Perched high above the waves on a carbon-fiber multihull, BMW Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill looks more like a character out of Star Wars than an America’s Cup helmsman as he employs high-tech fighter jet glasses and a voice-command PDA to guide a giant boat three times the speed of wind through the sea. Any doubt that the America’s Cup is not a designer’s race was put to rest Friday after BMW Oracle opened the best-of-three series with a crushing win over the Swiss champions. The American challenger’s radical technology — most notably its wing sail — took the 159-year-old sailing competition by storm. With chief executive Russell Coutts at the helm and the experienced designer Mike Drummond alongside, BMW Oracle has designed a futuristic boat that is on the verge of returning the Auld Mug to the United States for the first time since 1995. “The designers did a brilliant job,” president Larry Ellison said. “(But) the piece of the kit we’re most proud of is the wing.” The wing — built of carbon fiber and Kevlar and covered with a skin of light, shrinkable aeronautical film — is 223 feet high and bigger than the wing of an Airbus A380, the world’s biggest passenger airliner.
“Russell didn’t just drop me an e-mail note saying we’d like to build a wing. We talked about it quite a bit,” Ellison said. “Jimmy thought we should have a wing, Russell thought we should have a wing and it was the consensus of the team. So we went ahead and did it.” – from AP
Alex has written for Vanity Fair, Barrons, Bloomberg and Condé Nast Traveler.