Swiss team wins America's cup with some fancy CFD

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Numerical software maker ANSYS announced today that that Alinghi, the winner of the 32nd America’s Cup, was sailing with ANSYS software inside.

The leading America’s Cup teams expend more than 150,000 labor hours to optimize the design of their boats – analyzing, for example, the power generated by the sails, the drag produced by the boat’s hull and the air resistance of the deck. Multiphysics simulation has shown that hulls, masts and keels clearly are not rigid and behave differently under varying and extreme hydrodynamic conditions.

Using software from ANSYS, Alinghi performed a series of complex, leading-edge computer-aided engineering (CAE) simulations designed to understand yacht performance down to the smallest details. The racing team utilized ANSYS CFX computational fluid dynamics (CFD) software to evaluate nearly every portion of the boat, including hydrodynamic flow (for the underwater portion of the hull), aerodynamic flow (for the sails) and the stiffness of parts of the vessel (for deck details such as winch placement and pillar shapes).

…In the end, Alinghi identified an optimal hull design that minimized the weight of the yacht while ensuring it remained capable of withstanding the extreme loads experienced during competition.

Fun fact: race leaders are often separated by as little as 30 seconds. So the small stuff counts. I did a little digging to find out what computers Alinghi used, and found this on Swiss HPC integrator DALCO’s site:

Alinghi has enormous supercomputer power, with over 600 processor-cores at their disposal, engineered by the Dallmann brothers, young Swiss entrepreneurs and owners of DALCO. Until recently this power would have ranked among the worlds largest supercomputers.

DALCO’s product line includes Pentiums, Itanium, and Xeon; so it’s safe to assume that whatever Alinghi is using includes Intel’s chips.

The company is a little liberal with the word “enormous,” but good stuff nonetheless.