Please select your home edition
Edition
SOUTHERN-SPARS-MISSY-FURLING-BOOMS-728-X-90 TOP

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.
Rooster 2020 - Impact BA - FOOTERVaikobi 2021 FlexForce - FOOTERHenri-Lloyd 2021 M-PRO PURE BLACK - FOOTER

Related Articles

Zhik renew AkzoNobel Ocean Racing partnership
As the Technical Clothing Partner for the team Zhik are delighted to announce they are back as the Technical Clothing Partner for AkzoNobel Ocean Racing for The Ocean Race Europe 2021, the prelude to The Ocean Race 2022-23.
Posted today at 11:00 am
World Sailing's Virtual Mid-Year Meeting
Council voting today on the alternative event for Paris 2024 World Sailing's Virtual Mid-Year Meeting commenced on Monday 10 May with the Equipment Committee and Events Committee both meeting.
Posted today at 9:25 am
Rolex Capri Sailing Week day 3
Fra' Diavolo maintains top spot Another coastal race of approximately 30 miles was set for the third race of the Maxi Yacht Capri Trophy, on a regatta course once again blessed with ideal sailing conditions.
Posted on 13 May
Team Childhood I take win in the Race to Stockholm
In the run-up to The Ocean Race Europe On Thursday afternoon Team Childhood I finished first in the second stage of the prologue. It was a race from Gdynia (Poland) to Stockholm (Sweden).
Posted on 13 May
New range of flanged aluminium deck bushes
Four sizes and six colours available from Allen The new range of flanged aluminium deck bushes is now available. Allen flanged aluminium deck bushes feature a wider surface area with two fixing holes, allowing for a simple installation which only requires two screws and no mess.
Posted on 13 May
Boris Herrmann and Team Malizia announce plans
Set to participate in The Ocean Race 2022/23 and Vendée Globe 2024/25 Building on the successful 4yr campaign which culminated in a 5th place in the Vendée Globe and created strong enthusiasm and media impact in Germany, France and 70 other countries around the globe, Boris and his team are embarking on a new 5yr programme.
Posted on 13 May
Finn Gold Cup Overall: Maloney sweeps to victory
Spain's Cardona takes silver while fellow NZ sailor Junior collects bronze in Porto It took more than 60 years for a New Zealand sailor to win the Finn Gold Cup, and now two have come along in a row. Andy Maloney has led the 2021 Finn Gold Cup since Day 1 and on Wednesday, though he briefly lost the lead
Posted on 13 May
D-8 before first episode of the Pro Sailing Tour
A baptism of fire ahead for the team in Brest On 20 May Quentin Vlamynck and his teammates will take part in the inaugural stage of the Pro Sailing Tour Ocean Fifty in Brest. For Arkema 4, which was launched in the water last September, it will be a baptism of fire.
Posted on 12 May
Rolex Capri Sailing Week day 2
Magnificent weather conditions for the second day of racing in the Maxi Yacht Capri Trophy Magnificent weather conditions graced the waters of Capri for the second day of racing in the Maxi Yacht Capri Trophy.
Posted on 12 May
Jean Le Cam, Ambassador of 2021 Bol d'Or Mirabaud
Much acclaimed French skipper in the last Vendée Globe French skipper, fourth finisher and much acclaimed in the last Vendée Globe, will be present at the Société Nautique de Genève for the great annual Lake Geneva regatta.
Posted on 12 May