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Racing on the high seas: leading yacht designer reveals engineering challenges behind the America's Cup

Published: 
29 November 2007

A graduate of the University of Southampton Ship Science degree course turned leading America's Cup yacht designer, Andy Claughton will present the 7th Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) Annual Lecture at The University of Southampton on Wednesday 5 December (6pm in the Turner Sims Concert Hall, Highfield campus - free entry to all).

Talking on the subject of 'Yacht design for the 32nd America's Cup', Andy Claughton will provide a unique insight into the Formula One of sailing, the high-performance racing yachts that compete for the prestigious America's Cup. He will talk about the challenges and constraints faced in creating fast yachts that are strong enough to take immense loads whilst also being light enough to reach the high performance demanded in match racing at this level; and all this within a strict set of rules and regulations dictating certain design parameters.

Andy will also describe the space-age technology used in racing yacht design and construction; along with the instrumentation systems that have been developed to refine both design and sailing techniques.

The RNLI annual Lecture is organised under the auspices of an Advanced Technology Partnership (ATP) between RNLI and the University of Southampton. The aim of the ATP is to conduct co-operative research and development maritime engineering subjects of common interest to the two institutions and to disseminate this information to the academic and professional engineering and maritime community as well as to the general public. The RNLI annual lecture seeks to fulfil the latter objective of public engagement in matters related to maritime engineering.

Now regarded as one of the top yacht design project managers in the world, Andy Claughton was design coordinator for Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ) America's Cup Challenge, which won the Louis Vuitton Cup in Valencia this year and raced in the final of the 32nd America's Cup against the Swiss Defender Alinghi, which snatched victory by the narrowest of margins (a mere one second!)

After graduating from the University of Southampton in 1975, Andy worked as an engineer in the Wolfson Unit for Marine Technology and Industrial Aerodynamics (WUMTIA) at the University. He also worked as a consultant for several America's Cup Challenges, primarily working on towing tank and wind tunnel testing in the facilities around Southampton.

In 2000, Andy became research coordinator for Team New Zealand's 2003 America's Cup defence campaign, and then design coordinator for the 2007 Challenge, managing the 20-strong design team involved in producing the racing yachts NZL84 and NZL92.

Andy Claughton says: "I have retained close links with the University's Wolfson Unit through our model test and performance prediction programs and it's a real pleasure to be able to come back to Southampton and share my experiences - especially as I am now living back in Southampton where I work as design coordinator for TEAMORIGIN, a UK-based challenge for the 33rd America's Cup."

David Brook, RNLI Engineering and Supply Director, says: "The RNLI, as a charity that operates a 24-hour marine search and rescue service, has to work to exacting design specifications to meet engineering challenges in the development of our lifeboats. There are, I believe similar parallels in the design challenges faced by America's Cup yacht designers. We welcome both University students past and present, along with members of the public interested in sailing, yacht design and engineering technology in general to Andy Claughton's free lecture on Wednesday 5 December 2007 at the University of Southampton."

The RNLI's 7th Annual Lecture 'Yacht Design for the 32nd America's Cup' takes place on Wednesday 5 December at 6.00pm at the Turner Sims Concert Hall on the Highfield campus. Refreshments will be served from 5.30pm in the foyer. Tickets are free and everyone is welcome.

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