Much has been made of the youth factor in this 35th America's Cup with Emirates Team New Zealand leading the way.

The Kiwis have the youngest team, the youngest skipper and probably the youngest performance engineer.

At just 22, Auckland University graduate Elise Beavis is living her dream, working with the designers, boat-builders, naval architects and technicians in their quest to make the boat go faster.

And the biggest part of her contribution has been helping to develop the set-up for the revolutionary "cyclors"....the sailing cyclists who've caused such a stir with their pedal power.


"I started sailing at 9 in an Optimist, then Starlings, Laser Radials, and did lots of regattas," explains Beavis. "In school I was quite strong in maths and physics so I found out about engineering. I thought 'that sounds like something I would be interested in'- applying my academic side to sailing and understanding how boats worked and make them go faster.

"Working at Emirates Team New Zealand is a dream job for me and for it to happen so quickly is really great."

As part of her degree Beavis did practical work with Pure Design, a structural engineering consultancy involved with Emirates Team New Zealand, and in time her work experience on a CFD - Computational Fluid Dynamics - project led to a job offer from the team's technical director Dan Bernasconi:."Her degree was very relevant and she's quick to learn and keen to do whatever job needed doing."

Her yachting experience was also significant. "She can talk to sailors in their own language," said Bernasconi who adopts a policy of introducing new young graduates which he experienced working for the McLaren Formula 1 team. "For a lot of the work we do you need a good balance of experience and bright young graduates who are really enthusiastic instead of just employing people from other America's Cup teams."

Beavis's CFD project involved working on the design of the fairings on the back of the beams and along the foredeck and prod to make them slippery through the wind. It also meant she got to ride on the AC50.

"I actually went on the boat sailing one day to do some wind-wand testing, " she recalls." You can put woollies on the boat but the problem is they get all the spray and get wet and they stick to the fairings and you don't learn anything from them. So I actually got on with the wind-wand and it's crazy how fast it goes and how quickly Pete turns it through the corners."

Her other main project was working on the aerodynamics of the crew:"Biking was being thought about and we were working out how it would work compared with conventional grinding from an aerodynamic point of view" says Beavis.

"We began running models with people standing, kneeling or crouching along with a programme for the mechanical set up - how it would fit in the boat and the aerodynamics as to how the bikes were being positioned in the boat."

The team got to the point where biking was looking pretty likely to go ahead and they wanted to run a check on the data.

"We booked two days at the wind tunnel at university, built a rig and had actual sailors in actual sailing gear to validate our results and check that the computer was telling us the truth," Beavis says with a smile."

The results were very satisfying. "We see the opposition standing up a lot on the boat out there and not actually getting down very often to get enough power to get around the track. Our guys on the bikes are producing that much less drag and that's pretty cool."

The subject of women being involved in the America's Cup has already been raised several times in this 35th edition. For Emirates Team New Zealand gender is irrelevant . They just want the best people for the job.

As a woman in engineering Beavis sees attitudes changing. Of her intake at Auckland University 25% were female. And the supposedly macho environment at Emirates Team New Zealand doesn't faze her: "It doesn't really bother me. I guess in sailing there's always the mix of guys and girls and it hasn't bothered me too much."

There is a certain amount of envy though: "Most of my good friends are in sailing and they are really jealous I am up here and working for Emirates Team New Zealand. It's pretty cool. I'm just hoping we will win it and we can bring it back and I can carry on learning more."

- By Martin Tasker