America’s Cup yachts have been compared to sleek Formula One cars in part because of the millions of dollars involved and the desire to push the limits with technology and engineering.

But Oracle Team USA skipper Jimmy Spithill likes to compare sailing America’s Cup boats to flying an airplane. After all he is a licensed pilot, and Airbus is one of the team’s partners.

“We’re essentially trying to fly a boat with no engine,” Spithill said.

For those watching the America’s Cup, which begins Friday with the round-robin qualifying series, the boats will appear to fly across the top of the water. The boats hulls are lifted out of the water by carbon-fiber hydrofoils. Instead of an engine, the boats have a hydraulic system powered by sailors who grind with their arms. And in the case of Emirates Team New Zealand with their legs.

Oracle says in its press kit its boat is expected to reach an estimated top speed of 60 mph, but Spithill says it can go even faster.

“Straight away there are so many similarities between sailing and aviation, it’s all about lift, drag, balance,” Spithill said. “In a boat like this you’re heavily reliant on instrumentation. If you get in a plane, and you’re in clouds or bad weather or nighttime, you have to have full trust in some of the instruments, same with this boat.”

There are several changes from the last America’s Cup held in San Francisco four years ago. There’s a smaller boat, a smaller crew and the continued evolution of foiling.

But one thing hasn’t changed for Oracle Team USA. Spithill,…