10 Oct 2017

Team NZ designer: How we won the Cup

From Nine To Noon, 9:34 am on 10 October 2017

From the finely tuned dagger boards to the complex foiling systems Team New Zealand's design boss Dan Bernasconi reveals how they won the America's Cup and how the future is monohull.

Team New Zealand lifted the America's Cup from Oracle Team USA with a thrilling win off Bermuda in June.

Emirates Team New Zealand in action on 24 June, 2017.

Emirates Team New Zealand in action on 24 June, 2017. Photo: AFP / FILE

Bernasconi picked up an award for the winning design - the prestigious John Britten Black Pin Award, in honour of the legendary motorcycle designer.

He accepted the award on Saturday and said it was “a real honour for him and his team to receive the award”.

Bernasconi told Nine to Noon that their success came down to an attitude of experimentation and creativity.

Bernasconi says at the beginning of the campaign they didn’t have much funding and had a pretty small team but said that they knew they needed a pretty bold design to take on Oracle.

He says the key was using a sailing simulator.

“We put our efforts into simulation tools which enabled us to develop concepts more quickly and to get those tested than we would have done if we put all our efforts into boats in the water.”

Bernasconi says that in the six years he worked as a Vehicle Dynamics Engineer for the McLaren Formula One Racing team, simulation grew and grew and grew into a massive part of design.

He says this became a focus when it came down to designing the Team New Zealand boat.

The John Britten Black Pin is the highest award given by the Designers Institute and celebrates an individual who has achieved significant success in the field of design both nationally and internationally. 

Bernasconi says his biggest career changing moves that contributed to his success was switching from doing pure mathematics to doing engineering at university.

“It’s becoming increasingly important for engineers to have strong programming skills so that all of the concepts you develop in the physics understanding, you have you can develop into simulations.”

Despite the winning design there was a day when the Team New Zealand boat nearly tipped in Bermuda. Speaking of the event and how they got through it, Bernasconi says he knew everyone would be foiling.

“It wasn’t a case of how to foil; it was how to fast foil and how to go through manoeuvres.”

Bernasconi says it’s all about getting one foil down, the other one up.

“It’s all about choreography on the boat.”

Designing for Team New Zealand

Designing for Team New Zealand Photo: Dan Bernasconi

Bernasconi also revealed that one of the tactics that helped them win was by getting more of the crew to contribute in sailing the boat.

He says that you are only allowed six crew on the boat and that “it doesn’t add up if you have four people turning handles and two guys steering and trimming the wings”.

“We wanted to get the guys who were providing power to also contribute in sailing the boat in terms of controlling the foil.”

He says this tactic gave them more power.

On whether the winning boat was basically a catamaran with an aircraft wing for a sail balancing top of two big canoes on top of two or four surfboards, Bernasconi says the challenge was making the boat stable to sail accurately through waves and gusts.

Bernasconi is now working on concept designs for their next boat - the new monohull.

“We are looking at the complete spectrum of what you could imagine in monohulls,” he says.

“We’ve got concepts at one end from fairly conventional to a high performance monohull through to semi-foiling monohulls.”

Bernasconi also says he is looking at whether it is possible to get a big yacht fully foiling.

More details of the radical monohull will be revealed on November 30.