Bill.Stephens at csiro.au Bill.Stephens at csiro.au
Fri Feb 28 18:10:46 EST 2003

1 March 2003
Ref. 03/36 
[Strictly Embargoed until America's Cup has been won]
The CSIRO played a key role in today's historic America's Cup victory by Switzerland's Alinghi team.
A member of Alinghi's weather team, CSIRO Atmospheric Research's Dr Jack Katzfey, used CSIRO technology to accurately predict changes in wind speed and direction over the America's Cup course - a critical factor in the Swiss syndicate's
Alinghi's weather team leader, Mr Jon Bilger, said the CSIRO/Katzfey connection was crucial to the team's ability to predict changes in racing conditions.
"Their modelling programs have provided surprising insights about the weather patterns in the Hauraki Gulf," Mr Bilger says. "CSIRO's weather prediction software and technical expertise have been an essential part of the Alinghi weather
CSIRO's contribution to the win continues the tradition - since the inception of the America's Cup in 1851 - of showcasing the value of competing nations' technological know-how.
"Challengers to the America's Cup are always looking for new technology that makes the team perform better and get the most out of the wind," says Dr Katzfey, himself an experienced yachtsman. 
"In our contract with the Alinghi syndicate we used CSIRO's new global weather model to forecast wind variations within the race area," he says. "We also worked with the team to develop new ways to display weather observations so they could
see what the wind was doing."
The forecasting technique enabled Dr Katzfey to predict wind behaviour and likely changes over the 5km course just before the race start. He sent information to the crew via a wireless link from his laptop computer, then gave them an update
minutes before the race - just prior to communications with the yacht being terminated in accordance with race rules.
For example, a call from the weather team about a change in wind conditions convinced the Alinghi's crew to start on the right-hand side of the course rather than the left in the third race - a tactical manoeuvre regarded as critical to
Alinghi's eventual victory. 
"The model gave us confidence that the shift was real," Dr Katzfey says.
The forecasting technique uses a special application of CSIRO Atmospheric Research's new global climate model, developed over several years and drawing on CSIRO's expertise in climate modelling.
Chief of CSIRO Atmospheric Research, Dr Greg Ayers, says he is delighted with the contribution CSIRO has made. 
"This is an excellent example of testing scientific skill in a real-life challenge," he says. 
"The technology builds on years of basic research, and by applying it to real situations we can push the model to the limits and improve our forecasts and understanding of the atmosphere. More accurate simulations of weather and climate in
Australia and overseas have the real potential to enhance people's lives. 
"In this contract it was about assisting people to understand wind changes in a sporting contest, but our technology and expertise have many other applications in areas such as understanding future energy demand."
Dr Ayers says Dr Katzfey's extensive sailing experience enabled him to explain how the winds could affect the race.
"The rare combination of Dr Katzfey's expertise in forecasts, local observations and sailing enabled him to interact with the sailors and tailor the information to their needs," Dr Ayers says.
More information

Dr Jack Katzfey, CSIRO Atmospheric Research
0401 716 201 (mobile)
jack.katzfey at csiro.au (email)
Dr Greg Ayers, Chief of CSIRO Atmospheric Research
0414 819 405 (mobile)
greg.ayers at csiro.au (email)
Media assistance:
Simon Torok, Communication and Marketing, CSIRO Atmospheric Research
0409 844 302 
simon.torok at csiro.au (email)
Copies of broadcast-quality footage of the technology in action, and an interview with Dr Katzfey explaining how the weather model works, is available by arrangement with Channel 7: Ph. 02 9877 7421.

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