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How F1 know-how is making waves in the America’s Cup

While Mercedes may still be weeks away from unleashing the new W12 into its first Formula 1 race, the Brackley-based outfit will be facing its first competitive battle this weekend.

How F1 know-how is making waves in the America’s Cup

For Mercedes’ Applied Science division, an off-shoot of the grand prix team, has been heavily involved in the INEOS Team UK effort to win yachting's famous America’s Cup.

The first Prada Cup Final, to decide who goes through to the final next month, got under way this morning in New Zealand and is being contested between the British team and the Italian Luna Rossa outfit.

The UK yacht, known as ‘Britannia II’, has taken to the waters featuring ideas and technology that have come straight from the Mercedes F1 factory.

The Applied Science division of the company has had up to 30 technical staff working on the project, and has flown two staff members to Auckland to make sure they are on hand to help.

While F1 cars and yachts may operate at very different speeds and in completely different conditions, they do share similarities in terms of efficiency – be it through air or water.

And one look at the Britannia yacht, with its radical wing foils, shows just why F1 expertise was leaned upon to help come up with the fascinating design.

The current generation of America's Cup yachts don’t have a keel. Instead, they feature Foil Cant Arms that move under the boat to provide leverage needed for it to stay upright.

And at the end of the arms are the real current tech battleground in the series – foil wings which provide stability, lift and speed when races.

The wings, which have been developed at Brackley for the past 12 months, help penetrate the water and make Britannia come out of the water and fly – therefore reducing any water resistance.

Using the wings to their maximum performance, to get the boat out of the water as much as possible, will be key to success in the America’s Cup battle.

Mercedes used all aspects of its facilities at Brackley – including simulation, manufacturing and control systems – to help turn the wing design from an idea into reality.

Ineos Team UK America's Cup AC75

Ineos Team UK America's Cup AC75

Photo by: Ineos Team UK

Graham Miller, director of Applied Science at Mercedes F1, said about the relationship: “One of the things we bring to the table is extra bandwidth which has meant increased reliability and efficiency and has led to time saving on the project.

“We also noticed there was not a big in-house manufacturing capability within the team compared to our HQ. Therefore, we were able to take the foil build project in-house at Brackley using some of the world’s best manufacturing tools to drive the project to meet specific timelines.”

While top-level aero ideas have been used in yachting for a team, INEOS Team UK said what Mercedes has brought to the table is something that has helped make it so successful in F1 – marginal gains.

As Nick Holroyd, Chief Designer of INEOS Team UK, explained: “The attention to detail at Mercedes F1 is phenomenal.

“Even the smallest details of design and build can add up to be quite a significant performance gain and they have brought that exactness to our campaign.

“Previously, we have tended to look at the big performance opportunities and how we can manipulate those but with Mercedes F1 Applied Science support we have been able to push to the finest of levels and this can be seen first-hand in our foil wing programme which we have really pushed to the leading edge”.

The America’s Cup partnership is perfect proof of how grand prix teams are not only sharing the sport’s technical know how with other industries – but it also highlights how staff can be deployed successfully in other areas of a company, away from direct involvement in the grand prix teams themselves, as the implications of the F1 cost cap bite.

Ineos Team UK America's Cup AC75

Ineos Team UK America's Cup AC75

Photo by: Ineos Team UK

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Author Jonathan Noble
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