Thomas Hahn, a BMW engineer and member of the BMW ORACLE Racing design team, talks about the challenges of the Challenger of Record.



You are an engineer with BMW and a member of the 38-person BMW ORACLE Racing design team for the past three years. What is the main difference between building an automobile and a high-tech yacht?

Our two racing yachts USA 87 and USA 98 were essentially constructed on the basis of computer simulations. In order to save time, amongst other reasons, we did not use pro­totypes, as is customary in the field of automotive construction. Building a car is a step-by-step development which involves upgrading the respective forerunner model. In the case of yachts, we move from computer models and one third scale tow tank models straight to full scale. The construction of a yacht truly is a thrilling challenge for engineers.

What can CEO and skipper Chris Dickson and the management team expect of the yachts of the current generation?

Certainly top class boats which are absolutely competitive. Our team has designed a structural concept with unique characteristics. With this target in mind, the designers, constructing engineers and boatbuilders worked around the clock under major pressure. We are pursuing the same objective as all the other team members – doing our very best in order to achieve the best possible result – winning the 32nd America’s Cup.

What was the biggest challenge for you when you were constructing the yacht?

Gaining control of the extremely powerful forces. If the boat is sailing close hauled at an angle of approximately 30-35 degrees to the wind, for example, the keel fin is subjected to a weight of around 12 tonnes from the sides alone. This weight must be borne. You need to be aware of the maximum forces that may come into play, whether you are dealing with a car or an America’s Cup yacht. That is the prerequisite, which will enable you to take full advantage of the maximum capacity when it comes to the structural design.

With regards to your profession, what was your most enjoyable experience over the past three years?

Without a doubt there were quite a few. However, 25 March 2006 was definitely an unforgettable day for me. This was when USA 87 with the innovative structural concept was first launched into the water. I felt tremendous personal satisfaction seeing the full -scale yacht that I spent three years developing actually floating in the water for the first time.

What lies ahead of you these coming weeks in Valencia?

Now that the count down is on for the America’s Cup, the fine tuning is getting more and more so­phisticated as we are trying to increase the speed by yet another percent or two. Our working day usually begins at about 7:30 in the morning with the first team meeting. In the evening, the crew provides us with feedback on the strengths and weaknesses they detected on the water. We are then expected to solve the problem during the night. After all, the yacht needs to be in race ready condition for the next day on the water.

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