Bold Protocol

Bold Protocol | Simulating the Cup

Bleddyn Mon, Sailor and Designer, discusses the crucial simulator for AC37

Bleddyn Mon, Sailor and Designer, discusses the crucial simulator for AC37

Bold Protocol is a series published exclusively on to dig deeper into the Protocol that defines the competition for the 37th America’s Cup.

Bleddyn Mon has been part of this British America’s Cup Challenge since 2015, when he joined for the 35th Cup in Bermuda. He was a member of the sailing team and the design team from the beginning, combining his talents as a sailor with his engineering background.

Bleddyn studied Mechanical Aerospace Engineering at the University of Southampton, which included a 12-month industrial placement with the Red Bull Formula 1 team as part of the Aerodynamic Development Group. He also started sailing at an early age on the island of Anglesey in North Wales, and as a teenager he was a World and European medallist in the 29er.

He maintained this dual role during AC36 with INEOS Team UK, when the team made it to the Prada Cup Final in Auckland in 2021. Bleddyn re-joined INEOS Britannia soon after, again as a sailor and a key member of the design team. And he sees the continuity in the new Protocol as important to him as a sailor and an engineer.


“The Protocol for this next America's Cup is very exciting, partly because it’s obviously similar to the previous one. And what's even more exciting is the fact that signing up to this America's Cup, means that teams are agreeing to maintain a similar Protocol if they win and go forward into AC38. So that gives everyone a level of reassurance that what we're working on now will be valuable for the future as well.

“It's also exciting to be able to continue to sail a similar boat to what we raced in New Zealand and carry on developing from where we left off. Having the same boat and that continuity from one campaign to the next -- and forward into the future -- means we'll get to a point where we're really refining the design of these boats.”

This time around, Bleddyn is a part of the INEOS Britannia after-guard crew, while on the design team he will be working with the simulator and the simulation team. The sailing team spend a lot of time on the simulator, testing designs and techniques. “So that means spending a lot of time in this room here [with the simulator] and helping the engineers test out new models and making sure that what we're sailing in here is as realistic as possible.”

There has been a huge emphasis in the last decade on developing simulators as design tools, a project which Emirates Team New Zealand have led in the Cup arena. It’s perhaps no surprise then, that the new rules in the Protocol outlaw all of the more traditional design and performance optimisation tools, such as wind tunnels and towing tanks. The rules also limit testing on the water in real boats.

Bleddyn Mon Palma Mallorca
© Cameron Gregory

“The rules now dictate that we're only allowed to build one AC75, so it's not possible to have two, and test them against each other. There are also quite strict rules around the number of components that we can build. So to be able to develop and design these components like the foils, we really do need the simulator.

“Additionally, these boats are extremely complicated and getting them out on the water is a big operation. So we do everything we can in the simulator, to maximize the time that we have on the water and not waste it with issues that we could be solving [in the simulator] – time on the water is extremely valuable for the team.”

Apart from a clear cut need, there are also advantages to working in the simulator. “One of the key differences between going on the water to test out things, and doing it here in the simulator is how controlled this environment is, we're obviously fully in charge of the wind and wave conditions. Whereas on the water there're all sorts of uncertainties that come into play.

“So you're always second guessing yourself or always doubting exactly what you're seeing on the water. Whereas here in the Sim it's just a much, much more controlled environment for testing. It allows us to sail any time, we aren’t dependent on weather conditions, or having to wait for maintenance or upgrades on the boat.

“Another way that we use the simulator is to help develop our playbook, which includes manoeuvres, communication, refining our techniques on the land before we end up going on the water. We can really dig into each manoeuvre individually and break it down and really make sure that we're executing it in the best way possible, before having to go out there and do it in reality.”

T6 Palma Bay
© Cameron Gregory

While this emphasis on the simulator is all quite new to sailing and the America’s Cup, it’s been a standard operating procedure in Formula 1 for a long while. “The partnership with Mercedes F1, means there's a lot that we can learn in terms of how the simulations and simulators are developed. They’ve had extremely strict rules in terms of track testing time for many years now, and that's something that we can really learn from.

“The level and sophistication of the modelling that they're able to do and the level of trust that they have in their simulator is impressive. And I think that's what we as a sailing team are striving towards. I think in the America's Cup, it would now be very hard to win without a simulator. And I think we've seen the gains that teams have made in the last two or three iterations of the America's Cup.

© Cameron Gregory

At the moment the sailing and design team are using the simulator to explore different concepts and designs, but that will change as the campaign moves through the different phases. “This phase goes all the way through to where designs have been signed off. Then, the boat we have is the boat we have and it's really a case of making the most out of it. So we'll use that time in the Sim for tactical practice and racing practice – particularly as the amount of racing that we'll have in the AC75 is minimal. So the simulator becomes extremely valuable for that period too.

“The Protocol for AC37 has a strong emphasis on simulator and simulation skills. It will also allow teams to refine boats going forward from this campaign and into the next, which ultimately will mean that the racing is much, much tighter come the America's Cup. We’re really looking forward to it, there's still nothing quite like sending these boats out there on the water and ripping around the racecourse.”