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INEOS Britannia launch ‘T6' LEQ12 test boat in Mallorca

by INEOS Britannia 27 Oct 2022 05:24 PDT
INEOS Britannia's new ‘T6' test boat revealed from their winter training base in Palma de Mallorca, Spain © C.Gregory/INEOS Britannia

The British America’s Cup team, INEOS Britannia, launched their first LEQ12 test boat,on Thursday, for the 37th America’s Cup code-named T6.

It is designed and built-in collaboration with Mercedes-AMG F1 Applied Science, a division of the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team.

The 40-foot test boat will play a vital role in the team’s programme through to the next America’s Cup, to be raced in Barcelona in the summer 2024. T6’s work will commence with an extensive testing period, primarily aimed at validating the team’s design tools and testing key componentry ahead of the design deadline to start the build of the team's AC75 race boat.

James Allison, Chief Technical Officer of the Mercedes-AMG Petronas PETRONAS F1 Team, commented;

“We understand from our F1 experience the vital importance of creating the best suite of tools for designing and engineering the vehicle. We also understand the crucial role that validation plays in improving and coming to trust those tools. T6 has been designed for that purpose, and we’re all looking forward to getting to grips with the data she can provide.

“A huge thanks and congratulations to the team for getting T6 on the water, but in the Cup game we can’t rest on one’s laurels, the challenge has only just begun.”

Ben Ainslie, INEOS Britannia CEO and Skipper commented;

“We came out of AC36 lacking confidence in our design tools, we made key design decisions in the last Cup using our design tools and our simulation, and they weren't accurate enough. In recent America’s Cup cycles we have seen a massive step up in design simulation. However, you must have confidence in those tools, and trust that they're giving you accurate feedback. T6 will give us that development platform.”

T6 was built at Carrington Boats in Hythe, at the same site where the original ‘Empire’ Flying Boats were built back in 1937. The new age flying boat was then transported to Brackley, UK, the home of the Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team for its fit out. T6 has been a key to bringing together the two teams, defining common working practices between the worlds of America’s Cup and F1.

Ainslie added; “We are one team as INEOS Britannia, bringing together AC and F1, to create this team is a massive investment from both parties. We see this as a long-term partnership and we are grateful to be part of the INEOS wider sports group, to be able to tap into the expertise from several sports, including cycling. It is an incredible opportunity. A big thank you to Carrington Boats and everyone at INEOS Britannia for getting T6 out on the water.”

T6 will operate throughout the winter from the team’s new base in Palma de Mallorca. Live test data and results will be streamed back to the design, engineering and performance teams at the team’s UK headquarters in Brackley, where work is already underway on the research and design of what will become the team’s AC75 race boat, competeing for the 37th America’s Cup.

Ainslie concluded; “The America’s Cup and winning sport’s oldest trophy for Britain is one the toughest challenges around. We’re committed to getting the job done; the intensity, the technical challenge, the resources required, it’s phenomenal.”

INEOS Britannia CEO and Skipper, Ben Ainslie outlines the strategy behind the team's LEQ12 test boat, and looks back at a big 12 months as T6 is revealed:

It’s been 12 months since the Protocol for the America’s Cup was released to the world, this 86-page document sets the foundations and rules of participation for all teams in the 37th America’s Cup.

It would be something of an understatement to say that a lot has happened since that time INEOS Britannia, the British America’s Cup team. The team restructured in alignment with with Mercedes-AMG F1 Applied Science, a division of the Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team. Design and operations moved to Brackley, the home of Mercedes F1, and the team built a temporary base operation in Palma for Winter Training Camp.

The Protocol was followed in the spring by Barcelona being announced as the venue for the 37th America’s Cup and the publication of the AC75 Class Rule and the AC37 Technical Regulations, within these regulations competing teams are allowed to build their own LEQ12, or ‘Length Equivalent 12metres, a type of boat which the rules allow, as test boats and research and development tools. Once the rules were in place, the playing field had been defined INEOS Britannia began to develop, design, and build a new test boat called T6 (short for Test boat 6)

Designing and building T6 wasn’t the only option. Emirates Team New Zealand have developed their own LEQ12, a one-design called the AC40. The first of these launched recently in Auckland where ETNZ have been putting it through its paces, with the second already on its way to INEOS Britannia, due at the start of November.

So the first question to Ben had to be; why T6 and an AC40 – wouldn’t the latter have been enough?

“There are three key reasons why we built T6 and they're probably all equally valid. Firstly, we have this new partnership with Mercedes-AMG-F1 Applied Science. It’s a big deal trying to bring two design groups together and define common working practices and everything else that goes into designing a successful America's Cup boat. We had the opportunity to do a dry run with T6 before we design and build the race boat for the Cup, and it was really important to us to take that opportunity. It’s highlighted a number of areas where we've been able to modify our approach and the overall structure of the team for the better.

“Secondly, we came out of AC36 lacking confidence in our design tools. Ultimately, we made key design decisions in the last Cup using our design tools and our simulation, and they weren't accurate enough. This was borne out in the end result, across our hull, foil designs and performance. T6 is a fantastic opportunity for us to be able to validate our design tools and have more confidence in them, as we go into designing the key components for the race boat for Barcelona.

“Lastly, while it's fantastic to see Emirates Team New Zealand put out the AC40 -- and that boat will undoubtedly get a huge amount of use both as a testing platform and a racing platform -- we wanted to control our own destiny. We wanted full control over our own testing platform and not be reliant on a third party to provide that platform, so we had control over our testing strategy.”

The early testing with T6 is going to include what will seem a lot of towing and not much sailing, but the America’s Cup is a sailboat race – so what’s that about?

“We have a long list of tow tests that we want to do to validate the information from our design tools. The best way to do that is without the variability in the wind, we don’t want unknown aerodynamic influence on what we are measuring. As we all know, the wind at different heights in the rig is very hard to measure accurately, and therefore hard to model accurately. So we want to take that uncertainty out of our initial testing program with T6, so we can be more accurate in the performance data that we will collect, and in the validation of the design tools with that data.

“The validation of these tools is really key at this stage. We’ve seen a big step in America's Cup simulation tools, they enable us to try so many more variations of design philosophy and options than ever before, which is fantastic. However, you have to have really strong confidence in those simulation tools, and trust that they're actually giving you accurate feedback. All of the teams know this and try and do the best job they can to create the most accurate tools, which will then help them design the fastest boat.

“Dan Bernasconi (ETNZ’s Technical Director) was, to his credit, one of the first people who saw this shift in computer simulation tools. He came from an F1 background into Emirates Team New Zealand, and they've been at the forefront of this for the last 15 years. It’s no coincidence that they’ve sat at the top end of the America's Cup sport for so long, and particularly over that period.”

The new emphasis on modelling and simulation means that the testing of ideas in the America’s Cup has changed dramatically since the days of the IACC class, when hulls, keels and rudders were tested in tanks, the sails in wind tunnels and both of those and everything else were also done full size with two boats. All of these things are now banned, but the need to work out which ideas are going to provide a performance advantage has not gone away. These days almost all of that work happens in the computer.

“That’s why the validation is going to be really key, which is something that ultimately has let us down in the last two campaigns. And Barcelona is a different venue to previous recent America’s Cups. There's more of a seaway, so understanding how that might impact the predictions of our tools is also key. There are also strict restrictions on the number of components that we can test and it’s really important to build the right ones, so again, the ability to get really good predictions of performance from the modelling is key.”

A significant amount of the resource and expertise in this area has come from Mercedes F1 and is an indication of the commitment of everyone to the project.

“We are one team as INEOS Britannia, but we are bringing the worlds of America’s Cup and Mercedes F1 together to create this team. It's a massive investment from both parties, we genuinely want to build for the long term.”

And of course, this is matched by the substantial commitment and support from INEOS, as Ainslie explains.

“INEOS has been phenomenally successful as a business at just about 25 years old. It's clear that the grit and rigor you see across all their businesses is key to their success. It definitely rubs off on those of us that work with them. And being able to tap into the wider INEOS sports group, all of those sports teams that are involved have been hugely successful and can offer so much. It’s an incredible opportunity for us.

Three campaigns in and still 100% committed to bringing the Auld Mug back home to where it first started, Ben and the British team know the challenge ahead will not be easy.

“This is definitely the challenge of a lifetime. We're committed to getting the job done, it's totally all consuming. On a number of fronts; the intensity, the technical challenge, the resources that are required, it never stops.

About INEOS Britannia:

Backed by INEOS Founder and Chairman Sir Jim Ratcliffe and led by the most successful Olympic sailor of all time and America's Cup winner, Sir Ben Ainslie, INEOS Britannia is the Challenger of Record for the 37th America’s Cup. The British team, who will race for Royal Yacht Squadron Ltd, was formed in 2014 before joining forces with INEOS in 2018.

In challenging for a third successive America’s Cup, INEOS Britannia has much needed continuity, the cornerstone of every successful America’s Cup team. It will be the first time a British team has competed in three consecutive Cup cycles since Sir Thomas Lipton and the Royal Ulster YC bids between 1899 to 1930.

The America’s Cup, the pinnacle of yachting, was first contested in 1851 in Cowes, Isle of Wight and organised by the Royal Yacht Squadron, predating the modern Olympic Games by 45 years. The last British Challenger of Record to compete in an America’s Cup was the 12 metre, Sovereign in 1964.

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