Rome. Italy's Pisa University is helping to develop a contender for the 2007 America's Cup to challenge the reigning champion, the Swiss yacht Alinghi .
The university has signed up with +39, one of two Italian consortia, which from April 2007 will compete in regattas in the waters off Valencia to select a challenger to Alinghi .
Giovanni Lombardi, professor of fluid dynamics in Pisa's engineering faculty, who races a 42ft sloop that he designed in 1971, is coordinating the university's contribution to the project.
He said: "It is a golden opportunity for the university. We will work on the interaction of air with sails, of water with hulls, and the engineers will study the new materials that are constantly being developed.
"The America's Cup is the sailing equivalent of Formula One, where the greatest resources can be used for research. I'm a specialist in aerodynamics, and I usually study applications in aircraft and motor cars.
"But the beauty of this project is that a sailing boat is just pure fluid dynamics. There is no engine, no mechanical friction, just air and water.
It is simply the most wonderful floating laboratory."
Pisa will employ a number of lecturers, full-time researchers and graduate students to work on the project.