While America’s Cup teams including Groupama Team France and Land Rover BAR built their boats from scratch, SoftBank Team Japan not only bought its designs from Oracle Team USA, but also partnered with the same engineering company: Airbus.
No rules were broken, but some have questioned the engineering partnership. America’s Cup protocol allows for the purchase of basic catamaran design packages, but the similar tech-intel ties to Airbus were debatable. Dean Barker of SoftBank Team Japan justified the use of Airbus by saying the two teams operate separately on key areas of designing and configuring their catamarans, Reuters reported.
Airbus has knowledge in aerodynamics, composites, structures, hydraulics, data analysis and more — all of it used in the AC35 catamaran design process.
“The technology they bring to the table is obviously undisputable,” Barker stated in an Airbus press release. “They have a huge amount of experience in the aeronautical industry, and I think as the technology advances with America’s Cup sailing, you are relying on other industries to help us to develop at the highest possible level.”
As the first Japanese challenger in 20 years, SoftBank Team Japan was hoping the design and tech buy-in would get them up to speed, and fast. They survived to the semi-finals, with two make-or-break matches today against Artemis Racing.