Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Towards 50 knots

The rise and rise of the GPS data logger has brought back speed windsurfing in a huge way in recent years.

Going back 15-20 years, speed sailing was an incredible pain. You had to lay out a 500 metre course, with timing gates set for a certain tide and then hope it all panned out. Having a GPS means you can hit the water when you want.

And it's ratified:
The following applies when using GPS survey equipment:
a. Receiver logging rates shall be set at 10 Hertz, which results in a GPS position every 1/10th of a second.
The GPS system shall provide time stamp with each position that are accurate to within .001 second.

More on the rules here.

The Navi BT-11 brought an SD equipped GPS data logger to everyone. For about US$80 you had a device that was incredibly accurate, water resisitant (a waterproof camera style bag sorted that out) and made analysis, top speed and even integration with Google maps incredibly easy. Here's an example.

So we come to Macquarie Innovation. The first time I saw it's predecessor Yellow Pages Endeavor I did not know what to make of it. I sailed behind it on my windsurfer in 1993 when it was doing its test runs and at the time I thought it was not super fast, but had weirdly blistering acceleration.

I recall reading about designer Lindsay Cunningham and thinking he was actually full of crap; of course that opinion turned out to be full of crap. He designed the "boat" to be an assymetrical speed machine, designed only to beat the record with efficiency, not be the blunt instrument we windsurfers were and still are. In that year they took the outright and boat class record, pushing the record to 46 knots (52mp/h or 85km/h) over the 500 metre course. Several things about this record blew me away. First Cunningham predicted it- the speed they would achieve and the wind they would need to do it in- just 20 knots. This record stood for 11 years until the blunt instrument of windsurfing inched its way past.

After that, I thought a smaller craft for one crew might be e better option and it could be made stronger and therefore go out in more wind. Once again; blinded by the theory that you need lots of wind (30-40knots) to go fast. The new craft had a different wing/sail but was still about the same on-water dimensions.

This latest record of 48.14 is up by 2 knots, around 4%. Thats huge in my view. If the world record for 100m dropped by 4%, that would represent a drop of .4 seconds- about 4 metres! The peak speeds were over 51 knots. Really all the team needed was a steady 22 knots (instead of the 18 they got) and we would be looking at a 50+ knot world record- and probably another 11 years of holding it.

The efficiency of this new craft is astounding:
This performance represents not only the fastest speed ever recorded by a sailing boat, but also the most efficient use of wind energy by any craft competing for the World Sailing Speed Record.
Capable of sustaining speeds in excess of three times that of the wind powering it, Macquarie Innovation showcases an Australian project that is leading the world in sail powered performance, efficiency and design technology.

Dr Tom Chalko- sustainability early adopter and speed sailing fan was there:

MI speed sailing craft on course in Sandy Point on 8 March 2007. It reached 48 knots in 16-18 knots of wind. I must have been the only spectator - there is not a single footprint on the beach..

Well done to the Macquarie Innovation team. Long may your record reign.

The container as used by the team for their gear.

Licensed under Creative Commons.

Image used courtesy of Yachting Victoria/Macquarie Innovation Team.

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posted by thr at 8:51 am


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