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Auckland engineers boost America's Cup crews

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Many New Zealand designers and engineers involved in this year’s America’s Cup in San Francisco are graduates of the University of Auckland.

The best known of these is four times winner of the America’s Cup and Olympic Gold medalist, Russell Coutts who has specialised in performance yacht racing and design for more than 25 years. Russell graduated from the Faculty of Engineering and is now the leader of the defending Oracle team.

Other engineering graduates include Nick Holyroyd (Emirates NZ technical director), sail designer Burns Fallow (Emirates NZ sail design co-ordinator), Kevin Burrows (Oracle, aerodynamic analyst and project manager), Chris Blake (Emirates NZ, sensors and analysis), and Andrew McLean (Artemis, grinder and head of performance and instruments).

Auckland University graduates from other disciplines include Asim Khan (computer science) now performance database programmer and director of IT for Oracle, and chemistry graduates Rodney Ardern and Chris Ward who also did engineering intermediate.

Emirates Team NZ includes David Le Pelley, who was involved with the team’s aero and instrumentation activities. At the University of Auckland, David manages the wind tunnel and Yacht Research Unit, including research and consultancy for many of the world's top racing teams, specialising in aerodynamics and velocity performance prediction. His current research involves sail shape recognition using camera systems. In the 32nd America’s Cup, David was a member of the BMW Oracle Racing design team.

Artemis Racing team’s highly respected sail designer, Tom Schnackenberg, is also a graduate from the University of Auckland with a first class masters degree in Physics. He has extensive experience in sail design and testing and helped establish the Twisted flow Wind Tunnel at the University’s Tāmaki Campus.

He has had a successful record with several America’s Cup syndicates, including leading the New Zealand team in 2003 and was the sail designer for the yacht Australia II which in 1983 was the first non-American winner of the America’s Cup in Newport, Rhode Island. In 2003 Tom was presented with a University of Auckland Distinguished Alumni Award.

The engineering graduates were able to take advantage of the faculty’s world class facilities including a Yacht Research Unit which was used in the design and testing of boats competing in the America’s Cup since its inception in 1987.

The facilities available to the University of Auckland students include state-of-the-art wind tunnels for testing sail design and research groupings in advanced composite materials and light metals. Students are able to work with researchers on polymers, coatings, dynamic positioning and embedded systems.

The Faculty of Engineering offers a Master of Engineering Studies degree in Yacht Engineering which combines courses in materials, structures, boat design and manufacturing, computational fluid dynamics and aerodynamics/hydrodynamics, with practical project work and field visits to leading boat building companies.

The University of Auckland is also sited close to some of the ‘City of Sails’ top sailing and yacht development companies, giving students easy access to practical sailing and construction experience.

This environment gives students easy access to practical sailing and construction experience and opportunities to work alongside top America’s Cup and Olympic sailors, or in super yacht construction, sail design and manufacture, spar and rigging design and manufacture.

At the nearby Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron students can hone their sailing skills on the squadron’s successful youth training program that has produced many top America’s Cup and Volvo Ocean race crew members.

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