Land Rover has combined technology from the new Discovery with unique personalisation to help Sir Ben Ainslie win the America’s Cup.
Engineers have created a one-off steering wheel with gear-shift paddles shaped to fit Sir Ben’s hands – giving the Olympic legend perfect fingertip control in his pursuit of the America’s Cup, the world’s oldest sporting trophy.
The wheel allows Skipper and Team Principal Sir Ben to ‘fly’ by adjusting the boat’s hydrofoils with greater precision for the fastest possible racing. He can lift R1, Land Rover BAR’s 2.4-tonne race boat, out of the water with a flick of his fingertips.
Just as an aerofoil helps a plane into the sky, hydrofoils lift a boat out of the water. The Land Rover steering wheel turns the boat left and right as it would on a car, while the gear shift paddles control its height above the water by controlling the lift from the foils.
Sir Ben said: “This is not just a great piece of design and engineering, but beautiful craftsmanship. The controls are intuitive and smooth, with just the right amount of feel and feedback. It really has made a difference to how I control R1.”
Land Rover’s Human Machine Interface engineers spent 18 months developing the wheel that will lift R1 above the water at speeds above 50 knots.
Tony Harper, Director of Research at Jaguar Land Rover, said: “We have used our experience and technologies developed for the new Discovery and put it on to the race boat.
“The paddle system we developed for Land Rover BAR has its roots in the steering wheel gear-change mechanisms our customers use daily. By adding personalised moulds of Sir Ben’s fingers we have provided a mechanism capable of lifting the boat onto its foils, increasing efficiency through the water and ultimately reaching top speed more quickly.”
Richard Hopkirk, Engineering Manager at Land Rover BAR, said: “Land Rover’s new easier-to-use controls are a reliable and innovative design concept, giving Sir Ben and the team a feature not seen before in the America’s Cup.
“This is the critical piece of technology on board – the connection between Sir Ben and the boat. I’m really grateful to the Land Rover engineers for working so closely with our team and leading the development of such an effective, efficient design”.
As Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series champions, Land Rover BAR head into the qualifiers for the 35th America’s Cup with a two-point head-start over the remaining challengers. The team begins its challenge for the America’s Cup on Friday 26 May against Artemis Racing of Sweden.