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How Innovation Won the America’s Cup

Articles Central Innovation 20 July 2017


How Innovation Won the America’s Cup

This years’ America’s Cup was not just another yacht race – it was about innovation, technology and thinking outside the box.

After their defeat in the 2013 America’s Cup held in San Francisco, Emirates Team New Zealand knew they had to come up with an exceptionally new and improved design in order to beat defender Oracle Team USA in this years’ Cup, held in Bermuda.

The teams’ skipper Glenn Ashby explains that this time around, “we had to be extremely innovative and extremely aggressive with our design philosophy”. The resulting next-generation yacht led the team to victory at Bermuda, defeating Oracle 7-1.

What went in to the innovative design seen in 2017?

With a grant from Callaghan Institute to help support the teams’ research and development, Emirates Team New Zealand were able to experiment with the manufacture of materials (such as carbon fibre) to be used on the new craft. Nick Brewer, the Callaghan business advisor for the team, explains that  “such materials cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and whole foils have to be built to then be tested on the water”[1], resulting in time-consuming and costly experimentation, which ultimately paid off.

In addition to material testing, the team used SolidWorks to create innovative new mechanical designs.

SolidWorks helped us design and test some of the most important features of the 2017 Emirates Team NZ yacht.  The software was invaluable to the development of our new cycling grinding system, wing and foil designs, as well as the hydraulic systems on board the boat.”
Martin McElwee, Design Team

The new cycling stations located in each hull of the catamaran are perhaps the most obvious innovation seen on the boat. These stations replace the traditional arm-powered grinding stations, and allow the crew to use their more powerful leg muscles to power the control systems on the yacht. Best of all, the design also leaves the hands and arms free to perform other tasks like adjusting the foils.

05/06/17 Emirates Team New Zealand sailing on Bermuda’s Great Sound in the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Challenger Playoffs Semi-Finals
Emirates Team New Zealand (NZL) vs. Land Rover BAR (GBR) Race 2
Copyright: Richard Hodder / Emirates Team New Zealand


“SolidWorks was also used to design the mechanical side of the control systems which adjust the angle of attack of the daggerfoils and the rudders. With the foils being constantly adjusted it is imperative the clearances are correct to keep friction at a minimum. For this SolidWorks was invaluable.”

– Martin McElwee, Design Team

In addition to using SolidWorks to design, test and review the mechanics of the 50-foot yacht, the software was also used to determine whether the dismantled boat could fit on a freighter plane to be taken to Bermuda for the America’s Cup challenge.

[1] https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/innovation/94112980/innovation-helped-win-the-americas-cup-and-team-nz-will-continue-to-improve

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