Sir Ben Ainslie's team mates have been testing the new life jacket, which will be used in the 35th America's Cup in Bermuda in 2017. Watch the test here!
The new Spinlock life jacket has been developed to ensure the sailors will be better protected against the elements as they race.
Sir Ben Ainslie’s team mate, Nick Hutton, was assigned to work with the team’s official supplier, Henri Lloyd and technical supplier, Spinlock.
“We started with a traditional life jacket,” explained Hutton, “and the first aim was to improve the aerodynamics. What we’ve done to reduce the drag is to weld the rash vest material onto the life jacket to eliminate any air gaps, and maximise the aerodynamic efficiency as much as possible.”
“Then we reduced the foam so it was just above the amount required by the rules to keep the bulk to a minimum, integrating and recessing all the equipment to be as low profile and aerodynamic as possible,” he stated.
The new life jacket was then tested at Jaguar Land Rover’s wind tunnel, which is normally used for automotive research. Hutton’s team mates, Matt Cornwell and Leigh McMillan travelled to the facility in the Midlands to test the latest design and to see what further improvements could be made.
Land Rover BAR’s Chief Technology Officer, Andy Claughton commented: “In the wind tunnel we were able to do a lot of testing on the equipment that the sailors wear. What we’re trying to do is to optimise that as an aerodynamic package. It’s similar to the cycling teams where they are crucially interested in the texture and fit of the clothing. It’s very useful to do real testing on real athletes in real wind.”
Hutton said the latest design is comfortable, and that one more design will be created before the America’s Cup in June 2017.
“The problem with the traditional life jacket when you are grinding is that because it is slipped on and not attached anywhere, the jacket starts moving, whereas this is all tied in with the rash vest so everything is locked down and much more comfortable,” he explained.
The new life jack, along with the sailor’s other technical gear, has to be worn comfortably in all temperatures – from winter training in Portsmouth to racing in Bermuda in June.
“A massive part of all this work with Spinlock and Henri Lloyd is to make it as comfortable as possible so the guys don’t mind wearing it – everyone is happier if they are comfy,” said Hutton.
“There are a lot of details that you won’t notice unless you are wearing it every day. For instance, we have kept a flat lock stitch on the seams of the wetsuits, and if you sit on it or if it’s pressed against your body for a few hours, then you are going to know about it. So we had Henri Lloyd glue down the seam, so it’s smooth and you don’t even notice it’s there. Obviously though, Bermuda’s really hot, so we will be in Henri Lloyd warm weather pants and the Spinlock T2 jacket and that will be it,” he stated.
The spinal board of the Spinlock T2 jacket is made of D3O® material which is “flexible and soft when not under load,” explained Hutton, “But then if you smack it on the table it will be as hard as a piece of metal.”
Other details include the use of dry coated materials to ensure that the minimum amount of water is absorbed by the clothing to keep weight gain to a minimum.
Specific pockets have been provided for the communication equipment, with recesses cut into the foam to minimise bulk and reduce drag.
And finally, if the boat should capsize, the team can remove and discard the jacket within seconds if they need to.
“It’s been a lot of work,” summed up Hutton, “but these new jackets are a big improvement on anything else out there. It’s definitely been worth it.”
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