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EPFL Scientific Advisor to Alinghi Swiss Challenge

Published: Thu 25 Oct 2001 08:27 AM
Lausanne, October 9, 2001
EPFL, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne designated as Official Scientific Advisor to Alinghi Swiss Challenge yacht racing team
Alinghi, the Swiss challenger for the 2003 America's Cup, and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne today unveiled their partnership in pursuit of yachting's greatest prize.
This fomidable undertaking will challenge the best efforts of EPFL's researchers and students.
At least five EPFL labs and some fifteen EPFL researchers are now working in collaboration with the Alinghi Swiss Challenge Team. About twenty EPFL students will soon join them. The partnership carries out its research and development work at the EPFL campus in Ecublens as well as at the Décision SA boat yard on Fenil-sur-Corsier near Vevey.
Professor Jan-Anders Månson, in charge of the EPFL's Alinghi project, remarked, "For me, it is a most extraordinary experience. This is a unique opportunity to apply the results of fundamental scientific research immediately to an important practical undertaking. This normally involves a much longer process. But in our Alinghi project, the performance requirements and the competition between the various teams result in nearly instantaneous technology transfer.”
The research partnership has several dimensions: materials science to optimize the yacht shell and test the resistance of its components, computer simulation to design the shape of the hull, especially the section below the water line, and innovative measurement systems to analyze the aero- and hydrodynamics of the boat.
Racing yacht materials are an important focus of attention, as every ounce saved in the boat shell can be transferred to the lower ballast to enhance performance. The ballast normally accounts for about 20 of the boat's 25 tons of total weight.
"To have a realistic hope of wining the America's Cup, we need to excel in many areas," said Grant Simmer, the Alinghi team's coordinator of design. "That's the reason this partnership is so important to us. EPFL's academic expertise helps us to validate ideas quickly in broad fields such as material resistance, structural integrity, hydrodynamics, etc."
The scope of the partnership will unfold according to the needs of the Alinghi team and to the innovations created by designers and engineers. "Such a project requires highly developed skills in science, creativity, management, technology, and intuition," explained Bertrand Cardis, co-director of the Décision SA boat yard. "Intuition is fundamental to developing innovations, but intuition must be either confirmed or invalidated by the results of tests and tangible studies. This is the main principle that will guide the evolution of the EPFL and Alinghi team partnership."
The EPFL will also launch a contest for students to develop a semester project that could result in a supplementary innovation for the Alinghi boat. The prize-winning student will be invited to join the Alinghi Team in New Zealand for the Louis Vuitton Cup competition in late 2002.
Stefan Casticas, EPFL Vice President in charge of research, commented, "This kind of challenge is in the EPFL grand tradition of participating in triumphant adventures, such as the round-the-world sailing victory in the Withbread race, Bertrand Piccard's circumnavigation of the globe in a hot-air balloon, and the space flights of Swiss astronaut Claude Nicollier. These adventures are a successful blend of first grade scientific and technical achievements, along with outstanding human accomplishments that have a particularly high value for a campus such as ours."
Contacts :
EPFL : Nicolas Henchoz, tel. 021 693 50 73 - 079 219 84 14
Team Alinghi : Bernard Schopfer, tel. 022 908 27 82

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