Now that the dust has settled on the America's Cup, designers from other classes of sail craft will no doubt be ruminating on the technology developed for the greatest trophy in Sailing. If this trickle down continues, perhaps other classes, like the Moths, can work out how to skim upwind, or even fully foil! And classes that allow them, like the C-Class Catamarans, may develop wing sails.
But don't get me wrong: all jesting aside, it was the best Cup I've ever seen, the boats were cool, and the setting spectacular. But in sailing, motorsport (think Formula 1), and economics, trickle down is totally busted.
Some bright Aussie spark has come up with this WOMBAT (Waste of Money, Brains, and Time), that's right folks, the foiling Laser! Great fun on a broad reach, but absolutely impossible to foil upwind...until now, that is. I've put the rocket science division here at Exploding Water hard at work to come up with some techniques to get you to the windward mark before the sun goes down. I divided them up into three groups, and here's what they came up with:
"Everyone knows this beast won't beat on the foils, so don't. Just sail on a beam reach, and work the shifts for all they're worth until you eventually get there. You'll have the worst VMG in your club, but the best boat speed"
"Don't listen to those shifty guys, with the right sail trim and boat handling, it will in fact beat...at 89° of the wind. As you near the leeward mark, pull on the controls as hard as hard as you can (Cunningham cringle past the gooseneck, and vang so hard the boom hits the gunwale). Rounding up veeery carefully - one touch of the hull to water means instant displacement mode - head up, but no more than 1° north of beam reach. Foiling tacks are out of the question, so gybe instead! Hell, it's only 2°
further than you would have tacked... The vang is on so hard you'll have to crunch yourself into an even tinier ball than you do to tack in the conventional Laser, and you'll have to push the boom over as it scrapes the deck, but don't worry, it'll just bend more than usual and spring right back. You may have heard of or done the
chicken-gybe, when you tack through 270 instead of gybing through 90
because you're scared. Well, this is the chicken-tack, when you gybe
"Down under in the basement we've come with this genius bit of inverted
thinking. When you hit the leeward mark, flip the main and rudder foils
into their negative-incidence sink-mode. The foils on this little
number are so big, that unlike most yachts, this boat actually draws more water when healed over, just like Australia II! So, you heal the boat over by crouching in the cockpit (this also reduces windage, as the AC-72 yachties do),
increasing the effective draft of the foils, while the sink force
actually pulls you up to windward. Brilliant! You know that Veal-Heal
the Mothies do, swinging the foil lift force over to windward so the
boat crabs up into the wind, this is the inverse of that..."
I haven't posted much lately. Partly it's because I've moved and changed jobs, but mostly it's because I've been inventing and perfecting a marvelous new material. Everyone knows that high performance boats are made out of carbon fiber these days, but my new wonder material has some properties that really set it apart. The aerospace industry is going to love this stuff! I foresee widespread structural use of this material in airplanes well into the future.
Since it's the only part of a Laser you can make out of fancy materials, I fashioned a tiller and extension out of this stuff, clearly a part of the boat worth lavishing a large amount of time, money and effort over. It's been superb.
First it's isotropic. That means has the same strength in all directions. Imagine that! No more delamination. When cracks form, they start at the surface, where you can see them. A big chunk of it has the same properties all the way through. Quality control will be much easier - no bad layups!
It is ductile. That means it bends before it breaks! Perfect for when I mess up my much imitated sit-on-the-tiller-extension-tack maneuver (also invented by me, by the way). In testing, my tiller extension has bent, but it has not broken. I just sail on and straighten it over my knee when I'm off the water.
Related to ductility is malleability. That means, within reason, you can smash it into the shape you want. I didn't quite line up my holes for the u-joint rivet, so I just jammed the fastener in there and squashed the material into shape.
It's also heat-treatable. That means you can trade off the strength (how much force it can withstand before it deforms) against the toughness (how much energy it absorbs before it breaks) of the material. As the strength goes up, you lose ductility and toughness. No more messing about with with laminate schedules. Just fashion your whole assembly, bang it in the oven at the right temperature and then dump it in water or oil to quench it.
Finishing it is a breeze too. You can just hook it up to a battery, drop it in a bucket of chemicals, and a hard, highly corrosion resistant coating forms. I call this anodizing.
The only thing left to do now is come up for a name for this stuff. I'm trying to decide between aluminum or aluminium. Which do you prefer?
Thanksto my friend, IlliniRob1 for the inspiration for this post.
And now you know from this less-than-meticulously composed photo where the name of this blog comes from. As for where the name of the boat comes from, that's a slightly more interesting story. As my brother and a Chinese colleague found out a few years ago, this is what you get using an online tool when you translate our last name into Chinese and back into English. I think it's also a pretty good description of what it's like to be planing in a Laser. I'd had the boat for about a year before I realized it would make a good name for it, but at least I got around to it and named the boat, with decal and all. That decal I had made by Compliance Signs, of Chicago Illinois, which, as you might guess, specializes in safety signs. Even though it was a custom job, they charged me only around six bucks for this decal.
I was a little surprised when I went to two regattas last summer with around 30 Lasers entered in each, that on both occasions, I was one of only two sailors who'd name their boats. Why is this? Is it because Laser sailors are all business with no time for such frivolous exploits as naming boats? Is it maybe because the boats are all so alike (if you drink the Kool-Ade) that the boat is irrelevant, but a conduit to express the sailor's individual brilliance as a skipper? Maybe just apathy?
By choosing a name that sounds like tumultuous water, I may have violated this oft-quoted advice for naming boats by tempting fate. (Any one know who first wrote those wise words, by the way?) However, despite all the spectacular videos you'll find if you search for "exploding water", everyone knows, water cannot explode, at least not literally.
Naming boats is not easy, but it is fun, especially if you think up names with friends. And so I return to my original question: Have you named your boat?
One of the things I like about sailing is it's rich vocabulary, and the way has given it's words and expressions to general usage. Expressions like "leaving yourself leeway", "having the wind knocked out of your sails", "liking the cut of someone's jib", and "being stuck in the doldrums" are so commonplace in everyday use that most people don't stop to think about where they come from.
As an aeronautical engineer, I love the aviation terms that have come from sailing - rolling, pitching, and yawing; surging, swaying, and heaving; buttlines, waterlines and stations, and indeed the name of the field itself, aeronautics. Bulkheads, rudders and strakes, the list goes on and on.
I'd been sailing for many years before I realized that the term chockablock comes from sailing. The first definition given by Webster's is pulled so tight as to have the blocks touching, and the etymology refers to the preceding entry, chock, another bit of nautical hardware. I'm not sure if the "chock" in chockablock comes from that type of chock or from the chocks, or cheeks of a block, but either way, I like the expression a lot more now that I know where it comes from.
We Laser sailors often talk about being two-blocked, or block to block, but i think we should revive this nautical term and instead say chockablock!
This is a picture of my dad sailing the Mirror dinghy he built on Durban Harbour in the 1970s. One of the Apollo 17 astronauts kindly took it. My mom was his reluctant crew, and I was but a twinkle in the eye.