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BMW Powers Team Oracle USA into America’s Cup Practice, New York Style

As the U.S. sailors aboard Team Oracle USA prepare to defend the America's Cup in Bermuda come 2017, BMW engineers and designers are parting the waters.

John Scott Lewinskiby John Scott Lewinski

The Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series took over the downtown tip of Manhattan this weekend as the international teams who will compete for the Cup in Bermuda come 2017 competed in preliminary races.

As defending Cup holder, Team Oracle USA took on boats from New Zealand, the UK, France, Sweden, and Japan, it carried research and engineering from BMW onto the water. During a weekend-long series of seminars and discussion the German automaker detailed the ongoing work looking to keep the America’s Cup home.

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A series of racing spectacles touring the world, the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series will eventually lead back to Bermuda in 2017 on sailing vessels larger and more advanced than the already high-tech masterpieces used in these lead-up races. BMW is working closely with Team Oracle USA to perfect all aspects of the vessel, its design, its engineering and the functioning of her crew throughout the coming year.

As the oldest trophy in professional sports, winning the America’s Cup is a major sports  accomplishment for Team Oracle USA and BMW. Only four countries can say they took the cup home — the U.S., Australia, New Zealand and Switzerland.

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But, the results of all that work and research from these months of preparation will certainly flow down into other aspects of BMW’s automotive ventures. There’s no telling where it will all lead, as new advancements originally intended to make a fast and efficient sailboat trickle down into BMW’s line of fast, efficient cars.

BMW’s scientists, designers, and engineers in Munich and around the world form the team supporting all aspects of Team Oracle USA’s equipment. The car builder turned its attention to the water as its materials, aerodynamics and carbon fiber departments all dedicated resources to building both the current Team Oracle USA vessel and the larger version that will defend the Cup in Bermuda.

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BMW is a four-time technical partner for the USA’s America’s Cup efforts, and it seems like a natural partnership. In this automotive era of ever-increasing fuel efficiency, material development is essential to create car components that are lighter, yet still as strong as steel. Those kinds of materials forge the dagger board foils that keep the catamaran in the water. Meanwhile, the same wind tunnels that test an M3’s lines against air resistance make sure a vessel that uses wind as propulsion also minimizes drag.

When it came time to test the results of all this BMW research with races on the Hudson River, the weekend’s overcast conditions and weak winds made for poor racing. These massive catamarans and their world class crews can catch a whisper of a breeze, but — when those mere breaths blended with the Hudson’s currents — rounding markers with any speed became impossible. 

When the winds finally allowed for a proper contest Sunday, it was Team New Zealand who came out on top in the point standings for this New York stop. The series will now move on to Chicago in June.

You can venture out from Battery Park onto the Hudson River for race day yourself with the gallery below.

All photos by John Scott Lewinski