talks to Cup design veteran Martin Fischer. From British entry INEOS Team UK she talks to accomplished Cup designer Nick Holroyd, and from American Magic she talks to race boat design legendary yacht designer Marcelino Botin.

Part 1 of this two part podcast sees discussion look at the initial design parameters, as the designers all discuss the requirements of the Class Rule. They discuss their thoughts on the four Mk1 AC75s currently out sailing, and whether the Mk2s built later this year will change in any way from the initial designs. They all discuss the rise of simulation and it’s importance in the design of such complicated boats. The designers then compare the importance of hydrodynamics over aerodynamics in boats that are designed to spend much of their time flying above the water, before finishing this edition with a look at how data gathering and analysis in particular has moved on since the last design round, for the previous Cup.

Part 2 sees the designers go on to discuss some more specific design elements, including the specific make up of the foils, and the differences between the current foils being used by each team. They discuss the sail specifications of the class rule, looking at how the D-Section mat will promote the use of an innovative double skinned main sail, and they discuss power generation, how the power is to be generated to control the giant loads of the new main sail.

Robertson quizzes the designers on the teams’ use of “recon” and how ‘spying’ on each others’ designs helps move design thinking forward. The role of the sailing team is discussed, as the designers reveal how important the men out on the water are to the design process, before they wrap up by sharing their thoughts on what single aspect of design is most likely to in, or lose, the 36th America’s Cup.

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