This U.S. sailing team sought out Airbus for its expertise in engineering and simulation, among other disciplines

When U.S. team American Magic competes for sailing’s oldest trophy – the America’s Cup – in 2021, it will benefit from Airbus expertise across a broad range of related disciplines.

Representing the historic New York Yacht Club, American Magic enlisted Airbus to optimise the performance of its racing yacht design process – particularly looking to leverage the global company’s demonstrated excellence in engineering and simulation.

The ongoing Airbus-American Magic innovation partnership brings together two partners known for out-of-the-box thinking and concepts, now united to win the next edition of the nearly 170-year-old America’s Cup challenge. Further underscoring their compatibility, both teams also prioritise innovation and efficiency while maintaining the highest-possible safety levels.

A launch toward America’s Cup

Last weekend, American Magic launched their first full-scale, 75-ft. boat – named Defiant – in its preparations for the 2021 America’s Cup competition, largely relying performance results from a smaller 38-ft. prototype nicknamed “The Mule,” created with Airbus’ engineering support in several design areas.  

“Congratulations to the team for this incredible hard work, which has given birth to this truly impressive boat!” said Jean-Brice Dumont, Executive Vice-President Engineering. “Airbus’ collaboration with American Magic is a true illustration of what passionate and innovative people can achieve together.”

Time is always a key factor in everything we do.

Airbus ground test engineer Laurent Chatillon

Defiant was constructed at a dedicated U.S. facility in Bristol, Rhode Island, with embedded Airbus engineers such as Toulouse, France-based Laurent Chatillon providing key assistance. “I’ve been involved with all of the boat’s systems, helping to design, size and test components to optimise their performance,” he explained. "Time is always a key factor in everything we do."

This race against time explains the importance of innovations such as virtual reality (VR). "We provided the team with a VR set-up so they could enhance the design and installation of the electrical and hydraulic systems," explained Yves Le Biannic, who is overseeing Airbus' engineering efforts with American Magic. "When Defiant arrived, we saved a significant amount of time because they already knew how to install the systems."

Chatillon added that the run-up to Defiant’s launch was similar to that of an aircraft’s first flight, for which Airbus has a long history of successes. "There was a lot of preparation and then pressure to execute and deliver on time," he continued. "A teammate here said: 'You learn to be comfortable in uncomfortable situations. You do your best; you do what needs to be done and then you move on.'"

Heading for warmer waters

American Magic, including the embedded Airbus engineers, will continue to train in Rhode Island’s waters during the fall of 2019 before relocating to Pensacola, Florida for the winter. This is where preparations will begin for the first America’s Cup World Series Races, to be held next April in Cagliari, Sardinia, with Defiant later being succeeded by a further-refined AC75#2 version. The following America’s Cup race will commence in Auckland, New Zealand from February to March 2021.

Airbus’ involvement with the multi-stage competition is an outstanding opportunity to unleash the company’s pioneering spirit in an entirely new context. The partnership also reflects Airbus’ significant – and growing – presence in North America.