Please select your home edition
Edition
PredictWind.com 2014

America's Cup- Speculation on Oracle Team USA's foiling system

by Richard Gladwell on 26 Sep 2013
Oracle Team USA foiling - America’s Cup - Day 15 Kurt Molnar

The following notes are circulating in Auckland media circles, as an explanation for Oracle Team USA's improved foiling performance, as time progressed in the 34th America's Cup.

The notes were dated September 23, 2013, but were received by Sail-World mid-morning September 26, after the regatta had finished. But the device was first highlighted by the Television NZ commentary team during their coverage of the vital Race 19, of the 34th America's Cup. Click here for the full race coverage and NZ commentary including comment on the Oracle Team USA foiling performance.

This afternoon, Tim Smythe, principal of Core Composite Builders, Oracle Team USA's Warkworth (NZ) based building facility, said that the team used the same set of foils through the regatta and that the 'special foil adjuster system, was there before the regatta Click here for the TV3 report and interview with Tim Symthe.

The matter was taken by Emirates Team NZ to the International Jury on September 3, and a Decision issued on September 6, just one day before the regatta started. It was rejected on the basis on being filed outside the allowable time, but added a rider, that had it been issued inside the time limit, but on the basis of what had been heard, the application would have been unlikely to have been upheld.

Emirates Team NZ's Ray Davies said 'their boat is rock steady up wind, that takes us a lot of effort, and we have been trying to it for a long, long time, and yet they master it in just a few days.

It is well recognised that Oracle was having serious foiling stability difficulties at the outset of the regatta and that their performance could not match that of ETNZ.

Half way through the series it was acknowledged that Oracle had fitted an automatic control to their hydrofoil trim, and that this modification was approved by the measurement authorities.

Since this modification Oracle's performance has almost unbelievably improved. This has been 'explained' by skipper Jimmy Spithill as being due to the superhuman efforts of the crew to improve their handling skills. However, in view of the intensive training Oracle were able to do, prior to the regatta, with their highly skilled team partner, it seems unlikely that only now have they discovered the 'magic bullet' they they clearly have. It is much more likely to be the result of the modifications, possibly enabled by their surprising decision to use their lay day card and the subsequent lucky postponements.

It must be remembered that this is the first time that this contest has been sailed by yachts 'flying ' on Hydrofoils and it is probable that new and different criteria should have been applied.

In the aeronautical world it has long been known that the stability of swept wing aircraft can rapidly be lost by uncontrolled yaw leading to a dangerous situation known as 'Dutch Roll'.

A device known as 'Little Herbie' was developed during the commissioning of the Boeing 747 Jumbo Jets over 40 years ago, to over come this tendency. Little Herbies, or 'Stability Augmentation Systems' (SAS) as these are now designated, are equipped with sensors such as Accelerometers and Gyros which can detect and instigate corrections to stability with a speed and accuracy which exceeds the ability of even experienced airline pilots. They are therefore now installed in virtually all swept-wing aircraft.

The 'legality' of this device has been justified and accepted on the basis that it does not actually 'drive' the trim of the foils.....this is still performed by the muscle power of the crew, via hydraulic linkages. That may be so, but the device, using its sensing and directives, has been described as 'automatic'. This implies that the trim of the foils is determined by what can only be described as 'superhuman' technology. If this technology has been used to overcome the foiling stability difficulties of Oracle it will have enabled the use of higher speed/lower drag foils which the crew would otherwise be unable to manage. This would give a significant speed advantage during foiling. This has been clearly in evidence since the modification. Improvement in stability and speed has been staggering.

The high speed/low drag foils do have a downside in light conditions where, due to their lesser lifting characteristic, foiling is difficult or impossible. This was also clearly seen in the abandoned Race #13 when ETNZ were only 4 minutes from the finish, with a lead of over 1000metres.


Oracle Team USA have not provided any official comment on the system they used.

While it would seem that the actuator device is legal, if it is attached directly to its own power supply, the wider question remains as to whether a boat should be raced with a computer, rather than a human, driving a primary control function.

The Racing Rules on the matter are very clear RRS42 Propulsion states: A yacht shall compete only by using the wind and water to increase, maintain or decrease her speed. Her crew may adjust the trim of the wing, sails, rudders, daggerboards and hulls, and perform other acts of seamanship.

The vital words are at the opening of the second sentence 'her crew' - meaning that an automated adjustment which works independently of crew intervention is illegal.

Then BMW Oracle Racing did have very sophisticated on-board systems in 2010 in the Deed of Gift Match, which amongst other things they were able to overlay a line image of the optimum wingsail shape against the actual image, enabling the crew to make the adjustment required to get the two shapes into alignment, and achieve the ultimate performance.

That is one step away from having the wingsail shape adjusted by a computer independent of the crew which under RRS42 is illegal. Even under the current America's Cup rules such a system is quite legal, and it is hard not to believe that such systems were not used again in the 2013 America's Cup. The key point being that there must be a crew intervention between the computer and the sail or other control named in RRS42.

Of course computers are not infallible, and any intelligent computer system requires a lot of tweaking and refinement to be operate consistently and at a refined level. It all takes time - and time is the most vital commodity in the America's Cup.

The time for application to the International Jury over such a matter, is long gone. The rules require that a competitor protests or lodges an application to the Jury as soon as they are aware of a measurement issue, not later or at the end of a regatta.
PredictWind.com 2014C-Tech Emirates TNZProtector - 660 x 82

Related Articles

An interview with Patrick Kennedy about the Ida Lewis Distance Race
I interviewed Patrick Kennedy, chair of the 2017 ILDR, via email to learn more about the race’s history and evolution. With this year’s Ida Lewis Distance Race set to unfurl the weekend of August 18-20, I caught up with Patrick Kennedy, chair of the 2017 ILDR, via email to learn more about the race’s history and evolution, its challenges, and the event’s new partnership with the 2017 J/Fest New England.
Posted on 14 Aug
An interview with Marianne Davis about the CORK International Regatta
I interviewed Marianne Davis, co-chair of the CORK International Regatta, to learn about the regatta’s state of affairs. While the various CORK regattas' registration lists include international sailors, these events are some of the gemstones in Sail Canada’s yearly championship calendar, making them of extra importance to Canadian sailors. I recently caught up with Marianne Davis, co-chair of the 2017 event, via email, to learn more about the CORK International Regatta’s evolution and its current state of affairs.
Posted on 7 Aug
A Q&A with the RORC’s Nick Elliott about the 2017 Rolex Fastnet Race
I caught up with Nick Elliott, RORC Racing Manager, via email, to learn more about the world-famous Rolex Fastnet Race. When one stops to consider the world’s best ocean races, the Royal Offshore Racing Club’s Rolex Fastnet Race, which starts on Sunday, August 6, 2017, is never far from mind. I caught up with Nick Elliott, RORC Racing Manager, via email to learn more about the race’s history and evolution, its challenges, and the amount of work that goes into pulling off this world-famous regatta.
Posted on 1 Aug
Ian Walker - Musto Ambassador on the Volvo Ocean Race, America's Cup
Ian Walker on his Volvo Ocean Race win, why food and clothing are so important offshore, his views on the America's Cup We speak to Musto ambassador Ian Walker about his Volvo Ocean Race win, why food and clothing are so important offshore, his views on the America's Cup, his new desk job, sailing for fun, and 20 years of the John Merricks Sailing Trust.
Posted on 23 Jul
Black Jack Yachting. Bigger boat. Bigger team. Even bigger performance
Throughout the iterations of maxis called Black Jack, a strong, consistent and talented team has been their focus Throughout the iterations of maxis called Black Jack, a strong, consistent and talented team has been their focus. Some were sail makers, like Skipper Mark Bradford and also Vaughan Prentice from North Sails’ Brisbane loft. Others were riggers, such as Bruce Clarke, and there are even boat builders, like Gary van Lunteren, as well as Ash Deeks.
Posted on 20 Jul
A Q&A with Tom Trujillo about the Transpacific Race’s 49th running
Sail-World interviewed Tom Trujillo, the Transpac Race’s PRO, via email to learn more about this classic bluewater race. The Transpac Race (est 1906) is in a rarefied group of four races that are considered sailing’s greatest bluewater Corinthian challenges, and it welcomes a wildly diverse fleet of bluewater-worthy boats. The 49th running of this classic race is currently underway, so Sail-World caught up with Tom Trujillo, the race’s principal race officer, via email to learn more.
Posted on 7 Jul
Gladwell's Line - America's Cup returns to its new home and thinking
Emirates Team New Zealand's win in the 35th America's Cup ends 17-years of wandering in the AC wilderness Emirates Team New Zealand's win in the 35th America's Cup ends 17-years of wandering in the AC wilderness and will open a new era of America's Cup, New Zealand and World Sailing. A rookie crew won the most prestigious trophy in sailing, and one of the most difficult to win in any sport.
Posted on 29 Jun
SuperFoilers Are Go!
SuperFoilers represent many things. Whilst those components are disparate and virtually from different planets SuperFoilers represent many things. Whilst those components are disparate and virtually from different planets in the great scheme of things, they come together in the one form as harmoniously as a Rolls Royce, and also deliver intense energy way past the sum of their parts, just like some amazing band.
Posted on 28 Jun
A Q&A with Kimball Livingston about San Francisco high school sailing
I emailed with my friend and colleague Kimball Livingtston to learn about San Francisco’s latest sailing revolution. I started hearing whispers of shifts in the San Francisco Bay high school sailing scene a couple of months ago. A few inquiries led me to my good friend and colleague Kimball Livingston, a world-class sailor, scribe, and StFYC staff commodore who isn’t one to keep his seaboots dry when the topic turns to opportunities for the next sailing generation. I caught up with KL via email to learn more.
Posted on 13 Jun
A Q&A with Andrew Howe about winning the 2015 Marion to Bermuda Race
I interviewed Andrew Howe, the 2015 Marion to Bermuda Race’s winning co-navigator, to learn more about their race. In 2015, skipper Greg Marston and the crew of Ti, a 1967 Alden Mistral, racing under celestial rules, were the overall winners of the Marion Bermuda Race Founders Division, beating boats that were enjoying GPS accuracy. On the eve of the 2017 edition of the race, I reached out to Andrew Howe, the team’s co-navigator, to gain perspective on this impressive win and hear about his 2017 plans.
Posted on 7 Jun