It’s been a month since INEOS TEAM UK launched their first AC75 race boat, Britannia, a radical monohull that foils on wings. One of the most technical boats ever built, it needs to reach take-off speed as quickly as possible - across a range of wind speeds and angles - and pass through the air with the minimum of resistance.
The America's Cup boats are bigger, faster and more technical than ever so the specifications of the team’s safety gear are critical. The athletes need to be kitted out with the best protective equipment and flotation technology whilst remaining aerodynamic with the ability to perform athletically at the highest level.
There’s no ‘off the shelf’ aero body armour, it needs to be custom made and incorporate a range of factors - and for INEOS TEAM UK there was only one supplier to work with, Spinlock. The team have been working closely with Spinlock since 2014 and both sides have carried product learnings from AC35 to AC36.
The sailors still need to carry comms equipment, air supply and a personal safety knife, all need to be located on the PFD for efficiency, performance and comfort. Sweat-inducing bursts of activity mean breathability is also high on the list of requirements. The vests need to allow for hot air to escape quickly and efficiently from between the layers of foam surrounding the body. New materials and ‘venting’ will allow the sailors to perform knowing they are not going to ‘overheat’ during a race.
It’s been constant development and Spinlock have been trialling different materials, choosing fabric for minimum weight and maximum sports performance. Spinlock have developed a new spine protector using ‘Skydex’, which is built into a greater area of the back panelling, giving body protection to the motorcycle crash protection standard and passing the 50N standard for flotation.
With the introduction of the AC75, the risk of capsize has increased, so harness technology has also been incorporated into the PFD. INEOS TEAM UK Grinder, Nick Hutton, is in charge of developing the critical safety gear for the crew, “We finished the AC35 with a great product we could move forward with Spinlock. For this next iteration, we have retained all the ‘likes’ of the previous model and developed them for our new AC75 PFD.
“Every little detail needs to be taken into consideration when developing our kit and we need to go into a training session or race knowing we have done everything we can to ensure the crew onboard are wearing the best safety equipment while also being comfortable and able to perform to their optimum.”
Chris Hill, CEO of Spinlock, “Working with INEOS TEAM UK allows Spinlock to continue to push ourselves to develop new designs with new materials and new techniques, finding every small gain to help the team in their goal to win the AC36. As well as helping the team members perform better as athletes, we have also been able to share our knowledge and experience from the other areas of our business in both sail control and ‘Sense’ data monitoring to contribute to the operation and understanding of the new boats sailing loads."
More news on INEOS Team UK's race to the America's Cup here.