As part of my Ship Science degree, I have just completed studying ‘Sailing Performance’ which was about the physics of sailing, and how to analyse performance. It struck me that, despite the research and technology available, dinghy coaching and performance analysis remains very un-scientific on the whole. Anyone who has watched professional big boat sailing will be familiar with seeing terabytes of data being streamed live off of an America’s Cup yacht or even a TP52 but with the affordable technology available today, why can’t this be replicated in a slightly simpler form at dinghy level?
Knowledge within the dinghy racing world seems to have been acquired through the trusted ‘trial-and-improvement’ method. An experienced sailor will go out, try changing a certain setting and find the setup which works the best. Whilst there is nothing wrong with this method in itself, this knowledge is then passed around and eventually someone will ‘state’ why something makes a boat go faster – often with no scientific evidence. This then becomes ‘fact’ and continues to be past around sailing circles.
I am just starting a new project to use off-the-shelf technologies such as TracAce™ or a simple video camera and mount to develop a more scientific way to analyse dinghy sailing performance. I hope to complete some trials next summer, if you would like to be involved, please drop me an email. Hopefully, I will have some preliminary results to share this time next year.
In the meantime, I will ask something of sailors who are embarking on their winter training programme, and their coaches:
Sailors – if your coach says that doing something makes you go faster, ask why. Make sure that they can support their answer.
Coaches – answer honestly, if you don’t know why something makes a boat go faster, just say.
If you have any questions about the physics of sailing, please do let me know, I am always happy to help. Feel free to send me photos or videos of your boat setup and I will try my best to give some tips. It would be particularly useful if you are willing for me to share the question and answer or use it for my project.
I will be back with another blog in the new year, in the meantime: Happy Christmas!
To check out what services I can offer, or to see what I am up to, check out my Facebook page (facebook.com/JamesRipleySailboatRacingServices).