Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Faster Yacht, Trading Sails For a Wing

Coming this February! "This year, the rules have all but disappeared for competitors in the world’s oldest international trophy competition, the America’s Cup sailing race. Motorized sails are fine, the single-hull rule is out, and in the case of the BMW Oracle Racing team’s boat, even sails are optional. Instead, the largest wing ever constructed could catch enough wind to make the yacht the fastest yet.

Conventional fabric sails are unreliable. “Wind speed and direction change by the second,” says Mike Drummond, the design director for the BMW Oracle Racing team. “The crew must constantly maneuver the mainsail to maintain maximum speed.” A sail’s leading edge often ripples, particularly when tacking into the wind, increasing drag and causing the sail to lose the airfoil shape that helps propel the boat. In contrast, it takes just one sailor a few clicks on a computer to immediately swing the 190-foot-tall carbon-fiber-and-Kevlar wing into position, where it will hold its shape regardless of conditions. With the wing, Drummond says the 90-foot trimaran can sail up to 5 percent, or about one knot, faster."

No comments: