British Sailing legend Sir Ben Ainslie has unveiled the high-tech racing catamaran with which he and his Land Rover BAR team hope to win the sport’s oldest and most prestigious trophy.
Named “Rita”, in common with all of Ainslie’s other boats, and unveiled in Bermuda – where the 2017 competition will take place – the boat has been under development at the team’s Portsmouth headquarters for the last couple of years.
Testing will now begin in Bermuda, before five teams vie for the chance to challenge the current America’s Cup holder Oracle Team, USA.
Initial racing begins on the 26th May, and the final America’s cup races start on June 17th.
Whilst a British team has never won the America’s Cup (which has been running for 166 years) Ainslie’s team enters the 2017 competition in good shape, having already won the America’s Cup World Series pre-qualifying tournament.
For these earlier stages all the teams involved used identical boats, but for the final stages each team is allowed considerable more design freedom, and the R1 – Land Rover BAR’s boat – is thought to be one of the fastest, most technically advanced racing boats ever designed.
As previously reported in The Engineer, the boat – which is able to fly at speeds of up to 60 mph on advanced L-shaped hydrofoils (or daggerboards) has been developed with the help of engineers from both Jaguar Land Rover and a host of other key technical partners, including Siemens, Renishaw and BAE Systems.
Commenting on JLR’s input into the project Tony Harper, the firm’s director of research said: “We developed industry-first aerodynamic testing to support the wingsail design which you can see on the final boat here today. From the success of this project, and with our knowledge of analysis and construction of light-weight vehicles, we have also supported the structural design of the daggerboards – the surfboard-style structure underneath the boat that allow it to fly and keep it stable when out of the water.”
Commenting on the technical challenges of designing such a Land Rover BAR CEO (and former Mclaren Racing boss) Martin Whitmarsh, said: “The America’s Cup has always been a sailing and design race and the boats have developed from ropes and winches to more technical machines which will fly out of the water at up to 60mph. This complex design requires the latest engineering skill and insight, allowing automotive brands to make a significant impact in the design race – very much like in F1.”
Sir Ben Ainslie, who played a major role in Oracle Team USA’s 2013 Americas Cup victory, said: “It’s a great moment to see our race boat Rita hit the water in Bermuda. The launch represents the sum of all the team’s efforts to bring the America’s Cup home, and we’re delighted to get her in the water here in Bermuda. We’re a start-up team, and we had to build not just the boat but the design and engineering team, the facilities and the processes to get to this point today.”