In competition, sometimes in order to find the edge of the performance envelope, you have to come right up to it or even over it.
That’s what happened to ORACLE TEAM USA during a recent America’s Cup training run as they were pushing the boat as hard and fast as possible. They went beyond the operating boundary and capsized after a high-speed foiling turn.
Fortunately, there were no injuries. Parker's systems have been engineered to be submerged, and the boat sustained minimal damage due to a quick recovery.
Can the control system handle it?
Anticipating that the hydraulic control system for the boat would be operating at the water line or in some cases, submerged in the event of a capsize or hard crash, the components were designed to be operational down to two feet below the water's surface. The system was also engineered to withstand the constant, corrosive salt water splash while sailing, as well as the high-humidity, high-heat island atmosphere when out of the water.
Performance in harsh conditions
Even if the smallest amount of water enters a cavity of the hardware, it will quickly corrode through the metal when subjected to the harsh water and island conditions.
To ensure performance in these extreme conditions, several design modifications were made to the AC45 boats after leaving San Francisco and training in Bermuda, including:
- Minimizing materials used to only the most corrosion-resistant types
- Removing any internal wiring within hydraulic manifolds
- Increased number of environmental seals on actuators
- Applying epoxy-sealant over exposed surfaces of any steel variant
- Post-use rinsing of components with fresh water
- Post-use removal of any pooled water on components
- Change to molded and sealed plastic electrical connectors
With these design changes in place on the AC50, the control system operates continuously even in these challenging conditions. Post-capsize work on the system is now limited to functional inspection with no need to remove and replace any hardware.
A reliable system
When you consider how few sailing days remain, how valuable each day is, and how costly losing a sailing day is, it underscores the importance of having a reliable system in place.
Now, watch the video of the ORACLE TEAM USA boat capsizing on the America's Cup training run:
This post was contributed by Stuart Meurer, Parker project manager on the ORACLE TEAM USA yacht, Parker Aerospace.