BMW Technologie Helm's Control


BMW Technology Story.

Helm's Control. BMW Technology Story.


BMW Motorsport expertise simplifies complex steering.

America's Cup Class catamarans appear to fly weightlessly above the water on their hydrofoils, allowing for incredible speeds. What may look effortless is actually a real challenge for the helmsman and the result of permanent readjustment of the foils in the water. This demands remarkable finesse and an intelligent interface tailored perfectly to the needs of the helmsman. BMW Motorsport engineers have developed this kind of system for ORACLE TEAM USA and its skipper Jimmy Spithill - a steering wheel that is unique in the world of competitive sailing.

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Helm's Controll Film

BMW Tech Stories #5: Helm's Control Systems.


Stable sailing on foils demands permanent fine-tuning.

Foils and rudders generate lift that allows the AC catamarans to fly. The further they are moved aft, the greater the lift. As simple as the principle may be, maintaining perfect control of the boat is just as difficult, as the lift required changes virtually every second. The ideal angle of the foils depends on the course, wind, speed and position of the opponents. These factors vary all the time. If the fine-tuning is not spot on, the catamaran will plunge into the water or, even worse, capsize. ORACLE TEAM USA skipper Jimmy Spithill must be incredibly sensitive and have an intelligent steering mechanism. This has been developed by BMW Motorsport engineers, who have transferred technology from motorsport to the world of competitive sailing.

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Komplexes Manövrieren
Rudder control Steering Wheel


Automotive meets America’s Cup.

The revolutionary steering wheel charged with helping ORACLE TEAM USA to a third America's Cup win in a row combines competitive sailing with motorsport. Two twist grips, which resemble a twist grip on a motorcycle in appearance and function, have been integrated into a "conventional" wheel. Inside, high-tech BMW Motorsport sensors and electronics are installed alongside precision parts. The system and the corresponding software guarantee the perfect interaction between the steering wheel and the helmsman and are tailored precisely to his needs. They translate the infinitely variable rotations made by the helmsman directly and accurately into the corresponding angle of the foils and rudder. This goes for minimal and larger adjustments, such as those made during manoeuvres. The solution developed by BMW Motorsport engineers also guarantees that the system is comfortable to operate, even for long periods, provides a tactile response and ensures an ergonomic grip position for the helmsman. The result is the best possible interface between one of the best sailors in the world and one of the most spectacular high-tech yachts ever.

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Anything is possible.

Technology in the America’s Cup is always a challenge. Often there are no examples from the world of competitive sailing, from which to take one’s lead. However, pioneering work is part and parcel of the everyday routine for the experts at BMW Motorsport. Only in 2015 did they lay the foundations for a milestone in motorsport: the 24-hour race at Spa-Francorchamps saw double leg amputee Alessandro “Alex” Zanardi share the cockpit of a BMW Z4 GT3 with other, fully-abled drivers for the first time. A team of up to nine engineers had developed many innovative technical solutions, thanks to which all three drivers could complete a race distance of 24 hours and perform driver changeovers as quickly as possible and without any problems. These included a steering wheel for Zanardi, into which the throttle and a shifting system were integrated.

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Alex Zanardi BMW
Helms Control Neues Steuerrad


Technology Partner BMW presents steering wheel to ORACLE TEAM USA.

Dr. Ian Robertson, Member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, Sales and Marketing BMW, used the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, in the Defender's home country, to launch the countdown to the 35th America's Cup: He presented the revolutionary steering wheel to ORACLE TEAM USA skipper Jimmy Spithill. ORACLE TEAM USA has its sights set on winning the most coveted sailing trophy in the world for the third time in a row off the coast of Bermuda in June.

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" I am thrilled with the new system developed by the BMW race engineers, as the yacht that can ‘fly’ the longest has the best chance of winning the race. "
Jimmy Spithill
Technologie Story Helm's Control