Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Extreme sailing at the highest, highest level

Six months have passed since The Miracle on San Francisco Bay.

There's been the few odds and ends stories here and there, but nothing that really dove into the details.

Now, along comes Kimball Livingston, the best living writer of the world of sailing, with all you could ever want to know about what really happened:

  • Burns and Speer: Secrets of the Comeback
    Oracle studied how to retrim to add more load to the back of the wing. “The boat had lee helm,” Speer said. “You know that kills upwind speed. It was clear that we needed to retrim, so we raked the wing aft—and no, that didn’t work. It turned out that when we powered-off the upper elements—when we added twist aloft—the center of effort shifted down and forward. There was no relief in that. So instead we opened the slot. That gave us less lift on the main element and more lift on the flap [which funnels air aft]. Over the course of the regatta we increased the traveler load by 50 percent. That eliminated lee helm, helped the boat point, and simply made us faster upwind.
  • Secrets of the Comeback: Control Control Control
    The essence of a feedback control system is the system works on the difference between what you want and what actually exists. This difference in control engineering parlance is called the error signal. It can be anything, as long as there is this difference operation is going on. The difference can be electrical, as when an electronic sensor provides a measurement and the subtraction is done in the control computer. But you can also set it up so the difference is done mechanically. This is what OTUSA did.

Modern sports, at the highest level, have become extraordinarily sophisticated, and with that sophistication comes extraordinary complexity.

Your race car may catch a virus.

Your speed skating aerodynamic suit may not perform as expected

Your bobsleds may need to be adjusted to match the banking of the curves on the course.

It's always fun to get a peek behind the scenes to learn more about the underlying techniques that are used at the highest level of competition.

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