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When Sir Ben Ainslie gets a notion to create a British team for the America’s Cup boat race, he most certainly would look to the UK’s prominent designers for help or overview and that would lead him directly to Adrian Newey. The Red Bull Racing designer has long toyed with the idea of designing an America’s Cup boat and even came close to leaving Formula 1 back in the McLaren days but it seems that Sir Ben Ainslie may have to wait as he told BBC:

“To have the advice of Adrian or many of the very smart people involved with Formula 1 industry in the UK would be a great boost for us as a team.

“Newey is clearly a genius, in anything to do with competitive design and he’s got a great profile, but I would hate for anyone to think we were trying to prise him away from Red Bull Racing.”

Newey has recently stated that his focus is on F1 for the foreseeable future but at some time, he would like to dabble in boat design. There is little doubt that a British America’s Cup team with Adrian Newey at the design helm would be a daunting adversary. While Sir Ainslie is dismissing any notion of poaching Adrian, he does say that the championship-winning designer may cast and eye over their work:

“There’s the potential for him perhaps to get involved, cast his eye over our design team and what we’re looking at doing.”

You know how that goes, Adrian takes a look a the plans, gets excited and it re-invigorates his desire to build boats. Red Bull’s Christian Horner should probably keep a close eye on Newey’s mailbox at Milton Keynes for any Sailing magazines.

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An F1 fan since 1972, NC has spent over 25 years in the technology industry and as a CTO, he focuses on technology integration in commercial workspace design, AV systems integration, digital media strategies, technology planning, consulting, speaking, presenting, sales, content strategy, marketing and brand building.
  • peterriva

    The same thing happened with Burt Rutan… Lockheed and DARPA were miffed when he went and designed the flying wing sail for the America’s cup – but you know designers of that caliber, they cannot resist the challenge of revolutionising staid design approaches to any venture. When we visited the McLaren facility in ’87, it was clear that Scaled (Burt’s company, later bought by Lockheed) was years ahead in structures and aero flow design. So we tipped them off to Hexcel honeycomb and by ’88 they had adopted the material (of course) in their fiber sandwich construction (we advocated carbon fiber at the time, but they didn’t have an autoclave large enough). What did worry Burt at the time was that the low speed of F1 compared to airplanes would cause wind-tunnels to be less useful. Why? Because of ground effect changes. Testing airplanes in ground effect is the most challenging in wind tunnels. And in real flight, even tiny (2mm) changes in terrain greatly affect the aero package and laminar flow at speeds under 140kts, so testing in a static wind tunnel becomes almost useless for real data. Burt advocated a rolling road with aberrations. I wonder if they adopted that?

    • Jack Flash (Aust)

      Great post Pete.
      My two cents: Aircraft are not specifically aerodynamically designed to interact in the same intimate way with the ground, as race-cars necessarily have to be. Aircraft approach the ground for landing and reverse at take-off, and the ground effects are managed (within the bounds of safety and controllability of lift surfaces for the flight systems). Race-cars are permanently at that ground boundary, and rely on a constant interplay with the proximity of the tarmac. Race cars purposefully rely on the ground as an aero boundary of its design. So, I expect the complicated problems of simulating realistic ‘ground effect’ variations is even more distinctive for testing of race-car models in wind-tunnels. To address this, the rolling road under the wind tunnel car model would have to be synchronised in speed to the airspeed simulation (same direction), as well as have the representative track surface aberrations you identify. Furthermore, even trickier to test F1 models in a wind-tunnel nowadays, given the FIA-F1 limitation of 60% scale modelling. I guess the ideal next step would be modifying the wind tunnel gases to a lower fluid density than that of air, to shift the Reynolds chart to closer match the 60% model ‘scale distances’ involved. I wonder if F1 teams already do that gas correction? (hint for Ferrari here perhaps….). Jack Flash.

      • peterriva

        Exactly right. Gas correction was suggested some years later at Ames for NASA hypersonic chamber testing. Don’t know if they adopted that.
        The ground effect testing was done for two planes that i know of, both low speed water skimmers (one German one DARPA). About 8 feet off the ground.

        • Jack Flash (Aust)

          ASW planes or Under-the radar stealth planes, I’d presume? Special Ops aircraft any-way.
          “Good grief Charlie Brown” 8 feet (~2.5 metres)! That is super low to sea-level for an ongoing aircraft operational scenario.

          I have to qualify my prior generalised statements for this. That is a very special Aircraft case study Pete.
          The ground effect variations caused by ‘wave height surface aberrations’ (variable sea states) in such aero-test scenario would be very difficult to simulate in the wind tunnel environment. A situation you have pointed out was a real problem for the aircraft designers. What is more, the impact of not modelling that proximal ‘sea-surface effect’ adequately them in the wind tunnel, could have significant repercussions for the accuracy of the aero-data measured – therefore the resulting aircraft design stability, safety & performance.

          Absolutely sure I’d NOT want to be the test pilot finding out on first Operations Trials how close the aero-data actually was (or wasn’t !) to reality, and more importantly what surprises in ‘marginal stability’ or ‘gross instability’ were hidden to find like Easter Eggs at the flight controls. Not this black duck, man. Not down on the deck like that. [One tiny dip, or transient pitch or roll reaction, the wave surface bites into your bird’s leading edges anywhere, and you’d very promptly become a wreckage field sinking to the sea floor.]

          Good discussion Pete.
          Nice to talk proper tech an F1B’er, for a change. Happens far too infrequently. JF

  • Julian

    Hoping to see Chris Rathbone’s rendition of an Adrian Newey designed sailing boat!