BMW pulls out of the America's Cup

Goals achieved following 33rd America's Cup state German car maker

Thursday December 23rd 2010, Author: James Boyd, Location: none selected

At the end of the year BMW will bring to a close its longstanding partnership with Oracle Racing and thereby end its involvement in the America’s Cup. This is by mutual agreement of both partners. Both parties set ambitious goals and achieved the ultimate objective: winning the America’s Cup.

BMW has partnered BMW Oracle Racing since 2002. Technology and skills have transferred freely between the automaker and sailing team, most notably in the fields of structural engineering and high-modulus composite construction. The result was celebrated in the February when the team's wing sail trimaran USA 17, the fastest yacht in the history of the America’s Cup, won the 33rd Match with a 2:0 victory off Valencia, Spain.

“On the design and engineering front, BMW engineers set new benchmarks in terms of intelligent lightweight design,” said Ralf Hussmann, General Manager BMW Sports Marketing and Brand Cooperation. “In winning the 33rd America’s Cup, we achieved all of our ambitious goals. We will continue to be involved in the sport on a national level.”

“The America’s Cup combines a technological challenge with a sporting one and success is measured by the result on the race course,” added Russell Coutts CEO of BMW Oracle Racing “In that sense, both the team and BMW are proud that our collaboration resulted in victory.”

Latest Comments

  • marioncaroline 29/12/2010 - 03:16

    It surprising the BMW has pulled out nearly a year after AC33 and one must assume there have been other challenges. Clearly there has been a lot of discussion about the challenges of the new format. The new Americas Cup 34 poses some interesting issues that first loomed potenitialy on the horizon in February at the 33rd AC in Valencia. These included foremost the high likelihood that AC 34 would again be a competition with multihulls and hence new challenges of design, present costs, owner involvement, crews, race rules, and tactics. I was fortunate to have been at the 33 rd AC and to have spoken to a number of the people involved, in confidence at the time, because of the uncertainties of the future of the possible future multihull format. Some of these conversations can now be shared. Racing multihulls in AC has been a $100 million question after Valencia. One of the first concerns was whether it would even be possible under the stipulation of the Deed. Steven , a friend of historian John R has researched the history of the Deed and the implications. His take: “Based on the Deed, a race of mutual consent , it would be possible” if all parties agreed. Another question was whether there was the motivation to repeat the AC in multihulls. After introducing myself as having raced a 60 foot ORMA triamaran (Larus Roc, ex- Paragon), I asked several people their view. Paul Cayard, the winner of previous ACs and Whitbread Around the World Races, commented” The problem is the cost for most teams” What about a box rule, I asked, to help contain costs as he had proposed previously as a racing format together with Russell Coutts? “A box rule would work – that s what Russell Coutts and I tried to do with the 70 foot trimaran racing circuit. It would be difficult.” After thinking some more he said “We have of course the little AC and something like that would work.” Indeed, this was the ground work for the new AC format, including the fixed wing. Paul recently has announced he will be leading team Artemis, the Swedish entry. Paul is married to a Swede, Pelle Petterson, daughter. Petterson is famous as a Swedish Olympic sailor and skipper of Swedens’s clallenges in 1977 and 1980.. What did Vincent Lauriot Prevost , the designer of for VLPL and the designer of many successful racing French trimarans think? “Personally, I think it would be interesting but if BMW Oracle wins, it is unlikely to happen. Bertarelli would like to do a multihull AC but I don’t think he’ll win. I of course support BMW Oracle.” Vincent was part of the design team for BMW Oracle and with a likely French entry, the question will be who he’ll work with, since VLPL has been the leading designer of French racing trimarans. Cam Lewis, has raced all sorts of multihulls, including the 1988 Deed of Gift Challenge Race in the solid wing mast catamaran Stars and Stripes with Dennis Connors. He also raced in the 105 foot catamaran Team Adventure with Larry Rosenfeld. Cam was enthusiastic “ Once you ve tried and ridden a roller coaster, you may get addicted to the ride; if you’ve never tried a roller coaster, you don’t know what you re missing unless you try one. That’ s the problem that there is not much motivation among teams( because of experience) and the costs would be high. The boat crews would be keen to do it again.” Joseph Ozonne, the wing design coordinator for BMW Oracle, and who also worked for VPLP on ORMA 60 foot trimarans, was excited about the technology and the concept of advanced specialized teams for hulls, foils, wing, mast, new software products such as Solid Works (developed by my neighbor Michael Paine) and Rhino, and that all these could be brought to bear on designing the state of the art type of boat like BMW Oracle. He spent nearly three quarters of an hour over coffee detailing for the benefits of a wind sail, including the engineering aspects, which were very interesting although regretfully much went over my head. He stressed the importance of a “global package” in developing the boat. The benefits included easier to model, less load on the mainsheet, lighter weight, higher lift coefficient and hence less compression loads, easier to deal with the pressure gradients from the top of the 225 mast to the bottom, quicker self tacking and acceleration, and less drag. With the twin pieces, the leading keeps wind adherent to both sides and then the slot between the two allows wind to flow from the forward piece through the slot between the two to the leeward side of the trailing second piece. This further enhances leeward adherence of the wind with less shear and turbulence. Hence, wind shear is reduced and drag reduced. The slot is also increased by greater camber in the wing. Why not then two slots like the C class? “ The lift coefficient is so good therefore we don’t need increase the number of slots and complexity”. “When we need more lift, we can also add the gennaker which the C class cannot”. With ORMA 60s the wing mast rotates like on BMW Oracle – how does that change with a wing mast? “We have a sensor in the wing leading edge (the sort of eyes on the leading edge), they look like eyes, and from out computations we get the right angle” There did not appear to be many tell tales on the wing mast – how do you sail it and setup the sails correctly? He replied “The first time the crew took out the boat, they thought they could just go out and sail the boat, and came back saying it did not work. We then had to convince them they would need to sail by the numbers and information from the sensors, computed left coefficients, optimums and then achieve the predicted targets”. The targets were confirmed by sailing to the maximum and then reaching the stall points of the wing. How important is curvature and camber when for airplanes this is small? “For planes this is not important but for birds and lower wind speeds it is and that is why it has a high reserve camber” “I wish I had 5 years to develop further the wing design but we had a time limit to come up with a high coefficient of lift wing sail” Well he now has that. He thought it would remain to be seen what happened “but eventually it will have to happen” A true prediction, with perhaps the knowledge of what the team was thinking. At the cocktail party on the Monday evening, after some listless sailing but very impressive performance with no wind by BMW Oracle, I talked to Russell Coutts. He was excited and animated about his teams performance in the weak breeze that day. “Did you see how she did?!! Were you on the water?” I had been on the water on the media boat and had been watching the virtual sailing screens and with just the wing mast versus Alinghi with soft main sail, BMW Oracle was doing 4-6 knots while Alinghi was doing 3-4 knots. So, was he interested in another AC multihull race “Yea, definitely” but clearly the discussion was going to have to wait till another day after the races. He asked me “where do you race out of?” and I related some of what we had done with our 60foot trimaran and that I had kept my boat near Newport (Wickford, RI). “Newport is a great place” and clearly he d like to see some AC races there. Obviously, with his position, I could not pursue this further given the situation but clearly Newport has a rich AC history with the most AC races held there and Larry Ellison is rumoured to recently have purchased one of the Newport mansions. After the Sunday night Alinghi fashion show, I complimented Ernesto Bertarelli on his style and commented about the parallel “cats sailing during the day, cat walk at night” both with capable sailing legs and beautiful twin bows and hulls. Did you he want another AC multihull race “Yes, but first I must win”. It will be interesting to see what campaign, if any, Bertarelli mounts since his boat was a catamaran but with soft sails. Building a smaller boat will not likely be a problem but building a wing sail, something that the team did consider for Valencia, will be more challenging. On Day 6 day off, the day before he helmed Alinghi in the first upwind leg, the only time he helmed a leg, and also Alinghi outperformed BMW Oracle, I had lunch with Loick Peyron (see below). We shared a lot in common and many years before he’d competed and been beaten by my old boat (as Paragon). We had a very good conversation, and his comments were incisive and his charm gracious. As far as AC he felt that something like a 100 foot boat would be ideal because of the excitement of close handed sailing and with a careful box rule, costs could be contained. He also mentioned he was working with his brother on another Race, like the 2000 Race but predicated on the future of AC multihulls. As it has turned out, he and his brother have joined together to mount a AC team. This would be a formidable team because France has the most experience with large multihull designing, building, sailing, and sailors. There is a potential for a first time ever win by France of the Americas Cup. I also asked Loick about around the world sailing. He felt the races should be arranged with larger multihulls and with in harbor races with smaller boats. For the next AC, there will be of course the 45 foot catamarans for the younger sailors to encourage the develop of country teams. Of course, I could not resist asking him what he thought about the speed of the boats and there handling compared to an ORMA 60. His comment was that oncee Alinghi rose up on one hull, which she did very quickly, then the boat was not as involving, partly because she is not sailed that fast since most sailing is light wind sailing. His best speed was over 40 knots in a ORMA trimaran. At the Alinghi base, a group of us had a chance to speak to Lord Richard Branson about his views. He made it clear he was not planning to race a Virgin boat unless his friend Sir Keith Mills from Team Origin withdrew. “No, Britain has a well sponsored boat but if things should change then I would consider (an entry). At this stage there are no plans for a Virgin Americas Cup”. He made the comment that he thought most owners would prefer a monohull but volunteered “I like small boats like Hobie cats and enjoy sailing them” at his BVI residence at Necktar Island, BVI. With Team Origin’s withdrawl, the possibility of a Virgin team may be possible. Now that the decision has been made for a catamaran, some new questions arise ; Most owners are sailors and traditionally have liked taking the helm but with multihulls this is a steeper learning curve because of the quick changes and increased speed. The line is finer between success and error. Clearly, helming is less conducive to the owner driving, although, Larry Ellison was on the stern of his boat during the second race in Valencia. The cost of developing Alinghi and BMW Oracle was clearly very high, in the range of $100-$200 million, but these were bigger boats than the new 72foot AC boats. This may be still a barrier to entry. My companion on many of the trips and dinner was Ron Young. He had managed Bill Koch’s successful AC cup campaign, the last successful campaign in 1992 by an American syndicate (America 3) prior to AC33 and gave the insight that rarely is the quoted amount for a campaign, in the case of Bill Koch’s, $68 million a true reflection of the cost and that total costs may be considerably more. Clearly the box rule and a boat that is not that bigger in length than the 1988 60 footer with a wing mast, does help contain costs but does not sacrifice much in speed and drama. The costs of the wing mast however are less well defined. Does the decision to choose a catamaran versus a trimaran matter? Very quickly in the AC 33 race it became obvious that the BMW Oracle boat was going to be sailed as a catamaran and not a trimaran. Obviously, the ORMA class of trimarans were also sailed mostly as catamarans, with two hulls out of the water. So what then were the advantages of a trimaran over a catamaran, particularly since sea state was not much of an issue (the races were going to be with less than 15 knots) and so the benefit of upwind performance and sailing close to the wind was not a much of an issue. The latter issue of upwind performance was not so important because both had hull foils that could be used to improve upwind angulation to the wind. I asked James Spithill about this. “You’ve stripped off the central rudder, dagger board and sailing the boat like a cat. Tacking is traditionally better with a trimaran – is the center hull necessary?” downwind pointing may also be affected. His comment was “You are correct. Still needed to add stiffness” “the center hull allows us to move the wing mast backwards and forwards along the hull which we could not do with a catamaran”. Looking at the boat from my photographs and the aerial views, it is clear that the outer hulls (amas) on BMW Oracle were considerably longer than Alinghi. The rules stated the boats had to be 90 feet at the water line and up to 90 feet wide. What then was the advantage of a trimaran? With these parameters there were two. With a trimaran a boat floats on its center hull when a rest and the amas are either out of the water or bouncing on the water, thus the measured length would be typically the center hull. This thus allows the amas to be considerably longer, as was the case, whereas with a catamaran, this advantage can not be obtained other than making long bows that are out of the water but this does not aid performance much because of the then curved shape of the under water segment. Hence Alinghi’s challenge over BMW Oracle’s length. The other advantage was then that when sailed as a cat, the full length of the amas could be utilized and according to the Texel formula, the length of the hulls is a very important contributor to speed and holds true quite well even for large multihulls, such as 60 foot ORMA trimarans. Another potential benefit of a trimaran is that there are two instead of one hull that can have water ballast added. The cost is the potential extra weight. The race tactics will also be of interest. For AC 33 the first race was a traditional windward leeward race but over 40 nautical miles, won by BMW Oracle in 15 minutes and 25 seconds. The second race was a triangular circuit with the base of the triangle on the windward side of the course, allowing for a fast beam reach, for a total distance of 39 nautical miles, which BMW Oracle won in 5 minutes and 29 seconds. On the beam reach, virtual screen showed BMW Oracle reaching 33 knots. I had a conversation with Ed Baird who has enjoyed sailing trimarans in the past. The obvious concern would be the speed and rapid acceleration of multihulls and he noted that when sailing from 45 degrees to 75 degrees one has to be careful about the risk of rapid acceleration and capsizing as they experienced during training with an ORMA 60’ trimaran. He put this down to their crew’s inexperience and poor communication and this lead to the change in the design with Alinghi nets being closer to the water so that if she capsized, the crew would not be suffocated by the nets. Also, all of the crew carried knives because of the huge size of the nets in case they needed to escape. I asked what about the dial up since the boats closing speeds will be 30 knots to 40 knots when entering the course and it is very difficult to quickly turn a large multihull down wind and gybing? Obviously the port boat has to give way on entry on the course. He agreed “Yes it takes more time.” Having once nearly T boned a Swan 55’ with my 60’ trimaran while on a port close hauled tack at 16knots, I am well aware of the difficulty because Larus Roc would not turn behind the approaching Swan and only a quick tack prevented an accident, with my 52’ beam boat missing the Swan by about ten feet. Thus, the course entry is of interest in AC33. The commentators missed that when Bertarelli at the helm headed directly at BMW Oracle on the entering the course, he initially tried to turn downwind to gybe around and the windward ama initially dipped, clearly seen from on the water at the race start but not from the helicopters video, but then he was forced into the position of having to tack because of the boat not responding. Hence, the penalty point and later penalty turn at the finishing line. What about man over board? Before the Marion Bermuda race we found making turns to pick up a MOB did not work and we found the quickest way in a big multihull was to start the motor and reverse – fortunately we practiced this and when we did have a MOB, this worked admirably. Ed noted that for AC33 the chase boats would pick up the MOB person and there would be not penalty unless it was deliberate. He noted that when looking for pressure, the crew on a downwind they needed to look downwind for evidence for wind since the boats sail faster than the wind downwind, a counter intuitive notion. Indeed, an ORMA can sail at 2.5 times wind speed in light winds. He pointed out that Russell Coutts would release a balloon at the windward mark and see if the crew could beat the balloon to the finish line. He expected less tacks when compared to monohull AC sailing because boat speed drops by about 70% and the boats loose 20 to 30 seconds per tack. Hence less tacks but still keeping in contact with the competitor. He expected larger distances between boats and little “TV of both boats.” This was largely true with except for the end of the first leg of the second race and this will be the challenge for AC34. It is also noteworthy that wind direction and tides will be less important but wind strength will be much more important – wind speed increase from 6 to 7 knots can increase speed by 20%. Virtual sailing screens, overview footage, including mast cameras and helicopters, showing the action, the much more active process of sailing multihulls, will help draw in TV/Web audiences. Furthermore, the potential for dramatic crashes and crash boxes breaking off (part of the design of the new AC boat bows), will even attract some interest, dare one say, from those who watch NASCAR (as Cam suggested) and certainly Formula 1 racing. Just as Formula 1 racing shows off the latest technology that then trickles down to everyday cars, so the modernized update of AC will undoubtedly have spin offs for everyday sailors. It thus ironical that multihull are no longer in the Olympics and that in the latter 1800s, Herresdorff sailing of a faster catamaran, resulted in a lost century of potential development of multihulls with AC. Maybe this time the audience for AC will be bigger than bull riding. The latter was more popular than AC 32 on Vestus during AC32. For sailors, the contribution of the new AC format will be very important, rejuvenating the sport of sailing, bringing in new young sailors who are more action orientated because of computer games, increasing the advertising audience, and the development of more advanced technologies, and maybe wing masts for more boats. Lunch with Loick Peyron On Thursday the 13th February of the 33rd Americas Cup I had paella lunch with Loick Peyron and his charming wife Christina. Loick and I had struck up a conversation about sailing ORMA 60s and he had raced against my boat in the 1980s and 1990s and when he heard the name of Paragon, he threw up his arms and said what a great boat she was and how ahead of her time she was. During our lunch I had the opportunity to ask him a lot of question about his thoughts about AC and around the world sailing. What are the biggest differences between ORMA 60s and Alinghi apart from light wind speed? “Well ORMA 60s are faster and more on edge but because sailing with two reefs you can have lower center of moment and thus faster in strong winds (higher speeds can be achieved). At 15 knots, Alinghi may get 35 to 34 knots but that s because big sails and not reefing (BMW Oracle did over 30 knots on the beam reach in the second race). Acceleration is very fast with Alinghi as with ORMA 60s, but not as fast, but once up on a hull it’s very stable and feels very safe. Not like ORMAs and concern for capsizing and edge. Also Alinghi does not have the acceleration an ORMA 60 when going from 35 to 110 degrees that ORMAs have and concern for capsizing. Little nervous from 45 to 75 but then very stable.” What about an AC multihull : “certainly would be interesting” What box rule would you envisage? 70 foot? “Well I ve been thinking a lot about that. No 70 is too slow and small. Would need 100 foot. Would be a good size and not scare teams off. Look at Dubai Arab class boat – its 100 feet.” Would you have a triangular course like ORMA 60s? “ Not sure but I ve been thinking a lot about this. The problem with multihulls is that tacking duels (foretelling AC race strategy) will be minimal (there was only one in the two AC races in Valencia and many thought there would be none and this was after the first upwind leg tack that Loick helmed and had Alinghi leading). Probably would be better to have gates that boats go through.” With the death of the ORMA class, what do you think of the proposed 70 foot ORMA or 70 class races suggested by Coutts and Cayard? “ The problem is the boats may have inshore races for the public but that does not work. As far as the public is concerned, that’s off - shore. It has to be in harbors, like Claire Fontaine and here in Valencia (40s). Also, the Extreme 40s. The public loves that. Look at the ORMA60 in Nokia OOPs. I raced them in Stockholm harbor. It was great. That’s what we need.” What about round the world multihull races – obviously sponsors and public like stops rather than non stop races like Whitbread but like Volvo? “Interesting, I was talking to my brother today about that this morning. 70s are obviously too small for Around the World but going back to the Arab class, they need to be 100 feet and there are already two of them. I think there should be something like 100 feet (race) around the world.” Like the Race? (A second Race is planned like the 2000 race Bruno Peyron arraigned previously). “Yes, but with stops, in harbor racing” But 70 s are too big and inshore with them does not work. I think you should have the 100 footers from port to port like Volvo.” And then have smaller boats like 40s in harbor? “Yes, you have to have small boats in harbor with the same crew sailing them. 40 foot maximum because they need to fit in containers. Its ridiculous to have big grinder crews flying in for the in shore races – it s too expensive” So should the there be powered winches and hydraulics? “ No, no, no. I don’t like that at all. For this race I was against power but this is about the best technology”. We then talked more about non sailing topics like our children (their three girls and a boy) and our favorite racing watches (we both had the same) and the one he was required to wear for French TV. After a very interesting and pleasant meal, I wished him and his charming wife every success. “Impressive, happy to be here, great event, planning next step.” Will AC34 be the first for France? Lars Svensson, MD, PhD raced his 60 foot ORMA trimaran from 2006 to 2008 in 9 races in New England and the Caribbean and won 7 and his team’s record of 60 hours for the Marion Bermuda race still stands. He now sails a F31 with his family.
  • KingMonkey 24/12/2010 - 16:34

    There's spin and there's spin and if BMW's goal was really to win lots of court cases then it has done so. The 'ultimate goal' of winning the America's Cup on the water has in any real terms not yet occurred. . . damning inditment of Russell Vision.

    Add a comment - Members log in

    Latest news!

    Back to top
      Back to top