The Mercedes Formula One team has joined forces with British sailor Ben Ainslie in a quest to win the America’s Cup for Great Britain’s Royal Yacht Squadron.
The America’s Cup is the oldest international trophy in sport, predating the Olympics by 45 years, but has not been won by a British team since it was first held as a race around the Isle of Wight in 1851. The Ineos Britannia team, skippered by Ainslie, hopes to change that by working closely with British-based Mercedes team to build a yacht capable of defeating the current holders, Emirates Team New Zealand.
The link-up between the two teams comes via Ineos, which owns a third of the F1 team and is the main backer of Ineos Britannia. The sailing team will be based at Mercedes’ headquarters in Brackley, leaning on the engineering resources of various departments via the F1 team’s Mercedes Applied Science division.
Mercedes is expecting to have as many as 50 people working on the early design process of the yacht once the regulations, date and location for the 37th America’s Cup are agreed in mid-November by New Zealand and Great Britain. Mercedes’ chief technical officer, James Allison, who recently took a step back from the F1 side of the company, will be the technical lead on the yacht project.
Shouldn’t Mercedes be focusing on F1, not yachts?
While the project has an obvious commercial tie-up via Ineos, Mercedes is also keen to make the project work for the engineering benefit of the F1 team. The America’s Cup is often known as ‘F1 on water’, and clear links can be made between the hydrodynamics that allow a racing yacht to “fly” on its foils in the sea and the aerodynamics that keep an F1 car pinned to the track.
But Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff says the joint project will offer more than just a new revenue stream for the team through Mercedes Applied Science.
“We have had situations where engineers said, we have done this for seven years — and many were even longer — with seven world championships and they are asking where the next challenge is,” Wolff said. “And it doesn’t go any bigger than the challenge of winning the America’s Cup as Challenger of Record.
“You are being the underdog, so you need to do an even better job. So that is of benefit because we retain the ability in-house and they are not going elsewhere — within the industry or outside. Some of the people throughout the departments have said this is a nice challenge that they would like to take up for the next three or five years and gain some understanding, which probably can be deployed back into Formula One.
“It’s almost like an activity that is so competitive that you need all your cognitive and intellectual concentration and that becomes an advantage when you are looking back into Formula One and it takes you out of your comfort zone.”
Part of the reason the Mercedes team can afford to lend significant resources to the America’s Cup campaign is thanks to Formula One’s new budget cap this year. The introduction of a $145 million spending cap in 2021 forced the team to make cuts in its design and engineering departments, but by shifting staff to a non-F1 project outside the cap they can continue to work for the team.
“From a cost cap point of view, this team was bigger last year than you could afford in a cost cap this year and that means a certain amount of our resources is able to work on this type of project,” Allison said. “As the rhythm of the Cup campaign requires it, hopefully it will intermesh adequately well with the corresponding demands that happen over in F1 land, so all the skill that we have here can be brought to bear.”
Mercedes Applied Science also works on other projects, including the design and optimisation of road bikes, running shoes and Ineos’ off-road vehicle the Grenadier. Wolff said the decision to diversify the business away from F1 came from looking at the success of sports franchises in the U.S.A..
“We looked at this pretty early because I’m always keen to learn from other sports leagues and when you look over the ocean at the most developed American sports leagues – the NBA and the NFL – these guys have diversified into real estate and into the hospitality business by the sheer fact that they are having a stadium,” Wolff said. “And I think for us the logical next step is diversifying into engineering. We have created all this I.P. that we have never deployed on any other vehicle other than a racing car.
“We have never monetised any of the I.P. that exists here, and you are talking billions of spend into technology in a Formula One team, so that’s why it sounds pretty logical that other teams are also looking at that space.
“But Mercedes Applied Science is not a commercial engineering entity. We are not pitching actively for engineering jobs, but we want to work with people who want to break records or win championships in land, sea, air and space. We have seen how the most challenging of all racing, the pinnacle comparable to Formula One, and this is not in the pursuit of margin, but more in the pursuit of learning and diversification for the benefit of Formula One.
“In the same way, a great new project for engineers that have learned their laurels in Formula One but they want to look at something different. Having said that, it needs to stand on its own commercial legs.
“It’s our way of diversifying into other business areas, but we need to make sure that we are a contributing partner with the same ambition that we have in Formula One racing but without distracting from any of the two activities: they must run in parallel.
“We don’t want to read the headline in three years that since we have started sailing we haven’t been winning on the road. That must not happen.”
How will Mercedes F1 technology make a yacht go faster?
While Allison will be the technical lead on Ineos Britannia’s America’s Cup campaign, German naval designer Martin Fischer will lead the design concept. As tempting as it is to imagine shapes from Lewis Hamilton’s F1 car emerging on a racing yacht, the reality is that Mercedes’ engineering know-how will more likely contribute to parts of the boat you can’t see.
“Areas which are harder for America’s Cup teams to do but are the meat and drink of an F1 team are all the systems that we have in place to know, for example, that if you want to put a hydraulic pipe down a certain length of something, how far away to keep all the other things so it doesn’t fret on the pipe and how often down the pipe do you need to support it so it doesn’t bounce around so much and the type of equipment that we have to inspect stuff so that we know that what is designed is what we built and are assembling,” Allison said.
“All of the design standards that have been painfully learnt and written into a procedure in an F1 team can now be picked up and used by the community of engineers that is Britannia. That sort of stuff is pretty valuable.
“When you want all your good hydrodynamic and aerodynamic ideas to come true – i.e. the things that are coming from the marine folk of the team, backed up by the capable bodies that are working with them – then the boat has to be assembled on time and to the right qualities, it must not break down on the water so the sailors can learn while they are sailing it, so I think the maturity of the Mercedes Formula One team provides a really functional environment for the design engineers to then create designs that ought to be reliable and work.
“Hopefully we then build enough raw performance in to the boat to make it a competitive boat as well as reliable boat.”
Allison added: “We hope we properly understand that being good at racing cars doesn’t mean you are good at making yachts. What we wish to do is to learn from people that are good at doing yachts the manner in which we can best help.
“So my opening conversations with Martin were to try and assess the strengths and weaknesses of the previous campaign inside Ben’s team, the strengths and weaknesses of the campaign Martin was involved with in with Luna Rossa [the runner up at the 36th America’s Cup], to try to figure out how we can amplify the strengths and mitigate the weaknesses.
“And to see where there are areas of opportunity, like the engineering standards that we have is stuff that any engineering group can happily pick up and fall on like manna from heaven to just say that’s work we don’t need to do, can we just use that?
“To specifically try to get the likely key features, because we don’t know a location or the timing yet, but what are the likely key features and what sort of level of force are we going need.”
Exploring the psychological impacts of a two-month, solo Antarctic expedition
Next month, British explorer Sam Cox will spend two months, completely alone, trekking across one of the Earth’s last true wildernesses – Antarctica.
While travelling 2,000km across snow and ice requires a huge amount of physical endurance, the mental impacts of this journey are perhaps, even more significant.
Alexandra de Carvalho from the Austrian Space Forum will be working closely with Sam pre- and post-expedition, to understand the psychological impacts of the journey.
“The first thing to consider is the sheer isolation of this challenge. Two months with extremely minimal human contact is not something to be underestimated,” she said.
“Our work is mainly concerned with space, and people usually think that space is more distant than Antarctica, but actually it’s not true. It’s much easier sometimes to come back from space, to come back to Earth if there’s an emergency.
“More people have gone into space than trekked to the South Pole.
“To come back to the mainland from Antarctica can be extremely difficult, which exacerbates that feeling of distance. You cannot just be evacuated if you want.”
The only link Sam will have to the outside world is a beacon plotting his incremental location in case of emergency, and very limited communications via satphone.
Alexandra added: “Separated from family and friends, this kind of study will help to really understand more about the psychology of people.
“In fact, this is the main reason we were so keen to work with Sam. He’s in a very special situation, being alone with nobody to share his feelings with, nobody to share his thoughts with.
“It’s rare that scientists can study subjects that are completely isolated for this amount of time, let alone in conditions as extreme as those in Antarctica.
“We really want to get an idea how a person emotionally regulates in this kind of scenario.”
Sam will be taking daily voice recordings of the experiences and emotions he’s feeling during this period of extreme isolation.
Alexandra said: “For this research to be useful, it’s really important that we hear frequent and specific audio diary entries from Sam.
“It’s common for people to look back on an experience like this and say – it was stressful, but it was nice – which is not precise enough for us.
“We’re using audio equipment to make this as accessible for Sam as possible – writing could be a challenge in extremely low temperatures.
“In similar studies, we’ve asked participants to keep written diaries as the fear of being overheard by other participants might stunt their honestly, but that’s not going to be an issue with Sam, since he’ll be completely alone.”
There will be other psychological challenges for Sam, as well as isolation.
Sam said: “An important thing to consider is the 24-hour daylight, and how my body will adapt to that.
“Because I’m travelling during Antarctica’s summer months, the sun will never actually set, meaning my circadian rhythm is likely to get pretty confused.
“A lack of sleep could be detrimental to my physical and mental well-being, so it’s something I’m having to prepare for.”
Alexandra said: “Sensory deprivation could also be a challenge. It’s an interesting environment, but it’s very monotonous, so it depends on the person and how they perceive it.
“For example, Sam might find it interesting to have the colour green. While other people would be fascinated by the sky and the sea, he might be like wow – I really miss the forest and more complex environments.”
Alexandra continued: “This research is not only helping us understand the emotional impact of extreme environments, but it’s helping us understand the type of person that’s suitable for working in these remote places.
“We want to know how people feel in these environments, which emotions are more dominant? How do these people deal with that?
“When people are stationed in distant locations, either from Earth or in polar expeditions, they have to be really trained to deal with their feelings autonomously.
“But we can only do that by understanding when happens within a person and what they’re likely to feel so we can prepare them beforehand. You can prepare, but you cannot run away from your emotions.”
Sam leaves the UK for Antarctica on 24th October, with plans to complete the expedition by mid-January.
He has been supported by Team Forces and Resilient Nutrition to embark on this epic adventure.
For more information, follow Sam on www.frozendagger.co.uk
Improve your marathon time with proper pre-hydration
Andy Blow, sweat expert and founder of leading sports fuelling and hydration company Precision Fuel and Hydration, discusses how pre hydration can help improve your marathon time.
Dehydration can seriously impact an athlete’s performance, and enjoyment of a marathon.
Yet according to the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 31% of amateur athletes arrive at training sessions or events dehydrated.
For those looking to shave minutes off their race time – simply starting properly hydrated could be the answer.
We caught up with Andy Blow, CEO of Precision Fuel and Hydration, to find out how pre hydration can have such a dramatic effect on your marathon, and how runners can start a race in the best possible condition.
The benefits of pre-hydrating
Optimising your hydration status before a marathon, or ‘preloading’, can increase your blood volume and significantly improve your performance.
According to Sport Nutrition by Jeukendrup and Gleeson, dehydration of just 8% of each individual’s total-body water could half their exercise endurance, based on a 121 minute session.
Research has proven that taking onboard a high concentration of electrolytes, the salts and minerals that help your body function, promotes fluid retention which in turn increases the blood volume in your body.
This increased blood volume supports cardiovascular function helping transport oxygen and fuel to your muscles, and your body’s ability to dissipate heat produced by your working muscles.
This can reduce fatigue and improve endurance performance – helping you run your best marathon possible.
On the other hand, exercising in a dehydrated state can reduce blood volume, limit cardiovascular performance and limit the body’s ability to cool itself through sweat – all limiting the body’s ability to perform.
Pre-hydration is more than drinking water
Hydration is much more than just the amount of water we drink.
Your body is constantly aiming to maintain a balance between water and electrolytes.
It’s therefore important to take on correct levels of both to properly hydrate.
Drinking just water can upset that balance, diluting the body’s concentration of salt. Always wanting to maintain equilibrium, the body’s solution to this is to expel the excess water through urine. It’s basically going make you pee!
Unfortunately, this will also take with it some of the electrolytes in your system, further diluting your blood sodium levels and impacting your performance (and wellbeing in extreme cases).
However, consuming a strong electrolyte solution in the build up to a marathon will boost your salt levels, encouraging your body to retain the water you drink, helping you to start the race fully hydrated.
How to hydrate before a marathon
The timings of a race day, particularly an event as large as the London Marathon, can be vastly different to an athlete’s usual routine.
That’s why planning your hydration strategy is key.
Athletes preparing for a marathon should drink a strong electrolyte drink the night before the race to encourage your body to retain fluid, which will boost blood volume.
Aim for drinks containing >1,000mg of sodium per litre.
The morning of the race, 90 minutes before the start is recommended, athletes should drink another bottle of strong electrolyte drink to top-up blood plasma volume.
It is important to finish this drink 45 minutes before you set off to give the body time to process it.
While this plan will enable the average marathon participant to arrive at the start line hydrated, every person’s sweat concentration and sweat rate will be different, so athletes looking to maximise their potential should know their numbers, do a sweat test and form a more personalised hydration plan.
Dangers of over drinking
As much as beginning a marathon dehydrated can negatively impact your performance, there is also a danger that athletes can drink too much water in anticipation of a race – leading to a new set of problems.
Nervous drinking before a race is common for newcomers to marathon running, and those who haven’t planned their hydration.
Drinking too much water without taking on electrolytes can lead to hyponatremia.
Hyponatremia can be summarised as low blood sodium levels. This can be caused by inadequately replacing the sodium lost when sweating, compounded by drinking plain water or weak sports drinks mixed that further dilute sodium on the body.
Sodium is vital for several bodily functions like blood pressure and working nerves and muscles.
Hyponatremia can cause nausea or vomiting, fatigue, loss of energy, muscle weakness and cramps; all things you want to avoid when running a marathon.
According to National Kidney Foundation, when sodium levels are particularly low, more serious health implications can occur, even resulting in death.
Don’t waste your training
It’s probable that if you’re signed up to a spring marathon, you’ve done months of hard training.
By making sure you start the race properly hydrated, you not only reduce unnecessary discomfort, fatigue and muscle weakness, but will allow your body to realise its full potential come race day.
Training is also an ideal opportunity to test out your hydration strategy. Try running through your pre-race hydration and timings with the confidence that you are in the best possible shape.
Finding time for training in the busiest of schedules
Whether you’re a serious runner or casual athlete, fitting your training sessions into a busy schedule can be tough. Once you factor in rigid work hours, family duties, or other commitments, it can feel like there are few available opportunities to get your trainers on and hit the roads. Andy Blow, former elite triathlete, leading sports scientist, and CEO and founder of sport nutrition multinational Precision Fuel & Hydration (PF&H), shares his tips for training with a busy schedule.
Make a plan that works for you
Planning ahead is the key to making the most of every hour in the day.
Consolidate all your commitments onto one central calendar. Whether it’s work meetings, school runs, or domestic chores, you’ll be able to get a clearer idea of your schedule, and what is going to be a realistic amount of training for you to achieve.
Instead of picking a high intensity programme, then trying to cram it into your week, start with non-negotiable commitments and build up your plan around these.
It’s a more sustainable way to train, which means you’re more likely to stick to the plan and hit your long-term goals.
Use your time wisely
Waking up an hour or two earlier means you can get some training in before your day has even begun.
Not only does this add extra hours into your schedule, but they’re hours which are unlikely to be filled with other commitments. How often do you plan an evening run, only for something more pressing to be added to your diary halfway through the day?
Hit the trails early and clock up those morning miles before the world wakes up.
If you’re responsible for taking children or other family members to clubs and appointments, use this time to your advantage. Keep a pair of running shoes in the car and plan a route to complete while you wait.
If your office building has a shower available, turn your commute into a training opportunity by running part or the whole of your journey.
Training smarter also means you’ll get the most out of your time. Instead of running for the sake of running, incorporate sessions that are specific to your end goal, whether this means regular hill sessions, speed intervals or longer, slow runs.
Fuel, hydrate, and recover
What you do between sessions can be as important as the training itself; you’ll never get the best out of a run if you’re lacking energy or have improperly recovered and hydrated. When you’re short on time, every run must count.
When people talk about hydration, it’s often about what and how much you should drink during exercise. But your performance is also hugely influenced by how hydrated you are when you start exercising in the first place.
There’s strong evidence to show that taking in additional sodium with fluids before you start sweating is effective in promoting increased acute fluid retention and improving endurance performance, especially in the warmer weather.
There’s more to fuelling than just calorie intake, and there’s a few common pitfalls which can catch you out.
Not taking enough carbohydrate to adequately support your rate of energy expenditure is the number one fuelling mistake, but it’s possible to take on too much carb as well – primarily because of the gastrointestinal (GI) distress a sugar overdose can cause.
Fuelling using pre-packaged sports nutrition is a no-brainer for short to moderate training sessions or endurance events, where taking in palatable, simple carbohydrates is the key to success. They’re convenient and can simplify getting your carb intake just right.
Despite already recommending getting up that bit earlier sleep is also worthy of mention and is an extremely powerful tool for recovery – something many of us are guilty of neglecting. If you’re an athlete, getting enough sleep should be as big a part of your training program as your exercise sessions.
Set a clear goal
Even if you’re a casual runner, take on the challenge of a race or event you can train for. Having a goal will keep you motivated, especially if it has a fixed date to work towards.
True performance comes from long term consistency, not weeks of hard training, so a long-term goal is a great way to stay accountable over a sustained period.
With busy schedules and multiple commitments, life can very easily get in the way of our goals. But I truly believe that there’s time for training in even the busiest schedule if you train smart, set priorities, and plan your time carefully.