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The Power of Teamwork

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Shared Values

What do an aeronautics expert and professional sailing teams have in common? At first glance, an airplane and a boat may seem like opposites, but upon closer inspection they are actually surprisingly similar. This is why Airbus forged a technological partnership with ORACLE TEAM USA, the two-time America’s Cup winner now preparing to defend the title again in Bermuda in 2017.

Both Airbus and the sailing champions strive to innovate in fields that demand nothing short of excellence. The America’s Cup is not only the oldest international sporting trophy, but also one of the most challenging. As ORACLE TEAM USA prepares to push the boundaries for human capability yet again, Airbus brings invaluable expertise in aerodynamics, hydraulics and data analysis to combine extreme technology with agile sports performance.

There are so many similarities between the America's Cup yacht and our aircraft design, that each partner benefits from an excellent platform not only to learn and grow, but also to win.
Fabrice Brégier, President and CEO of Airbus

Airbus Motivation

“This is a completely new endeavor for us,” Fabrice Brégier, President and CEO of Airbus, said as the partnership initially launched in 2014. “There are so many similarities between the America’s Cup yacht and our aircraft design, that each partner benefits from an excellent platform not only to learn and grow, but also to win.”

Because an America’s Cup yacht and an Airbus’ modern aircraft manufacturer have much in common, the benefits of collaborative innovation go both ways. A core tenet for Airbus is to push forward with technology, but equally for its people to develop themselves and others. These are elements equally vital to success in professional sports. Added Brégier: “All at Airbus are very excited about this partnership. Our engineering teams’ enthusiasm and engagement to be a part of this project is simply overwhelming.”

Sailing Team Motivation

The ORACLE TEAM USA has won the last two America’s Cups, most recently securing the title in 2013 with a wingsail-powered catamaran that moves on lift-generating hydrofoils at over 50 mph (90kph). Translation: a boat that appears to fly above the water. When the team sets out to defend the title again in Bermuda in 2017, it will be with a new vessel that’s not only smaller and lighter, but also more finely engineered.

“The America’s Cup is a boat race, but the design technology and engineering are very often the winning factor,” said Jimmy Spithill, ORACLE TEAM USA’s skipper. “The new America’s Cup boats are lighter and faster than what we’ve had before. They will be powered by a wing and will fly above the water on foils. They’re as much like airplanes as they are like traditional boats.”

Tech Similarities

Over 30 Airbus engineers have been busy at work perfecting ORACLE TEAM USA’s racing catamaran, which has a 20-metre-tall wingsail. “Our structures, test processes, instrumentation and hydraulic systems are all influenced by Airbus aircraft design,” said Ian “Fresh” Burns, ORACLE TEAM USA’s Project Engineer. “We are effectively using controls that adjust the lift of the foils under the boat, just as a sidestick governs the flight control surfaces of Airbus aircrafts.”

The similarities to an Airbus aircraft manufacturer extends to the carbon-fibre design of the catamaran, which has comparable aerodynamics and structural loading calculations of a plane. Added Burns: “In the sailing world, engineers have to be masters of many trades because the teams are so small. Having access to these hugely experienced and passionate Airbus experts, with their own view of things, brings us a big advantage.”

Teamwork Similarities

Everything that happens on the ORACLE TEAM USA rig is at the edge of what is humanly possible - not just in terms of engineering, but also when it comes teamwork. In order to win what is one of the most challenging competitions in the world, the athletes have to work seamlessly under punishing conditions. As a group of people hailing from different nationalities, ORACLE TEAM USA is a lesson how to work together to achieve a common goal. With over 136,000 employees from all over the globe, the same can be said for Airbus, and with these synergies already in place, a meeting of the worlds of sports and engineering is proving mutually beneficial.

“ORACLE TEAM USA is the number one sailing team in the world, and Airbus is the leading aircraft manufacturer in the world. We're both driven to be better and faster and lighter,” says Xavier Pol, one of the Airbus engineers integrated with ORACLE TEAM USA in Bermuda. Pol previously worked with flight control systems integration, modelling and simulation activities at Airbus’ St. Martin campus in France. “(Once selected for this project), I couldn’t wait to further discover this other world. In the last competition, ORACLE TEAM USA was down 8-1 and won the next eight races to win the America’s Cup. To be immersed into a culture like that, to see how they respond to unexpected situations is a great learning experience.”

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