Can Spinlock’s technologically advanced lifejacket give Sir Ben Ainslie’s team the winning edge at the 35th America’s Cup?
British lifejacket designers Spinlock have created the world’s most technologically advanced lifejacket in a bid to give Sir Ben Ainslie’s America’s Cup team, Land Rover BAR, the winning edge at the 35th America’s Cup, whilst also ensuring their safety as they fight to bring the Cup home.
As official technical suppliers to Land Rover BAR, Spinlock have been developing the T2 Jacket with the Land Rover BAR team since 2014. Following wind tunnel testing and innovative safety features, designed with high-agility athletic crew work in mind, the T2 has been engineered for minimum drag and optimum maneuverability with a primary aim of keeping the sailors safe should they end up in the water.
It is made from state-of-the-art motorcycle-grade material that acts as shock absorbing body armour to protect the crew in the event of a capsize or crash. Plus, it comes with an emergency air cylinder and a knife cleverly built in so sailors could survive for longer if trapped under a capsized boat. Crucially, it has been designed to allow a sailor to remove it within five seconds should they become caught.
James Hall from Spinlock explains more about the development of the T2: “We started work in June 2014 with Sir Ben Ainslie’s team Land Rover BAR and have worked with the team continuously to develop the kit to their exact requirements for the 35th America’s Cup in Bermuda.
We are now on version eight of the T2 personal flotation device (PFD) for the team. Nick Hutton has been our team contact and has been very involved in the design, as well as offering feedback and comments from the team to us about the kit.
Sailors Nick Hutton, David ‘Freddie’ Carr, Jono Macbeth, Ben Ainslie and Paul ‘CJ’ Campbell-James all came into the Land Rover BAR team straight from the previous America’s Cup in San Francisco (in 2013), when many extra features ended up being bolted onto their kit as part of the changing regulations in the AC72. They had shared desire for Spinlock to develop the latest in flotation for these incredibly fast, and potentially dangerous, multihull.
Spinlock were approached to become an official technical supplier with a brief to explore all the potential wishes for the team in a piece of safety kit, whilst still allowing the team to operate unrestricted as top athletes. It was key for the kit to evolve and not become heavier, bulkier and increase their risk of an accident. At the same time, the PFD needed to perform as a flotation device and meet the stringent requirements of the ISO12402 Standard which is, of course, more intended for leisure watersports.
The team started out in our newly launched 50N Wing PFD, whilst discussing and trialing ideas such as rescue knife, body panel protection, a hydration pack, breathability, personal air supply, combined harness and communications equipment. Some ideas were binned, some used, many refined and some became mandatory through America’s Cup regulations. The team were constantly training and racing in the America’s Cup World Series, so we had a lot of good feedback, allowing us to really refine the tailoring, weight distribution of items such as the air cylinder and the precise location of the knife to work with either hand, even with a broken limb.
Once some of the equipment and features became agreed and fixed, we then started to look at the aerodynamics of the PFD. Land Rover BAR were keen to ensure every possible marginal gain could be made in the aerodynamics of the wearer. Spinlock were lucky enough to join them for a day at the Jaguar Land Rover MIRA wind tunnel where we could really see and measure some of our design efforts to date, compared to earlier designs.
It soon became clear that the newer designs were aerodynamically better and that more gains could be made, albeit small. The neck, sleeves and waist of the PFD are now all integrated into one aerodynamic stretch body to help reduce drag and our designers have continued to refine the fabrics and tailoring of the design, recessing items such as the air bottle deep into the foam to ensure the team are as efficient as possible.
The finished T2 also has our latest Airwave technology included into the design to accommodate the higher temperatures the team will now be experiencing in Bermuda. Airwave technology is more breathable and the cooler set of material and panels helps the body perform at peak levels, despite warmer conditions.
Other technical challenges have included integrating ‘read out’ display screens for Giles Scott (bow and strategist for the team), which automatically flip back into the body of the PFD, and ensuring that even with air bottle, knife, back protector and communications equipment all weighing down the wearer and challenging the way they float, that the PFD still performs in the water as a fully approved lifesaving piece of equipment.”