Sailing Into Advanced Design
Though the America’s Cup looks a little different this year, design innovation has contributed to the resiliency of the teams.
March 15, 2021
The America’s Cup race has evolved into a competition that is as much about design and engineering as it is about sailing acumen. As Senior Editor Kenneth Wong outlines in two in-depth features, the teams involved increasingly rely on digital simulation to design the yachts for the race. This was particularly true heading into the 2021 event, as teams were piloting an entirely new type of monohull boat, but also because the COVID-19 pandemic forced everyone involved to find new ways to collaborate.
The challenges posed by the pandemic continued to affect the race right up to the very last moment. As I write this, Auckland was placed under a Level 3 lockdown for 72 hours that forced a delay of the February Prada Cup events leading up to the March competition.
The America’s Cup Match scheduled for March 6-21 was already being held under unusual restrictions. Practices and even transportation of the boats to New Zealand became more complicated during the pandemic, and there are restrictions related to spectators.
Still, even those complications highlighted just how important technology has become to the race as teams leveraged remote technology and cloud-based solutions to finalize designs, make adjustments to their vessels, and remain in contact with one another.
Simulation played a key role in each team’s design, and the engineering advancements made possible by these tools have helped accelerate top race speeds by nearly five times over the past decade. The boats in this year’s race will fly over the water at an unprecedented clip.
Elsewhere in this issue, our writers take a look at other new tools in the engineering toolbox. We have included a feature looking at new low-code development tools that are changing the way designers interact with their software. We have also included a feature comparing how engineering software is taking advantage of rapid advancements in CPU and GPU computing. We also take a look at the convergence of generative design and additive manufacturing, relative to lightweighting efforts across multiple industries.
That vendors and their customers in the engineering space have continued to innovate during what is soon to be a full year of pandemic-related disruption speaks to the resiliency of this industry. In numerous conversations I have had over the past several months, the idea of resiliency has come up again and again as a key lesson we can take away from 2020.
In the past 12 months, we have seen every aspect of our lives rearranged. Everything from getting groceries, to sending our kids back to school, to collaborating with our peers has been affected.
Even though the America’s Cup will look a little different this year, design innovation has contributed to the resiliency of the teams and the race itself.