“Oracle's boat has hundreds of sensors embedded throughout its hulls, in the underwater fins and up the length of the mast. They're connected by wire to a server in a waterproof box in one of the hulls. The server uses a single wireless access point to distribute data to computerized "wrist watches" and other devices worn by the crew. The others teams in the race are expected to employ a similar set-up.
The computer tells the crews the optimal moment to tack or jibe, or when to trim the sails to increase their speed. It does this by looking at measurements including the "bend, twist and rake" of the mast, which helps it to calculate the "true" wind from the apparent wind experienced on the moving boat.
On the mono hull boats used in previous America's Cups, crew members could gather on deck to study data on a fixed display at the base of the mast. A navigator figured out the optimal time to turn and gave the instruction to the crew. But on these catamarans there is no deck, only a tight net between the hulls that sailors scramble across constantly to "hike out" on either side of the boat. And the position of navigator has been eliminated to allow for an extra "grinder" -- the brawny crew members who operate the winches that make adjustments to the sail and other parts of the boat.
"There's no one person interpreting the data any more," Khan said. "Everyone's having information processed and given to them exactly how they need it, on their own personalized display."”
Last week, with 25-knot winds and extremely strong ebb currents, one of the Oracle boats flipped and had significant damage. Clearly, even with all the data from the sensors, even more could always be useful.
Photo Credit Oracle Team USA