On 26th May, Bermuda will host the America’s Cup for the first time in its 166-year history, as the 2017 races begin in the North Atlantic Ocean. The picturesque setting of the island’s Great Sound will form the backdrop as the world’s best sailors compete for sailing’s biggest prize.
The crews of six competing nations will contest four rounds during the competition that will last 32 days and for the first time in 14 years, the field includes a British boat – Land Rover BAR. The Land Rover BAR crew, skippered by multiple Olympic champion Sir Ben Ainslie, will compete against the four other challengers for the chance to face defending champions Oracle Team USA, in the 35th Americas Cup match on 17th June.
Ainslie and his crew come into the competition on the back of a hugely successful 2016, having finished as winners of the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series (LVACWS) ahead of the five other teams competing in Bermuda. Victories in Portsmouth, Oman and Fukuoka saw the British boat finish 19 points ahead of their nearest rivals, Oracle Team USA.
The story behind Land Rover BAR’s success, and Land Rover’s association with sailing, goes back further than you may think. In 1988, Cowes Week on the Isle of Wight was the perfect stage for Land Rover to introduce the general public to the newly launched Land Rover Discovery 1. The success of this week both on and off the water paved the way for the future partnership almost 30 years later.
2014 saw the inception of Ben Ainslie Racing - a team set up by Ainslie to ‘bring the (America’s) Cup home’. Land Rover was officially announced as the team’s Title Sponsor and Exclusive Innovation Partner in 2015 and the newly-named Land Rover BAR were to try to bring the America’s Cup back to Britain for the first time.
At the same time that the team were leading their LVACWS competitors in standardised AC45fs, a one-design wingsail catamaran created for the LVACWS, an intensive development period was under way, as the team were designing their own bespoke America’s Cup Class boat ready for Bermuda. With Land Rover as Exclusive Innovation Partner, they had access to the same advanced engineering and innovative technologies used in the development of Land Rover vehicles; as well as support in processing the data and insights collected from a series of test boats made readily available to the team’s engineers.
Racing support, including designers, builders and data analysts, are housed in a 74,000 sq ft team HQ in Portsmouth. With all America’s Cup teams having raced in identical AC45f boats throughout 2015 and 2016, even the most marginal gains can make a huge difference to performance when put into practice. The Team HQ provides a purpose-built home from which to embark on meticulous race preparations with dedicated Land Rover engineers focusing on three main areas:
Land Rover’s experience in innovation makes it an ideal partner to assess and improve the aerodynamic performance and speed of the boat. Using advanced engineering capabilities the team and Land Rover have explored the dynamic performance of the wingsail, analysing 80 million computational cells in each test. These new processes have provided insight converting new and existing data understandings in achieving top speed on the water.
Land Rover has combined technology from the All-New Discovery with unique personalisation to help Sir Ben Ainslie win the America’s Cup. Engineers have created a one-off steering wheel with gear-shift paddles shaped to fit Sir Ben’s hands – giving the Olympic legend perfect fingertip control in his pursuit of the America’s Cup, the world’s oldest sporting trophy. The wheel allows Skipper and Team Principal Sir Ben to ‘fly’ by adjusting the boat’s hydrofoils with greater precision for the fastest possible racing. He can lift R1, Land Rover BAR’s 2.4-tonne race boat, out of the water with a flick of his fingertips.
Land Rover’s position as a pioneer of big data in the automotive industry has allowed our engineers to bring a truly intelligent driving experience – and this approach has been fed into post-race analysis, where artificial intelligence is used to discern the most efficient boat manoeuvres for speed and effectiveness from huge streams of data.
Thanks to hard work as well as the Land Rover connection, Sir Ben Ainslie and his crew find themselves well-prepared for the challenge that lies ahead. Now, the challenge of bringing the Cup home awaits in Bermuda in late May.