Land Rover BAR’s EMC Mission Control is fully manned during all the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series (ACWS) racing – this is the inside track on the people who are involved this weekend, and the roles they play to support the race team on the ground in Chicago. Data comes into Mission Control from a variety of sources, including the data feed from the America’s Cup Event Authority (ACEA) and, of course, the live television coverage from BT Sport.
Bleddyn Mons (above, foreground) is the youngest member of the sailing team and – like Systems Team Leader Andy McLean – combines sailing with a role in the design team. Bleddyn hails from Bangor in North Wales and started sailing on the beautiful island of Anglesey; as a teenager he achieved podium results at both the 29er World and European championships.
His engineering background started at the University of Southampton, and included a 12-month industrial placement with the Red Bull Formula 1 team. He joined Land Rover BAR after sailing with the team in the Extreme Sailing Series in 2014.
“The main role for us on the weekend is to try and provide additional information to Rob [Wilson] the coach out on the ground. Some of it he won’t use on the day, but it becomes the groundwork for the post-event debrief. We are trying to get a feel for who is doing what well on the other teams, and from that we can look in a bit more detail and see why, and then we can learn from them.”
After graduating from her first masters, Katie Lawrence (above, centre) was one of just two people selected onto the McLaren Racing graduate program, where she gained an overview into the world of Formula 1 through CFD, vehicle dynamics, manufacturing and car build. She supported both McLaren’s customer F1 teams as well as the McLaren GT teams with roles varying from powertrain support, simulator, strategy and race engineering, before playing a pivotal role in creating, implementing and overseeing trackside engineering for the entire the P1 GTR Programme.
A recent addition to the Land Rover BAR performance team, she’s no stranger to the stresses of competition, competing on her horse at both national and international levels for England. During the week, she works on simulation for the team, both development and analysis, writing code, running tests and implementing hardware updates.
“At the moment, I’m in Mission Control to learn how the America’s Cup racing works, and how the Mission Control here works, compared to Formula One, but I can also provide back-up support for any testing and analysis that needs doing.”
Originally from Ghent in Belgium, Davìd Markey (above, centre) studied under Land Rover BAR’s CTO, Andy Claughton at the University of Southampton’s Wolfson Unit for Marine Technology and Industrial Aerodynamics. Davìd worked on the development of an AC45 sailing simulator, and subsequently joined Land Rover BAR to work with the performance team. He’s raced in a wide range of sailing events, but also competes seriously in CrossFit.
“We’ve written tools to assess all the data that is coming in from the race course, and we use all that information to curate a report for the sailing team to try and give them better insight into the race. They are very focussed on their own boat, and it’s our job to try and give them an overview on what the rest of the fleet did, and how we think the race unfolded and the key moments.
“My job is to find clever ways of utilising the data from the boat to try to present and analyse it better, so we can learn as much as possible from it, both from a sailing perspective, as well as from a design perspective.”
Jess Sweeney (above, centre) is Land Rover BAR’s Chief Meteorologist, responsible for all the weather forecasting, prediction and modelling that the team undertakes. She works a long day ahead of the ACWS events, constantly analysing and updating the forecast for the day’s racing and this role continues into Mission Control. “My role in Mission Control is to monitor the local weather and provide the coach with any updates to the forecast.”
Jess grew up sailing dinghies in the strong Fremantle ‘Doctor’ sea breezes in Western Australia, before progressing into offshore yacht racing and a greater understanding of the impact of the weather. Her studies culminated with a Masters in Meteorology at the University of Reading (UK), and she then joined Land Rover BAR after working with Emirates Team New Zealand in the 34th America’s Cup. She’s also completed 5 Sydney-Hobarts, 3 Newport-Bermudas, and achieved a world record for the Round Britain and Ireland Race as a navigator.
Tom Cheney (above) graduated from Portsmouth University with degrees in Computer Engineering and Electronic Engineering, and then returned to the city to join Land Rover BAR after working at marine electronics manufacturers Garmin and B&G. He now heads the Data Team, responsible for developing the database architecture and software, and the analysis and debrief tools and viewers.
“On the ACWS days I run the software that streams the ACEA data telemetry into our internal format, our own database. I’ve written some software that visualises this on a race course map, and I drive the monitor that shows that information to the team in Mission Control.”
Walter Zwieflhofer (above) normally works with Jess Sweeney, implementing and managing the weather modelling projects for Bermuda and other America's Cup World Series locations. He previously spent ten years as Director of Operations at the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF). “I work on video capture during the racing, so we can replay sections during the debriefs, but I’m also available to support Jess if she needs help.”