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Tiny sensor at heart of herculean effort

alan copps | the times | 27 may 2017


Alan Middleton, PA’s chief executive and Adam Freeman-Pask a government expert who was a former team GB Olympic rower, are quoted in an article in The Times looking at the technology at the helm of Sir Ben Ainslie’s America’s Cup yacht. 

The article notes that there is a vast array of data flowing from the 190 sensors aboard the boat and that reading this data correctly can mean the difference between winning and losing the race for the British team. It states that this was one of the biggest challenges for the Land Rover BAR Technical Innovation Group (TIG).

The TIG was drawn together by PA Consulting Group and notes that it: “includes some of the most original minds in British engineering”. Adam Freeman-Pask, the former GB rower speaking about the technology says that: “If you’d taken your eyes off the event since the early 1980s you would scarcely recognise it now.”

He goes on to comment that: “Where boats with lead mono-hulls used to move through the water at 10mph, sleek foiling catamarans now skim over it up to five times faster. That’s as quick as a powerboat. Not for nothing do people talk about this as the Formula One of the sea.

“From the materials the boats, sails and crew’s clothing are made of, to the sensors sending real-time data to support teams, technology is behind the transformation. All six America’s Cup contenders are bristling with it. It’s fair to say that without it, they’d be nowhere.”

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It goes on to state that the TIG is chaired by PA’s Phil White, a technology expert, which complements the team’s own experts. 

Speaking about the TIG, Alan Middleton states that: “For Land Rover BAR it was a way to access ideas and technologies from outside sailing. It’s also about sharing ambition and excitement and being part of an epic challenge.

“The concept was: if this is going to be an amazing win for Britain, wouldn’t it be great if it was also a great win for British industry, British academia and British innovation? We persuaded Ben that they should look at innovations from outside of sailing to make the boat go faster and the crew more productive.”

The article concludes by saying that one of the first fruits of the TIG collaboration was the concept of the Virtual Chase Boat, which uses similar telemetry as that used in Formula One cars. 

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