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America's Cup: At least two Formula One teams set to partner with Challengers for AC37

by Richard Gladwell/Sail-World NZ 3 Oct 20:49 PDT 4 October 2021
INEOS Team UK - Waitemata Harbour - January 29, - 36th America's Cup © Richard Gladwell /

Sail-World understands that two Formula One teams are set to partner up with challenger teams for the upcoming America's Cup.

The first Mercedes-AMG are set to announce their partnership in a few hours with the Ben Ainslie led INEOS-Britannia team, who is the Challenger of Record for the 37th America's Cup.

Their F1 rivals Red Bull Racing are also tipped to have joined forces with the unannounced challenge from Alinghi, the 2003 and 2007 America's Cup winners.

The move brings to the America's Cup, one of the great sporting rivalries between Red Bull's Christian Horner and Mercedes-AMG's Toto Wolff.

The move will obviously increase America's Cup team budgets, but at the same time will also increase the media interest in the on the water event, which draws on the synergies from both sports.

The challengers had little option but to draw on the resources of the F1 teams if they were to close the technological gap between themselves and Emirates Team New Zealand, as they had to make a technology leap, rather than play catch-up, with the likelihood that the Kiwi team would just have extended further.

The overlapping areas of expertise are likely to be in design, including parasitic drag reduction, composite engineering, the use of artificial intelligence and simulation, along with the introduction of F1 performance tracking and control - during training and development at least. The INEOS F1 connections are widely credited with providing the design analysis and direction that helped dig INEOS Team UK out of a performance black hole made apparent in the America's Cup World Series. Come the start of the Round Robin phase the British was the first to go through to the Prada Cup Finals. But Luna Rossa (ITA) was able to close the performance gap during the intervening three weeks before the start of the Finals.

Alinghi is also believed to have signed Nick Holroyd, former design chief with Emirates Team New Zealand for the 2013 America's Cup, who then joined Softbank Team Japan, and then INEOS Team UK in the last Cup and brings knowledge of the experiences and mistakes as the sport transitioned from the traditional IACC displacement monohulls to foiling hard wingsailed catamarans and now foiling monohulls with soft double-skinned wingsails.

Interestingly Martin Whitmarsh, team boss at McLaren racing for 24 years and previously with the British LandRover BAR team until the 2017 America's Cup, has recently returned to head up the Aston Martin F1 team. During his six years at McLaren, Emirates Team NZ's current design chief, Dan Bernasconi, reported to Whitmarsh.

Fans are also likely to be the winners as television coverage of the America's Cup, and its build-up is expected to be opened up as a result of the F1 influence - with a more open approach to filming and access to pit areas by expert commentators, able to analyse and spot the technical developments.

For sponsors, the move has upped the exposure, with the three or four-month-long America's Cup regatta and build up meshing nicely with the bam-bam coverage of F1 as it moves circuits around a 22 race calendar - and one which has continued to meet its TV schedule requirements despite the COVID pandemic restrictions.

With ten teams in F1, there is plenty of opportunities for other challengers to form relationships with F1 teams and share technology and exposure from the spectacular F1 racing and the AC75's.

The AC75's open up the experience for F1 sponsors to sail aboard the boats with the professional race crews, offering a unique experience not possible aboard an F1 racer.

More is expected to be revealed on Inside Tack Show which is being run live by the INEOS Britannia team from the Mercedes-AMG Formula One Team HQ in Bracknell on October 4 at 1230pm BST.

The announcement and prospect of more F1 teams being involved is likely to up the ante in the bidding process for the 37th America's Cup venue, which has yet to be determined.

The preferred venue was not announced on the expected date of September 17, with negotiations continuing between the short-listed venues.

That process is likely to have been opened to other interested parties by UK based Origin Sports who are working with holders Emirates Team New Zealand and Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron.

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