Thursday, April 10, 2008

Innovation in yachting

About once a month we have a middle-aged (meaning "old") white man present us with a great innovation in yacht design. He would like us to enable, share and perhaps even invest in his idea. Sailing surface effect catamarans, inflatable trimarans, jet quadramarans, mating the bow of a New England fishing schooner with the stern of a Colin Archer redningskoite, vessels that stick to the sea surface by surface tension... I can state categorically that in the fifteen years I have been in this office, not a single one of those ideas has been offered up by a person of color, a women or anyone under fifty for that matter. They've all been old, white men.

There must be something about marine design that inherently encourages innovation. I'm not talking about not the careful, plodding, boring innovation based on science or previous examples, rather the pure form that comes directly from the unconscious, unmitigated by practicality, expense, or physics. It's probably because there is little or no regulation in yacht design or construction. Commercial ships are subject to a world of regulation, federal and international, governing construction, operation and navigation. But in the US, even large pleasure yachts are essentially free from regulation.

Thus, a mature man can have a vision of a solar powered crystal house, from which the shit flows up hill, but unless it meets the building codes, he can't tie it into the sewer, the electrical grid, or even live in it. He can build a visionary aircraft, but can't fly it anywhere unless a powerful and emasculating goverment agency (that would be the FAA), finds it airworthy. Blind, ignorant government regulators, conspiring to stifle innovation and freedom. It is frustrating to a free man.

At least there is the Sea. If a (white) man can envision his vessel (say a solar powered trimaran built entirely from beer kegs) he can build it, and, if he chooses, sail it out of the Golden Gate, with his whole family of home schooled children on board. No one can stop him.

The Relentless is next door at Bay Ship right now.
Okay, I truly don't know how this vessel sails...maybe it skims across the top of the waves, while the owner and his content crew sit warm and dry below in a spacious cabin, sipping drinks as they reel off the miles. Then maybe not.

Where is the front of the boat? Let's see...look for the rudder. Ha ha, that's a trick question. I guess they took the rudder off to fix it, so it's hard to figure out. I'll make it easy for you, see the propeller...that must be the back.

The big wishbone spar in the back is the mast, which supports the two headstays. The rig is tensioned by the backstay, which is supported by the two jumper struts. I imagine the design concept was that mainsails are bad because the mast interferes with the luff of the sail, especially to weather. Solve the problem by putting the mast behind the sails...voila. I wonder how it goes.

I keep looking for the owner so I can find out more about this innovative vessel. (And if the owner reads this, you may alert me to your presence by throwing a rock at my building.)

1 comment:

kojii said...

Innovations in .... thinking. I own and sail the shorter wishbone aft-mast rig. It sails well, but does not, I repeat, does not defy the physical laws we all live by. Put the mast toward the back to clear the luff and you get less turbulence at the luff and ... drag aft. Fun to sail. Easy for the most part. Moves well in light air. What does that mean exactly? Gentle breeze of perhaps less than 5 knots (being generous), spring time, Multnomah Channel (Columbia River) current running maybe two knots. All sails out (730 sq/ft) and off we go upstream at a clip (ok, 1 knot), but it went upstream.
Ground Hog day this winter, crossing from Victoria to Port Angeles in 20 knots, and ran into the harbor, again all sail up, at about 8 knots with little bursts to 9. The photo you grabbed was again all sail up on the Columbia, beating with the current this time, and a 15 knot breeze with gusts and again 8-9 knots over the ground. The vessel is heavily built, but with carbon and kevlar and unidirectional glass and high-performance resin and is so narrow (9') that it can take advantage of the efficient foresail-only rig, without losing too much to the drag aft. Biggest concern for me is windage aft. Shorter stick (under 40')with forward cant, hydraulic steering and long waterline all counter this inherent imbalance. But is it enough? So far yes. More sailing to do. The mast itself is a hand-laid carbon/kevlar cofab with a fiberglass wrapper and is very stout yet flexible when not in tension/compression. Not a boat for everyone, but then the boats for everyone aren't for me. Will it change the face of sailing? No. Do I miss the big heavy main with the massive brain-bashing boom and constant reefing? No. Fun to sail and think about both in one package. And no, it is not a sailing submarine...