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Elvira Llabres is a performance analyst working for the Test and Validation department at Ineos Britannia. She grew up in Valencia, venue for the 32nd and 33rd America’s Cup, but started sailing in Palma, Mallorca with her cousins, when she was seven or eight years old. She has gone on to sail many other dinghies and keel boats like the First Class 8. She now crews on a Swan 42 race boat – but Elvira also has extensive experience in the Cup.
“When the Cup went to Valencia in 2005 I was working in Barcelona, and I decided to go to Valencia and put together my career with my passion for sailing. I was working with the meteorological data service that provides weather data for all the teams through a system of buoys and land stations. We were sending data from the buoys every 15 seconds to all of the teams, a network of 30 buoys.
“After that I was hired by BMW Oracle Racing, working for their Meteorological Department… That was a very interesting campaign, it was my first and that made it very special to me.” She stayed with Oracle for the 2010 campaign – which they won – before moving to Artemis Racing for the 34th America’s Cup in San Francisco, as part of the Performance Department. She’s remained as a performance analyst ever since, with Team Japan for the 35thAmerica’s Cup, and American Magic for the 36th event. And now she’s back home, almost where her Cup career started.
“Having the Cup in Barcelona in 2024 is going to be a great, great opportunity for Spain. It's going to be a lot of fun to have it here again… I think it's going to be a very good venue, it is going to be challenging because the sea state is quite different to what we are used to, but it will be intense for everyone and we will have to sort it out.
“I am part of the Test and Validation department. And in this department, we make sure that every department in the team gets the data they need and the information they need to make the next boat better.” Elvira’s job is to go out with the yacht every day that it’s sailing, “Normally, I will be on Chase 4 [which houses the engineers] following the boat [T6] making sure that the data we are gathering is the right data.
“I am calibrating whatever we need to, to maintain accuracy… I'm calibrating the wind data and trying to find out if there is any inconsistency in the data we are gathering, and trying to fix it if we can… I really like solving problems and I really like working as a team together.”
Palma is the base for INEOS Britannia’s winter training camp, so Elvira is very familiar with the conditions. “This is very special sailing here in Palma again, the Bay of Palma is really, really good for it, especially in winter… I love being by the water, I love working with such a great group of people and some of the best sailors in the world… and it is really, really encouraging that we are improving so much.
“In every team I have worked for the dynamics are very different. One of the things that made me sign up for this team was the combination we have with Formula One. It lets you see the same challenges solved in a different way. It's like another look from a very similar, but not exactly the same way of doing things.”
She came to this role from a background in computer engineering. “That is the starting point but on top of that I have learned about artificial intelligence, and it is a good plus that I am a sailor so I understand what the data in the boat is meant to be… I keep sailing too, I don't sail in this boat, but I sail in other boats and that makes it for me. It is still a great thing to be able to do, to combine my job with my passion. Most people that are sailors work in a bank or something…
“Technology is proving to be more and more important every day, gathering and analysing the data, making sure that it is accurate. It's getting more and more important in this industry, more and more people are being hired that have these skills. So I encourage any sailor, or anyone interested in the sailing industry to look at this career, because it has a lot of potential.
“There are not that many women, but we are getting to be more and more, especially on the technical side. We haven't been that many historically, but now we are getting more women out there. With the sailors, we are a little bit behind…” Elvira hopes that will change with the Women’s America’s Cup, which will be held alongside the America’s Cup in 2024.
“There is no other competition like this one. It has pioneered components, materials… And it's very interesting to see what we are going to get next. Last campaign we got up to 50 knots, which before was unthinkable… We don't know what we are going to get into, and we will have to find the solution for it. I think that's very inspiring.
“One of the best parts is getting to work with the best professionals in the sector, not only the sailors of course, but also the best boat builders, the best sailmakers, the best riggers, the best engineers, everyone. You look around and you can see how much talent there is, and we are all driven by the same goal, which is to win the America's Cup… We have to win this America's Cup. It is one of the best parts of this job that the goal is so clear. That's what we all want – to win this Cup.”