University of Southampton: Southampton graduates at the heart of America’s Cup final

The finals of the 36th America’s Cup pit the defending champion Emirates Team New Zealand against the contending crew of Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli from Italy.

The best-of-13 battle, sailed in waters off the coast of Auckland, also pits University of Southampton graduates against each other as alumni feature in both teams. Luna Rossa’s Construction Manager is Julian Meunier who completed his MSc in Maritime Engineering, Yacht and Small Craft in 2007 at Southampton and one of the team’s Aerodynamic Analysts is Nicholas Carabelli who graduated with the same degree in 2018.

The design of Team New Zealand’s entry Te Rehautai – which means ‘sea spra’ in Maori – has been led by Technical Director and Southampton graduate Dan Bernasconi. He’s joined at Team New Zealand by fellow Southampton alumni Thomas Khyn, another MSc Maritime, Yacht and Small Craft graduate from 2007, and Guillaume Verdier who studied Naval Architecture and graduated in 1995.

Many watching the Cup closely believe Team New Zealand has the best all-round craft in this modern era of super-fast foiling and it’s no mistake that the boat’s aerodynamic design is very reflective of a Formula One car. That design very much relates Bernasconi’s expertise gained through his PhD in Mathematics, Modelling and Aerodynamics at Southampton (2006) after leading the Vehicle Modelling team during a career who has seen him move between superfast cars and superfast yachts.

“We are incredibly proud of all our Ship Science graduates across all four design teams involved in this Americas Cup cycle,” said Dr Joe Banks, Lecturer in Ship Science/Maritime Engineering at Southampton. “It is amazing to see how the limits of maritime engineering and naval architecture are constantly being pushed back and hope that this will help inspire the next generation of designers and engineers. It is great to see Southampton graduates being so instrumental in both teams competing in the America’s Cup final and wish both teams good luck over the coming days.”

When racing – or flying – Team New Zealand’s mono-hulled Te Rehautai (75-feet long, 16-feet wide) is lifted out of the water on hydrofoils which can aid the boat in achieving a maximum speed of 50 knots.

“It’s all about trying to minimise the amount of hull you have in the water,” explained Bernasconi who admits that the hull shapes of the Team New Zealand boat actually being used in competition are really nothing he envisaged when he and his team started first started their designs. “You’ve got to accelerate to get out of the water and then once you are up and foiling, it is all about aerodynamic.

“We’ve put a lot of work into the optimisation of the design,” he continued. “With the tools that we have, we are confident in the shapes that we have come up with. Ultimately we do have to make some sort of judgement call on the hydro and aerodynamics and look at the low wind performance, along with foiling performance.”

“It’s an interesting design problem for the engineers, and it’s great for us to have some really open space to play in,” he concluded.

Whilst Bernasconi is taking nothing for granted in this year’s America’s Cup, he’s confident that his team has put together a winning design through a team approach where no one is afraid to take risks to succeed.

“The philosophy we have starts right at the top — and it’s a really good culture — we are generally ones to throw the ball pretty far,” said Bernasconi. “We are not conservative — we tend to take risks and in the very competitive environment we are in, we understand that we have to take really big risks to stay ahead. If you are conservative, you are going to get beaten.”

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