How Formula 1 tech is helping the America’s Cup contenders fly around the course

Yachting World

A tie-up between an America’s Cup and Formula 1 team sounds great in principle, bringing together engineers and designers at the leading edge in two massively technical sports, writes Ed Gorman

But in reality it’s difficult to make such a collaboration work because the differences tend to outweigh the points of crossover.

However, the word from inside Ben Ainslie’s team is that INEOS Team UK’s relationship with Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula 1 has been a major influence.

The Mercedes outfit based at Brackley in Northamptonshire has dominated Formula 1 for years, helping Lewis Hamilton to six of his seven world titles.

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To start with the two sides were somewhat wary of each other. “You could see them sizing us up,” remembers Grant Simmer, CEO of INEOS Team UK.

“I mean there they are, multiple world champions, and then they are talking to these guys in the sailing team who operate on a much, much smaller scale than them.”

The contrast in resources between even a properly-resourced America’s Cup team and a top Formula 1 team is stark. While Ainslie has been operating on a £110 million budget over three years, Mercedes F1 has spent £250-300 million every year over a decade.

The technical facilities at Brackley are incomparable, with computing, machining and testing capabilities worth hundreds of millions of pounds.

“Quite rapidly they started thinking about our problems and providing resources,” explained Simmer. “So when we talk about foils, they were helping us with CFD – computational analysis of different variations.

“They also helped us a lot on the mechanical configuration of the foils – how we actuate the foils and how we achieve that, working with tighter and tighter tolerances.”

The foils for Britannia were assembled at Brackley after a rigorous inspection of every component that goes into them.

“I think the future of this team will be centred around working even more closely with the Mercedes F1 team,” Simmer said.

First published in the January 2021 issue of Yachting World.

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