Matrix helps ETNZ use FEA for AC72 structural analysis and design



The Company

Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ) is one of the world’s top sailing teams, having won the prestigious America’s Cup Regatta twice and coming very close to winning the latest regatta in 2013.

The 2013 America’s Cup Challenge made a shift to competing with a new class of 72ft catamaran (the AC72 class). This added a whole new dimension to sailing speeds and boat performance, which led to arguably the most exciting match racing ever witnessed with boat speeds approaching 50kts (93 km/h). 


The Challenge

Amongst the numerous design challenges that were presented to the team, the wing and platform structure needed to be able to stand up to the high loads encountered while sailing.

Compared to monohulls, the AC72 class presented a number of challenges in structural analysis and design including:

  • A semi-rigid wingsail that twists and warps, has a complex skeleton structure and internal linkages.
  • A relatively flexible platform structure that deforms as the sailing loads come on and is supported by a network of stays.

It was critical that the stresses and strains in the structure be predicted accurately so that the composite design could be optimised for weight and strength. 


The Solution

To perform effective structural analysis of the AC72, state of the art FEA software was required and it needed to be implemented correctly so that accurate results could be generated within tight engineering timeframes.

To this end ETNZ selected Abaqus FEA, backed up by the analysis experts at Matrix.

In addition to Matrix providing and supporting Abaqus FEA software to ETNZ, James Hamilton, Senior Engineering Analyst at Matrix, was seconded to ETNZ for 4 months in 2011 and provided on-going FEA support during the campaign. He helped develop the methodology required to make full use of Abaqus’ state of the art capabilities in composite modelling, nonlinear analysis, mechanisms and fluid-structural interaction.

The Result

The structural design team at ETNZ were able to arrive at a design that maximised the strength of the AC72 whilst keeping it within the tight weight limits that were imposed by the class rule. 

The excellent work of the structures team at ETNZ, aided by the insight provided by the FEA modelling work that Matrix performed, led to what many believe to be the most structurally sound AC72 in the regatta.

"Once again Matrix has formed an integral and invaluable part of the ETNZ design group. Working closely with our composite engineering team, their ability to merge huge support knowledge and a practical approach allowed us to deliver a complex competitive product on time and with remarkable reliability. Through our two decade long partnership, Matrix have consistently pushed this technology forward and helped ETNZ become a premier team in elite sailing." - Nick Holroyd, Technical Director ETNZ

"The assistance provided by James and the Matrix team was invaluable in the rapid development of our AC72design. With Matrix's support we were able to fully utilise the capabilities of Abaqus in our design process" - Andy Kensington, PURE Design and Engineering, Composite Structures/FEA Leader ETNZ


About Matrix

Matrix has been an official supplier to ETNZ for FEA software and services since 1995. The team at Matrix are experts in modelling composite structures, mechanisms and nonlinear behaviour. To learn more about Finite Element Analysis or how we can help, please contact us by phone +64 9 623 1223 or email


 Prediction of the displaced shape of the ETNZ AC72 wing under sailing loads using Abaqus FEA.