Polymer matrix composites pervade the colossal multihull sailboats Alinghi 5 and USA 17, which are vying in the 33rd America's Cup races, slated Feb. 8, 10 and 12 off the shore of Valencia, Spain.
Defending team Alinghi flies the colors of the Société Nautique de GenÃ¨ve, while challenger BMW Oracle Racing with USA 17 represents the Golden Gate Yacht Club of San Francisco.
Phenomenal speeds are expected.
Boat measurements differ, but, in general terms, each has a waterline length of about 90 feet, a beam width of 90 feet and a mast height up to 190 feet.
Alinghi with firm Décision Corsier in Villeneuve, Switzerland, used about 323,000 square feet of carbon fiber to build its carbon-composite catamaran sailboat.
The sandwich production process included embedding optical fibers within the composites to provide real-time feedback on boat performance. Alinghi 5 was launched July 8.
The Alinghi team says its 90-foot-long catamaran has a beam equal to the width of two tennis courts set side by side and a canting mast that towers over 17 stories high, withstanding the equivalent of 50 [sport utility vehicles] of compression on a foundation the size of a tennis ball.
Federal institute Ãcole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne of Ecublens, Switzerland, has served as Alinghi's scientific advisor since the team's earliest days.
Core Builders Inc. of Anacortes, Wash., constructed BMW Oracle's USA 17 trimaran sailboat and, with Hall Spars & Rigging of Bristol, R.I., built traditional but outdated 185-foot-high carbon-fiber-reinforced masts that are likely to sit idle on the shore during the races. BMW Oracle launched its boat in late 2008 and has modified various components.
BMW Oracle plans to use a two-element, hard-wing sail made mostly with carbon fiber, Kevlar aramid fiber and a shrinkable aeronautical film skin cover.
The fixed wing is smaller than a main sail, is considered aerodynamically more efficient and eliminates use of a traditional mast and sail. Core Builders fabricated the basic wing structure.
The 164-foot-high wing sail consists of a single-piece main element and an eight-flap element that rotates around the trailing edge of the main element. A small gap separates the elements, and nine main hinges link them.
The ability to trim the wing sail easily is a major advantage vs. a soft sail, according to Joseph Ozanne, a BMW Oracle aeronautical specialist. With a wing sail, you can get the shape you want much more easily.
Team designer Manolo Ruiz de Elvira said the wing sail has a height of 188 feet and weighs 7,700 pounds.
BMW Oracle team partners include SuperComputingSolutions srl of Milan, Italy; software developer Parametric Technology Corp. of Needham, Mass.; product lifecycle management firm NetIdeas Inc. of Mount Laurel, N.J.; computational fluid dynamics specialist CD-adapco of Melville, N.Y.; and machining-center operator CMS SpA of Zogno, Italy.
Both the USA 17 trimaran and the Alinghi 5 catamaran use curved hydrofoils, or daggerboards, to provide lateral lift and resistance, lift up the leeward hull, reduce sliding to leeward or leeway and generate vertical lift. Huntington Beach, Calif.-based Morrelli & Melvin Design & Engineering Inc. also participates with the BMW Oracle team on some marine developments.
Acrimony has underscored the convoluted and highly disputed procedural, racing site and legal America's Cup developments since 2007, when Alinghi mounted a successful defense in Valencia. That monohull competition involved 12 teams from five continents.
Now, two teams, each with a seemingly unlimited budget and often antagonistic leadership, face off.
Billionaire entrepreneurs Ernesto Bertarelli for Alinghi and Larry Ellison for BMW Oracle have traded challenges, cast blame and filed judicial appeals through their respective clubs and advocates.
Bertarelli, 44, formerly owned biotechnology giant Serono in Geneva. He created the Alinghi team in 2000 to participate in the America's Cup and often serves as helmsman. Alinghi won the 31st edition of the event in New Zealand in 2003 and defended it in Spain in 2007. For its 2010 defense, Alinghi wanted to sail the Persian Gulf off Ras al-Khaimah in the United Arab Emirates.
Ellison, 65, is co-founder and CEO of enterprise-software supplier Oracle Corp. of Redwood City, Calif., and, reportedly, the second-largest investor in BMW Oracle. Oracle allows use of its logo and branding but does not provide financial support.
In one contested area, BMW Oracle accused Alinghi of planning to use U.S.-made sails, which would be contrary to America's Cup country-of-origin conventions.
Bertarelli replied: Our sails are rooted in Swiss technology, and they have been constructed in Villeneuve, Switzerland. This Swiss technology has been used by both defenders and challengers in the America's Cup since 1995, and we have been through years of development in Switzerland to construct them. Should the American justice system outlaw their use, it would be like asking Roger Federer to defend his title without using his tennis racket. BMW Oracle would win the America's Cup in court as, without our sails, we cannot race.
Alinghi said Swiss engineers Jean-Pierre Baudet and Luc Dubois invented the 3DL sail-making process and maintains that the process is subject to Swiss intellectual property rights.
Ongoing jousting could result in a team disqualification before any of the best-of-three races occur. That, however, would deprive observers of a duel of titans and their unprecedented composites-laden multihulls.
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