This AI-powered ‘Flying Boat’ Will Soar At 60 MPH To Fight For America’s Cup

The New York Yacht Club (NYYC) American Magic team has teamed up with Michigan-based Altair to utilize AI in their bid to outperform competitors in the upcoming America’s Cup this August.

The output of this partnership is a state-of-the-art AC75 boat that is expected to “fly” at over 55 miles per hour (88 km/h). In an interview with Interesting Engineering, Julien Chaussee, the technical manager of Altair, stated, “Recent cycles of the cup have seen significant development towards hydrofoiling yachts at scales not seen before, which allows them to reach speeds well beyond typical sailboats.”

In contrast to previous sailing competitions, the America’s Cup is a competition between sailing clubs rather than between individual yachts, sailors, or crews. The clubs give engineers much freedom to optimize their designs by agreeing on design guidelines for their yachts or returning to the competition’s default standards.

Sailboats may usually reach speeds twice as fast as the wind. Nonetheless, AC75 boats achieved a top speed of 30 to 50 miles per hour during the America’s Cup last year. “An AC75 will only need 9–12 mph of wind for the yachts to ‘take off’ and fly on their hydrofoils,” Chaussee clarified. They can effortlessly achieve speeds three to four times the wind’s average speed once they are “airborne.”

NYCC anticipates that this year’s yachts will reach 55 to 60 mph speeds and seem to fly out of the sea. As these yachts’ velocity increases, aerodynamic forces become substantial, which can impact performance. Teams train sailors using simulations because the competition rules prohibit in-person testing.

NYYC is pushing the envelope by employing AI to enhance its chances of winning the competition, which is set to be held in Barcelona. Over the past two years, Altair and NYCC have worked on the current AC75 design. While Chaussee did not disclose specific details, he mentioned that AI processed vast amounts of data generated during development.

The team analyzed sailing data from current and previous events to identify patterns and test ideas. Self-learning algorithms or bots were trained to navigate the course using the fastest routes or perform specific maneuvers.

Combining the sailing crew’s experience with AI, the newly designed yacht aims to reach its maximum potential. Mike Cazer, CEO of NYYC American Magic, expressed gratitude, stating, “We are thankful to have had Altair’s technology and support propel our journey to win the 37th America’s Cup. Altair’s best-in-class technology was crucial in helping us design a yacht that enhances the team’s capability to win the America’s Cup in October.”

Despite the technical advancements, one uncontrollable factor remains the weather. Chaussee explained, “While teams have vast amounts of historical weather data for Barcelona during the competition dates, they cannot predict the actual wind and sea state they’ll encounter during the America’s Cup.”

Although every design is a compromise, teams base their decisions on expected situations and plan for various extreme eventualities. Any team can experience unforeseen weather conditions.

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