Today, Ben Ainslie Racing announced a new project with City College Southampton to build two specialised docking ribs. The boats will be built by apprentices trained by the college under the supervision of Darren Patten at the College's Marine Skills Centre.
The docking rib has been developed from those used at the 34th America's Cup to help berth the huge, foiling multihulls. The ribs have a highly innovative design, powered by a centrally positioned outboard that can be rotated through 360 degrees to push the boat in any direction. This makes them very manoeuvrable, an important asset when they are used to move the AC45 and AC62 America's Cup boats into their berths.
The team has researched the most sustainable materials from which to manufacture the boats, supported by BAR's sustainability partner 11th Hour Racing. A mixture of materials have been explored that have a lower environmental impact than traditional resins and fibres, researching their overall impact in terms of strength and environmental footprint. The team is working with the college on natural materials such as flax (a plant material that has been used in marine applications for thousands of years), epoxy bonding resins with high biomass content (50+%), and a recyclable PET core material that comes from plastic bottles.
The project will provide an opportunity to assess these more sustainable materials. The students are already taught to monitor the different material and wastage quantities as part of their curriculum – driving efficiency in the construction process, an important component of sustainability.
The students working on the ribs are mostly Level 2 and Level 3 apprentice boat builders and engineers, studying for City and Guilds qualifications. Many of them work for local marine companies and attend the college one day a week. The college's Marine lecturer, Darren Patten will manage his rotating workforce so the highest possible number of students will have the opportunity to work on the project, and be part BAR's challenge for the 35th America's Cup.
Every student will have the opportunity for exposure to each of the speciality skills involved in the production; from the building of the mould, through the composite construction, fairing and painting, and finally the fit out of engines, tubes and electronics. BAR will be responsible for the materials, and the boats will be built with support partners Yamaha, who will provide the engines.
The construction commenced at the beginning of the spring term, and the boats are due for delivery in May 2015 – so the timeline is tight. BAR's Shore Manager, James Stagg commented, “We're really pleased that City College Southampton have joined us in this project. We need these docking ribs before we commence sailing operations at the new HQ in Portsmouth this summer, but it's great to do it in such a way that it will give these young apprentices workplace experience with a project that they own.”
Sarah Stannard, Principal of City College Southampton said “We are delighted that our Marine Skills Centre team of staff and students will be working with Ben Ainslie Racing to build the docking ribs. This project is an exciting opportunity for our students to work on a world-class project and to make a contribution to the BAR team's objective of bringing the America's Cup home to the UK.”
– BAR Media