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Top of their game

Sir Ben Ainslie and his INEOS Britannia team took to water in Palma for a tow testing session.


Photography by Ugo Fonolla

09 December 2022

It was a welcome sight to see Sir Ben Ainslie leading from the front out in a very placid and peaceful, if somewhat chilly Palma, Mallorca, and bringing to this America’s Cup cycle a new acronym: HMI.

In an interview, Ainslie repeatedly referred to the Human Machine Interface – that crossover point where technology must relent to the human touch and vice versa.

It’s a catchy one that more than adequately sums up the technology being deployed in this Mercedes AMG-F1 Applied Science set-up that is rooted in data gathering and logical, positive steps being taken forward.

Little matter that INEOS Britannia are the last team to set a sail in this current winter testing schedule, the team looked more than relaxed out on the crystal-clear waters and the human interface, to adapt the phrase, between Giles Scott, Leigh MacMillan, Luke Parkinson and Ben himself looked like a team on top of their game.

“But we’re trying lots of different speeds, lots of different setups, as you can imagine, to get the data for the designers.”

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The effective outlawing of the INEOS Britannia proposed towing mast by the Rules Committee in the decision to Rule Enquiry #25 that is available to view on the AC Official Noticeboard, is undoubtedly a data gathering set-back for the team and the Mercedes engineers back in Brackley, Northamptonshire.

But Ainslie was circumspect about the impact saying, “The only thing that’s really impacted is that with a towing mast you can get data with just one foil in the water … but we would rather have a proper mast than a towing mast when it comes to sailing.”

And that sailing day is looking set for next week now and after a long weekend back in the shed, it’s clear that the shore team have been hard at work fitting out the boat for sailing.

A new mainsheet track, new jib traveller track, hydraulic rams and the return of the slender wind wand were all spied by the on-water recon team.

In terms of the tow testing, it was a long five-and-a-half-hour session with the boat docking out at 11 am and going through a series of runs, tilts at low speed and time spent by crewmembers out addressing the foils with tape, with Ainslie commenting, “We were working through a range of different speeds and actually probably the most interesting stuff was when we were close to stalling the foil at around the 15-knot range.

He then added a very interesting addendum: “but also from an ‘HMI’ perspective how Mercedes onboard the yacht were able to control the boat through different speeds.”

The link up to the Mercedes technicians both in Palma and back in the UK is very much the secret sauce of this British challenger and one that the team are deeply invested in at all levels.

It’s a fascinating ‘project’ to watch unfold and with the sailing team looking very comfortable together – and note the power unit were hitting the Wattbikes aggressively today for a sweaty session back at base – the sailing days can’t come quick enough.

The team has now called a three-day break with no on the water action possible before 11 December.

 

americascup.com

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