It's a yacht race, yes, but if Emirates Team New Zealand win the America's Cup next month it will also be due to the most advanced, hi-tech union of science, software, hardware, electronics, hydraulics and humans yet seen in sport.
"The America's Cup is a technology race as well as a boat race. The team that wins the technology race wins the sailing race. So the technology we use is critical," says Marty Yates, Emirates Team New Zealand's IT manager.
HP New Zealand has been working closely with Emirates Team New Zealand, providing HP Z laptops, HP Z workstations and 3D printing.
The Z workstations help the team to process highly technical computational fluid dynamics modelling. Cameras, sensors and other data points are mounted on the yacht and the chase boats that follow it, wirelessly transmitting a host of data back to the Workstations. The computers run hydro- and aerodynamic analysis, testing how the boat's key components perform in and on the water.
Back at the base, HP's Z Workstations turn that data into incredibly detailed simulations of the real thing, giving Emirates Team New Zealand that technology edge, says Emirates Team New Zealand's head of design, Dan Bernasconi: "We do laps in a virtual yacht, change the conditions and time it. Being able to do that is a game-changer in the way we design America's Cup yachts."
HP Z laptops are also a key part of the technology. Top of the range ZBooks not only provide high performance but are also built tough: "Engineers expect their laptops to perform at top level, 100 per cent of the time," says Carl Hansen, HP NZ's technical consultant who has been working closely with Emirates Team New Zealand . "When they are on the [chase] boat, their laptop has to withstand vibration, pounding, and are able to be read in bright sunshine."
"We used to take notes on a clipboard – things have come a huge way since then," Bernasconi says. "It used to take us until the next day to feedback and address; now with HP ZBook devices in the chase boats, we can do it in five minutes."
The HP team ensures Team New Zealand gain maximum benefit from their HP ZBook laptops and HP Z Workstations among what, for most people, is a bewildering array of technical terms like computational fluid dynamics, finite element analysis, voxel control and Multi Jet Fusion Technology.
The HP ZBook Laptop, the HP ZWorkstation and the HP Jet Fusion 580 Color 3D Printer each complement each other by gathering a huge amount of data that helps make tiny adjustments to sail, foil and hull designs, among other things. The team can immediately see how functional 3D printed parts have performed and adjust them, thanks to the team's HP Jet Fusion 580 Colour 3D Printer.
The extent to which the America's Cup has become a technology race as well as a yacht race is possibly easiest seen in the hand controllers printed by the HP Jet Fusion 580 Colour 3D Printer used by Team New Zealand's Peter Burling, Blair Tuke and Glenn Ashby.
They look like a handset for an Xbox, or maybe a tablet – but that everyday appearance hides the technological complexity of a piece of equipment as much a key to winning the America's Cup as, for example, the sails. The controllers are used to manipulate the foils, the sails and much more.
"You could say it is one of the most critical components – and we have 3D-printed bespoke hand controllers that fit perfectly in the hand of each of the sailors and so the buttons are configured in the way they find it best to operate," says Hansen. "This is a game of minute advances, all of which can add up to big results; anything we can do to give them those small advantages is vital when it comes to winning the Cup."
Behind all of the HP Technology is the HP team's human support, says Bernasconi: "We have a really good partnership with HP – in every area we're pushing optimisation really hard and we're relying on HP computational analysis to push that design to the limit. The HP team are really keen to get involved with the design team and support us with our needs.
"What this partnership shows is innovation can occur in New Zealand at a very high level – we have the skills and technology to be the best in the world."