Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Speed of the Sound of Loneliness

Why do so many multiple World Champions seem to get grumpy and leave Mothing? Boredom perhaps. Or maybe it's that they hate losing so much they can't stomach the fact that someone may come up with something on the design side that no amount of good sailing can overcome.

The pop psychologist in me attibutes this phenomenon to the fact that it must take a hell of a lot of effort to win a Worlds, and even more to win multiple times. So the thought of losing on the design side, rather than the sailing side, starts to seem like an unreasonable chance to take, and even more so if you are involved with building or selling a particular design.

It brings me back to the Fall of 2001, when I had some cash and looked at buying a Hungry Tiger from Mark Thorpe. We chatted back and forth a bit, but then 9/11 happened and it got put on the back burner. I do however recall it seemed obvious to both of us that two foils on the midline was the most likely way forward. He clearly saw the light at the end of the tunnel...and decided it was a freight train.

I wasn't privy to much of the discussion surrounding the adoption of hydrofoils, but there was a lot of discussion back and forth about whether to allow them - for the usual reasons: expense, practicality, decimating the fleet by putting it out of reach of mere mortals, etc. We all know where that led: foilers everywhere, but no more Hungry Tigers (apart from Scott's). The dominant class boatbuilder and three time World Champ, who even beat a foiling Rohan with a lowrider Hungry Tiger in Les Sable d'Olonne, decided he wasn't playing the foiling game. I have to give him credit for going out on a high note.

Rohan then went on to win in 2005 and 2007, affiliated with Bladerider in the latter event. Again not privy to any details, but the end of that story was basically that Bladerider was outclassed on the design side, and is no more. You'd think someone like Rohan would just move on to a Mach 2 and keep sailing, right? But after all that went on, and being so immersed in Mothing for so long, one can hardly blame him for wanting to do something else. Another boat and another multiple World champ sidelined by better hardware.

Fast forward to 2010 and history seems to be repeating itself: a multiple World champ is marketing the dominant boat, and yet another round of technical development threatens to knock it, and the Champ, off their perch. Having witnessed the rise and fall of Rohan on mainly technical grounds, and Thorpe before him, the best stragegery (to quote our 42nd President) for a sitting Champ and manufacturer rep is apparently to make it as hard for anything faster to get to the starting line as possible. Which is relatively easy to do when you sit on the Class Executive Committee.

Thusfar, we've seen the class Constitution invoked against the class rule, basically arguing that the first rule defining the class violates its own Constitution. This seems like kind of a scorched earth approach to winning, but whatever. Not entirely convincing in any event. This argument having failed, the discussion has shifted to Rule 4.2, and the responsibility of the measurer to report  "anything which he may consider to be unusual or to depart from the intended nature of the boat, or to be against the general interest of the class." The Rule states further that "a certificate may be refused, even if the specific requirements of the class are satisfied." Unfortunately, the decision regarding whether to refuse a Certificate to a wing hinges upon a tricky, somewhat subjective judgment by the Exec: Are wings against the general interest of the class?

Suffice it to say the positions of interested parties are predictable on this point: boat manufacturers feel that wings are against the general interest of the class, pretty much, and the people building wings obviously feel that they are squarely within the general Class interest. Both factions have vested interests in the outcome. Which is, well, interesting, as the very next Rule, 4.3, quite presciently states the following:

A measurer shall not measure a boat, spars or equipment owned, designed or built by themselves, or in which they are an interested party or have a vested interest.

So, if I follow the news properly, measurers are banned from measuring equipment they have an interest in, but Exec members are allowed to rule on how the measurement rules should apply to equipment that THEY have a vested interest in suppressing or promoting? Perhaps the Class should pass a rule mandating Exec members recuse themselves from debates in which they have a vested interest.

Impressively, the Exec is off to a good start: Bora has been booted from the Exec on grounds of vested interest. But now that the precedent has been set, it hardly seems reasonable to allow manufacturer representatives with equally vested, but opposite interests to remain. Let the standard be applied uniformly.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Drag Queen

Up in West Hollywood where I work, there is no shortage of queens, but I thought it was high time to broaden the definition, Moth-style, in celebration of the prodigal mainfoil's return from the tank:

For reference, I post the Prowler numbers from Bill's earlier work with John Zseleczky, which was the most efficient foil in that paper (vs a Bladerider mainfoil) for 20fps and 18" immersion, 180lb load:

The two foils are the same area and span. Different 2D foil sections on lifting surfaces; struts should be the same shape but ended up different due to (my) operator error in building the thing. An old photo:

I feel good about these results; they confirm a lot of what I thought in the design stage and what I have sensed on the water, but could not state conclusively until now. I think it is good news for the class in general, because it shows if nothing else that there may be a way to get quite a bit more efficiency out of the boat.

I hope these data will serve as an impetus to anyone who might have been thinking about going completely flapless to get busy on a prototype, as the control system design isn't a particularly easy nut to crack! Sounds like J. Bethwaite et al may have something up their sleeves in this regard; should be interesting to see how our next iteration compares to their design. I have a date with the Shop Bot next weekend and hope to get a new system mocked up before July.

Major thanks to Bill Beaver for once again helping to shed some light on the behavior of these cool little boats.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Speed at Any Cost

In a recent interview with Tom Brokaw, Bode Miller said:

"Every competitor has a choice. He can walk up to the starting gate, take a look, and walk away. It would be unprecedented, but he could do it." He went on to say that skiing with joy, fully committed in heart, is more important to him than winning races, ultimately.

So when people choose to ignore their blogs for extended periods, or their boats, or their sailing, I always take it as a reminder that all this might not actually matter all that much in the broader context of a life. Maybe they are so far down a rabbit hole in some other area of existence that this seems trivial by comparison. Maybe someone got sick or died, or got married, or got a new job. Had a kid, bought a house. Discovered nuclear fusion, started a company. Found something cooler to do with their spare time, or figure out.

When I finally build my latest scheme and make it work, I doubt it will count for much - even if it is fast. But that doesn't make it any less fun. And that is where Mr. Miller's comment rings true for me: things done with heart somehow count for more than things done simply because someone else thinks you should care about doing them well. And that philosophy, more than anything else, is what will probably continue to differentiate development class sailors from everyone else in the sailing world - no matter what aspect of the design, build and sail endeavor they choose to tackle.

I've never seen anyone sail a whole race, come down to the finish in first, then not cross the line. But I would applaud the sentiment.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

When the Spirit Says Stop

Back in college (uni?) we used to branch out on Sundays, looking for transcendence, or maybe we were just religious voyeurs. One Sunday found us at a Baptist church where we were the only white people in the congregation. The preacher said "I'm a-gonna preach until the Spirit says Stop". Apparently the Spirit was otherwise occupied, because the guy preached for two hours straight. Christ that was a long sermon.

On November 1, when Mothing killed what was left of my L4-L5 disk (admittedly not much), things were going alarmingly well before the crash tack that ended in grief. But the boat flies so high it runs out of rudder, even upwind. So I made a mental note to fix that.

Johnny Z's Eppler hydrofoil tool was only about 50 inches long, which should be fine, but it isn't for a rudder, since the lower end of the gantry is well above the waterline. I went ahead and lengthened the foil. Then I flipped the boat, shot the laser level at the hull waterline, blocked the racks until it was level fore and aft, then mounted the mainfoil and jury rigged the new rudder in a plausible position. Turns out I added about 3.5 inches too much strut, assuming one wants the rudder and mainfoil to fly at the same depth. But I wanted more bow down anyway when flying, and the lifting foil is mounted rather aggressively positive, so I think it will fly up above the mainfoil even if the strut is a bit longer. I did a little math and figured I could scrub a couple of degrees on the bottle screw without looking too weird. Not enough.

I don't mind looking a bit like a truffle hunting pig when I hydrofoil, but an extra 4" of height at the gantry lowers my bow 3" and sailing with the bow seven inches lower than the gantry seemed extreme. So I cut some vertical off the rudder again. It is now 12:30am and the heat gun is blowing on the gudgeon reinforcements; I was tempted to try the whole setup with plexus only but that seemed foolhardy. So a little midnight madness, and some time for blogging while I play fire marshal. I twittered it up. Looks a bit long, frankly.

Tomorrow is the acid test. Zack should be there with the Mach2, Nat and Bobby on CCZs, me on the Prowla, Richard on a Bladerider and a newbie on Zack's old BR for six, which is quite a fleet for this neck of the woods.