BMW Oracle enter build cycle
The first of the team’s two new race boats for the 32nd America’s Cup in 2007 will be built at a purpose-built site in Anacortes, WA. The small town nestled in the San Juan Islands is a hub of maritime industry. The region provides a blend of maritime and aerospace resources.
“Our boat-building team has been on site in Anacortes customising the construction site and getting ready for building our boats for several months now,” said Chris Dickson, CEO, BMW Oracle Racing. “We are now confident we have the best facility and the best team and are now ready to start construction.”
As an American entry representing San Francisco’s Golden Gate Yacht Club, the team is bound by the rules to build the hull of their two new race yachts in the United States. The boats will ultimately race in Valencia, Spain, site of the 32nd America’s Cup in 2007.
Seattle also serves as home of the BMW Oracle Racing structural engineering team. Headed by local sailor and designer Paul Bieker, the structures team chose Seattle as a base to be near the construction site. The Seattle structures team includes three BMW engineers: Thomas Hahn, Christoph Erbelding and Ingo Raasch.
As an equal team partner, the international automotive group BMW is importantly involved in the development and construction of the new high-tech yachts. In Valencia and Seattle, BMW engineers led by Prof. Dr. Raymond Freymann, Director BMW Group Research and Technology, are integrated in the design team in order to bring in BMW technological competence into the sports of sailing. Prof. Freymann: "The close collaboration between our employees on the one side and the exchange of informations between Seattle and Spain on the other is an efficiently working system. I'm therefore confident that we all as a team will make the hull of the yacht lighter and stiffer at the same time. We'll increase the speed of the yacht. The door to success in 2007 is open."
BMW Oracle Racing’s Mark Turner, Tim Smyth and Mark Somerville are managing the boat construction. The three were involved with the construction of USA 71 and USA 76, the team’s 2003-generation race boats.
The moulds and other tooling for the 80-foot America’s Cup Class yacht are being manufactured at Janicki Industries in nearby Sedro-Woolley. “With a custom-made boat, it is essential to have quality control every step of the way,” Turner said of the team’s choice of Janicki. “Janicki’s work in the aerospace industry provides us with the precision we are seeking in our tooling,” Turner said.
“Last campaign, we built the tooling at Janicki and the hulls in California. This time we consolidated our operations by building the hulls in nearby Anacortes,” Turner said. “So far, we are finding this to be a more efficient approach.”
The construction site for the carbon fibre composite race boats is located in Anacortes at a 20,000sqft purpose-built facility. Due to the competitive nature of the America’s Cup, the boat-building remains a highly secure process. The non-descript facility in Anacortes has been customised to offer aerospace level technologies and quality levels. And like the automotive or aerospace industries, innovations are protected and the construction kept under wraps until the boat sails in Valencia. Any competitive advantage gained in design and construction methods will remain a closely guarded secret of the team.
The construction follows an intensive research and development program to develop what the team hopes is a fast design. “Quality construction is the key to bringing our design concepts to life,” BMW Oracle Racing Design Coordinator Ian Burns said. “Through a precise custom boat-building process, we can ensure the right materials and methods are applied to the build. With high-tech composite materials, precision of construction is critical to ensure that engineering specifications are met,” Burns said.
"The technology involved in composite boat-building is becoming a science in itself. The build team has spent the last few months very well, taking this science to the next level by combining the talent of some of the best people in the America's Cup game with the aerospace technology available in the Seattle area. The design team has been highly impressed by what we've seen in Anacortes."
The construction of an America’s Cup Class yacht is a highly-specialized trade. The high-tech tooling is developed for precision accuracy to ensure faithful reproduction of the design team’s shapes. The carbon fibres are layered onto the mould and then baked in a large oven ensuring the lightest and strongest possible structure.
BMW Oracle Racing has an experienced in-house team of about 15 boat-builders working on the project. Some 30,000 man hours will go into the construction of the race yacht. The first of two new race boats is expected to sail in Valencia in spring 2006.