Archive for » September 13th, 2013«

The trickle-down technology of the America's Cup

By Alden Bentley

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Software titan Larry Ellison’s decision to race the 34th America’s Cup on high-speed 72-foot catamarans, which are harder to build and sail than keelboats, has been criticized for pushing the competition too far beyond traditional sailing and pricing out non-billionaires.

But this is the America’s Cup, Silicon Valley’s style – it’s all about technology, ideas and information – and advances made in preparation for the races are already being felt in television, aerospace and sporting gear.

“The America’s Cup has a long history of innovation on all kinds of levels,” said Gary Jobson, the tactician on Ted Turner’s 12-meter yacht Courageous when it won the Cup in 1977. “The boats have always had the leading edge of technology, whatever the technology has been.”

Sailing shares with aeronautics the physics of lift and drag and high- and low-pressure airflow – picture a plane turned on its side in the water with one wing a “dagger board” protruding below the hull and the other a vertical mainsail.

This is even more true of Ellison’s huge dream cats, known as AC72s. Instead of a traditional mainsail, they are powered by 135-foot-tall fixed “wings.” Forward, they usually carry just a small sailcloth jib to help turn their twin bows through the wind when coming about.

With horizontal fins at the tip of each rudder and dagger board blade below the water’s surface, the radical yachts commissioned by Oracle Corp’s Ellison, who could define the parameters of this year’s Cup boats because he won the 2010 America’s Cup in Valencia, Spain, can “hydrofoil” atop the waves at speeds of more than 50 miles per hour.

CARBON-FIBER REVOLUTION

The AC72 may represent the America’s Cup’s greatest innovation yet – a mostly carbon-fiber sailboat that borrows heavily from aviation technology.

Industries increasingly share techniques for using Space Age materials adopted early on by yacht builders. Carbon fiber and titanium are the favorites to reduce weight and cost, and add strength to hulls, airframes and components.

Boeing Co has been sharing information with America’s Cup boat designers and builders for years, according to America’s Cup sources. A Boeing spokesman said the company could not confirm or deny an America’s Cup connection.

Design innovations have trickled down in boating since Alan Bond – an Australian real estate and mining entrepreneur who declared bankruptcy in 1992 and was later imprisoned for fraud – revealed a winged keel that gave his Australia II syndicate the edge over Dennis Conner’s Liberty in the 1983 Cup.

Today, many cruising sailboats have similar horizontal surfaces on the bottom of their keels to help them steer straighter and faster. Experts expect hydrofoiling designs to likewise end up on recreational sailboats very soon.

The tall AC72 wings have incorporated twistable flaps along their trailing edge that help maximize lift and keep the boat flat. Aircraft may soon borrow this idea for wing-control surfaces to replace multiple flaps, according to Tom Speers, head of wing design at Oracle Team USA and a former Boeing engineer.

“You could envision an airplane wing where you had full-span flaps that did a number of functions,” Speers said. “They would move together for both roll control and as landing flaps or for maneuver load alleviation and so forth.”

The giant AC72 weighs just 13,000 pounds (6.5 tons, or roughly the weight of two average sedans), thanks to the high strength-to-weight ratio of carbon fiber. The boats are lifted out of the water each night, and the wings are removed for tuning, storage and to remove cameras.

When not sailing, the fragile AC72s are under repair – or are being rebuilt, as after Oracle’s AC72 capsized last October. Unfortunately, the AC72 can be fatally fragile: In May the catamaran of Swedish challenger Aremis flipped and broke apart, killing British Olympic sailing champion Andrew Simpson.

“We all said, ‘Maybe we are too cavalier about this regarding construction,'” said Oracle’s lead designer, Dirk Kramer.

To save time, yacht builders have advanced methods for pre-impregnating resins in carbon-fiber fabric to shorten and simplify the process of laying the fabric around a rigid honeycomb core and hardening the layers together in a mold. This cuts out the costly, time-consuming process of heating the composites in ovens.

FROM EDISON TO ELLISON

There are many firsts this year aimed at widening the appeal of the Cup. The sailing is in sight of spectators on shore in Ellison’s home waters of San Francisco Bay. And you can download real-time race data and apps to watch the crews in action, thanks to remote-control cameras affixed to each AC72.

The event was custom-made for television, with the scenic backdrop and close-quarters racing intended to make the Cup exciting to viewers at home.

Thomas Edison had the same idea when he brought his newfangled motion picture camera to film the America’s Cup in 1899 off Sandy Hook, New Jersey. The grainy 1899 clip “Columbia Winning the Cup” is viewable at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KDsE-4pe7Wk . The reel helped introduce Americans to motion pictures. Edison set a standard that still exists for covering big athletic events.

“The decision to capture the decisive moments of a race that featured 90-foot yachts rather than attempting to capture the event in its entirety necessarily involved strategic planning, coordination and timing,” wrote Raymond Gamache in his 2010 book “A History of Sports Highlights: Replayed Plays from Edison to ESPN.”

That footage reinforced a business relationship between Edison and banking titan J.P. Morgan. Morgan happened to be the owner of Columbia and Commodore of the New York Yacht Club, home to the trophy since it had been won from Britain in 1851 by the schooner America, the Cup’s namesake.

Morgan’s investment in Edison’s early power grid evolved into the General Electric Company, although the inventor who put the light bulb in homes had moved into movies by that time.

In 1899, the same year Edison brought his movie camera to the Cup, Italy’s Guglielmo Marconi was invited by the New York Herald to demonstrate radio for the first time in the United States by broadcasting the America’s Cup from a passenger ship.

Fast-forward to a modern sports television trailblazer named Stan Honey, who is director of technology for AC34.

Honey is a champion Volvo Ocean Race navigator and helped set a record for circumnavigation under sail. He also happens to have led the development of the moving yellow first-down line, which revolutionized televised American football in the 1990s.

Honey built on the innovations of Ian Taylor, Paul Sharp, Alan Trimble and Tim Heidmann, who together pioneered the use of computer graphics in the 1992 America’s Cup, which let viewers track boat positions and tactics.

The 1992 Cup also introduced cameras that made steady aerial filming possible from a helicopter.

Jobson, winner of two Emmy Awards for his sailing broadcasts for ESPN and public television, said the gyroscope-stabilized Cineflex camera and a highly specialized lens called a Schwem GyroZoom, ended an era of shaky distant shots from blimps and was quickly adopted for other sports, from auto racing to golf.

In 1992, producers could show videogame-like tracks for America III and Il Moro di Venezia as they sailed off San Diego, California, to illustrate race tactics and relative positions, or live aerial shots of the boats racing – but not simultaneously.

For AC34, Honey’s team has integrated the two, using GPS to aim cameras mounted on multiple helicopters to focus within two centimeters of the center of their moving subjects.

Viewers experience the colorful lines, dots and shading of wind and currents, boat tracks, course boundaries and mark rounding zones like natural features of San Francisco Bay.

“People wanted to see the real boats and crew sail, handling and puffs on the water, and at the same time wanted to have aids to interpretation such as lay lines, mark circles and advantage lines showing who’s ahead and behind,” Honey said.

STAYING SAFE AND DRY

When sailing upwind at 20-plus knots into a 20-plus-knot Bay westerly, AC72 crews are exposed to tropical-storm-force winds and a fire hose of salty spray. They are endurance athletes, wired with heart monitors and other sensors, who need waterproof breathable outerwear permitting freedom to rush back and forth across a 45-foot taut mesh trampoline between the hulls.

Because of the high risk of capsize, safety gear has been adapted from other extreme sports. The sailors don helmets and carry a small oxygen tank to be used if they get trapped under water.

PUMA, the shoe and sportswear manufacturer, is a corporate backer of America’s Cup 34 and has sponsored the Volvo Ocean Race. The company expects its investment in gear for extreme sailing conditions to find its way into other outdoor sports.

Sailing helped PUMA define its in-house CELL system used to describe different functions of their performance products and allocate materials to manufacturers. Any Puma product with “drycell” on it means that it helps keep you dry, while “visicell” is a product with high visibility.

“Because sailing gear is very technical, PUMA learned a vast amount about working with new materials and sourcing new factory options. Benefits for PUMA are long term because this knowledge can transfer to other categories within the company,” a spokesman for PUMA told Reuters.

This America’s Cup has even inspired innovation in academics, where Jan-Michael Ross and Dmitry Sharapov, professors at the Imperial College Business School in London, are seeking to use publicly available race data from the preliminary America’s Cup World Series, sailed on the smaller AC45 catamarans, to illustrate how tactical decisions on the water can be used in business situations, especially in winner-take-all-competitions.

Not that Larry Ellison needs any instruction.

(Additional reporting by Victoria Bryan in Frankfurt. Editing by Ciro Scotti and Douglas Royalty)


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Oracle taps British sailing royalty to save America's Cup campaign

By Ronnie Cohen

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Oracle Team USA’s bid to turn the tide in its floundering America’s Cup campaign by bringing sailing superstar Ben Ainslie aboard failed on Thursday, when Emirates Team New Zealand crushed the defenders in two do-or-die races.

The Kiwis now have scored six of the nine victories they need to bring home the trophy the yachting world refers to as the Auld Mug. Oracle, slapped with a jury-imposed two-race penalty, has won only one race and still needs to win another 10 to keep the 162-year-old trophy.

Government-backed New Zealand finished 66 seconds ahead of software billionaire Larry Ellison’s Oracle in its high-speed, 72-foot catamaran in the second race of the day and 47 seconds ahead in the first heat.

“We cannot give up,” said Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill at a post-race news conference. “We’ll keep fighting all the way to the end. I’m still convinced we can win races.”

In Thursday’s first race, the sixth of the series, Oracle won the start but lost the lead upwind on the third leg. In the second match, New Zealand won the start and kept the lead throughout.

Oracle has looked slow against New Zealand on the upwind legs, where it has forfeited leading positions in five races. The Kiwis in Thursday’s first race forced Oracle into having to perform a dozen of the taxing manoeuvres as the huge catamarans zigzagged into a light 12-knot breeze to the windward mark.

Spithill said the upwind speed differential caught his team off guard. “I think it is a shock that they’ve got the edge upwind,” he said.

But he added: “There’s a lot of racing to go. It’s a long way from over in my mind.”

New Zealand used an aggressive match racing “dial-down” tactic in race six to pass Oracle. The challenger had the right of way as it was about to cross tacks with its foe, and by aiming straight at Oracle forced it to duck and lose distance.

Ainslie, the most successful Olympic sailor of all time, was knighted for his achievements on the water. He took over as tactician aboard the AC72 from American John Kostecki.

The 36-year old Briton was the skipper of Oracle’s second yacht during training matches and remains a fearful competitor for New Zealand.

“It feels nice to have won six races, but it’s only two-thirds of the way toward winning the America’s Cup,” New Zealand skipper Dean Barker told reporters. “We know it’s far from over.”

Earlier this week, a tactical blunder by Kostecki cost Oracle a lead, allowed the Kiwis to cruise into a commanding fourth victory, and prompted the American team to call for an unusual time-out.

Oracle started the regatta two points behind because of an unprecedented jury-imposed punishment for illegally modifying the team’s smaller, prototype boats sailed in warm-up races.

Though Oracle flies the American flag, substituting Ainslie for Kostecki leaves only one U.S. sailor on the team, trimmer Rome Kirby. All but two of the Kiwi sailors hail from New Zealand.

The international jury that punished Oracle in the biggest cheating scandal in Cup history also expelled Kostecki’s brother-in-law, first-choice Oracle wing trimmer Dirk de Ridder for making illegal boat alterations.

Ellison won the world’s oldest sporting trophy in Valencia in 2010 and with it the right to choose his home San Francisco Bay waters as the venue and the fragile and hard-to-handle twin-hulled yachts with 13-story rigid wing sails as the vessels.

Sailors have criticized the Oracle chief executive’s decisions, particularly after British Olympic gold medallist Andrew “Bart” Simpson was killed when the AC72 of Sweden’s Artemis Racing capsized during a May practice exercise.

(Editing by Alden Bentley)


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Sailing-Kiwis win America's Cup race 6, Oracle running out of options

By Ronnie Cohen

SAN FRANCISCO, September 12 (Reuters) – Oracle Team USA‘s bid to turn the tide in its floundering America’s Cup campaign by bringing sailing supers tar Ben Ainslie aboard failed on Thursday, when Emirates Team New Zealand crushed them in a fifth race.

The government-backed Kiwis now have scored more than half the victories they need to bring home the trophy the yachting world refers to as the Auld Mug.

After winning the start in its high-speed, 72-foot catamaran, Oracle lost the lead upwind on the third leg,, and New Zealand surged to the finish 47 seconds ahead.

The Kiwis spotted the American boat’s Achilles heel – its poor tacking ability – and forced it into having to perform a dozen of the taxing maneuvers

Ainslie, knighted for his racing success on the water, tried to rescue Oracle, taking over on Thursday as the team’s top decision-maker.

“Ben did a great job,” Oracle skipper Jimmy Spithill said. “We can’t change the last race. What we can do is go out and win a race, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

A second race is scheduled on Thursday.

The most successful Olympic sailor of all time, Ainslie will sail as the tactician aboard the 72-foot catamaran in place of American John Kostecki. Earlier this week a tactical blunder by Kostecki cost Oracle a lead, allowed the Kiwis to cruise into a commanding fourth victory, and prompted the American team to call for an unusual time-out.

“It’s clear we need to improve performance, and with that comes changes,” Kostecki, 49, said. “I’ll fill whatever role is best to help us win.”

Team New Zealand needs to wing four more races to take the 162-year-old trophy back to its sailing-crazed island nation, while software mogul Larry Ellison’s Oracle team still needs to win 10 races to hold onto the Cup. Oracle started the regatta two points behind because of an unprecedented jury-imposed punishment for illegally modifying the team’s smaller, prototype boats sailed in warm-up races.

“I’m happy to step up and do what’s best for the team,” Ainslie said in a prepared statement. The 36-year-old sailor has been at the helm of Oracle’s second yacht during training matches.

Though Oracle flies the American flag, substituting Ainslie for Kostecki leaves only one U.S. sailor on the team, trimmer Rome Kirby. All but two of the Kiwi sailors hail from New Zealand.

Oracle’s devastating loss on Tuesday prompted the team to play its so-called postponement card and cancel a second race of the day so it could regroup. The only crew change was the promotion of Ainslie – a record five-time Olympic medalist knighted by the Princess Royal at Buckingham Palace in March.

A supreme tactician, Ainslie is known for bouncing back from bad races. His work as a sparring partner for Team New Zealand’s skipper Dean Barker in Valencia, Spain, in 2007 could help him in the races for the America’s Cup trophy. Ainslie has set winning the “Auld Mug,” as the Cup is called, as his primary goal.

Oracle was winning the race against powerhouse New Zealand on Tuesday when it tried to do something that has never before been done — to lift its foils out of the water while tacking. The team bungled the maneuver, almost stopped dead and gave up an eight-second lead.

The international jury that punished Oracle in the biggest cheating scandal in Cup history also expelled Kostecki’s brother-in-law, first-choice Oracle wing trimmer Dirk de Ridder for making illegal boat alterations.

Kostecki grew up sailing on San Francisco Bay and was hired as Oracle’s tactician at least in part for his insider knowledge.

Ellison won the world’s oldest sporting trophy in Valencia in 2010 and with it the right to choose his home San Francisco Bay waters as the venue and the fragile and hard-to-handle twin-hulled yachts with 13-story rigid wing sails as the vessels.

Sailors have criticized the Oracle chief executive’s decisions, particularly after British Olympic gold medalist Andrew “Bart” Simpson was killed when the AC72 of Sweden’s Artemis Racing capsized during a May practice exercise.

Ainslie grew up sailing with and against Simpson in British youth squads. Losing Simpson was crushing for Ainslie. He delivered a tribute at his friend’s funeral.


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Cobalt Boats honors top dealers

Cobalt Boats honors top dealers


Posted on 12 September 2013


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Cobalt Boats recently honored its top dealers at its worldwide dealer conference at the Vinoy Resort in St. Petersburg, Fla.

More than 350 dealers attended the event, which also included the launch of 2014 Cobalt models.

“We are proud to have such a fantastic group of dealer partners join us as we celebrate a successful season,” Cobalt vice president of sales and marketing Gavan Hunt said in a statement. “Our dealers provided us the opportunity to have a record-setting year at Cobalt, and our dealer meeting this year had the feel of a victory celebration.”

Awards for excellence in Customer Care, Cobalt Captain’s Awards, Top Ten Dealers, Rookie of the Year and World’s Largest Cobalt Dealer were presented during the meeting.

The world’s largest Cobalt dealer, the No. 1 spot in the Top Ten Dealer awards, went to Cobalt Boats of Atlanta LLC-Singleton Marine Group for the second year in a row.

The remaining Top Ten Dealer awards were presented to Arrowhead Yacht Club and Boat Sales; Slalom Shop; Gordy’s Lakefront Marina; Park’s Marina; Premier Marina Inc.; Seattle Boat Co.; Boats by George; San Ramon Boat Center; and Walker’s Point Marina.

Customer Satisfaction Award recipients also were honored. Cobalt said it recognized more than 71 percent of its dealers in the 2013 model year for their CSI scores and use of the Net Promoter System. The year’s Most Improved CSI Award was presented to Boatcity of The Netherlands.

Top CSI honors for the Central sales region went to Gordy’s Lakefront Marina, Lake Geneva, Wis., and Fox Lake, Ill. Gordy’s also was the Worldwide CSI Award winner.

Western Region CSI honors went to Great Lakes Marine, Littleton, Colo. The South Eastern CSI award went to Rambo Marine in northern Alabama. The North Eastern Region CSI Award was a tie and was presented to Bill’s Marine Service, Deep Creek, Md., and Travis Marine, Knoxville, Tenn. The Regional CSI Award for International went to Brunnert in Grimm, Switzerland.

The Rookie of the Year Award is given to the first-year dealer with top-ranking sales. This year’s winner was The Boathouse of Cape Coral, Fla.

Click here for the full release.

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Sailing club to host Glimmerglass Regatta

“There is nothing — absolutely nothing — half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” – Kenneth Grahame. 

It turns out, the Otsego Sailing Club offers ample opportunity for both adults and children to do just that. In addition to “messing around” the club also offers sailing enthusiasts the chance to challenge themselves in races, develop their sailing skills, cruise and socialize with like-minded sportsmen. The expert sailor as well as the complete novice is equally welcomed at the 52-year-old club located off of state Route 80 in Cooperstown. 

Longtime member Jamie Walker said: “They do a terrific job of keeping up the property to get wonderful access to the lake. I don’t think there’s any place like it.” 

Five families started the club in 1961 and it now boasts membership of 90 households. According to the club’s website, years ago, the moorings were filled with smaller boats and fewer cruisers, but now there are 19 mooring docks and 14 dock slips for cruisers. There is also a fleet of Thistle Class sailboats, (high performance racing sailboats all sharing the same overall design), and smaller Laser Class sailboats. 

All of the crafts are used for competition. This weekend, the club will host some of the most avid sailors in the Northeast at the 2013 Glimmerglass Regatta giving competitors the chance to match their skills in one of the most demanding sailing venues around.

According to several members, the seemingly calm lake can provide some challenging sailing.

“It’s a tricky lake to sail on. It’s narrow, and surrounded by high hills so the winds change very quickly,” Walker said. 

The Glimmerglass Regatta is held every year in mid-September drawing sailors from all over this part of the country, as well as the Mid-Atlantic region. The weekend event brings spectators as well, eager to watch boats with sails unfurled racing across the water. 

Many participating in the race camp out with their families Friday night on club premises, starting the weekend by fraternizing with other sailors early. The race itself starts Saturday. 

Megan and Dave Ainsworth are two members looking forward to competing in the event. On Sunday, the owners of a vintage 17-foot mahogany sloop, (numbered 45 out of 4050 produced Thistles made in 1947), pushed off the OSC dock for an afternoon practice sail with their nephew Nathan Heauner, a sailor in the making.

Megan describes the Regatta as good natured, competitive fun, with races starting in the morning, and lunch on the water. Normally the Cruisers start their race first, then the Thistles and other classes, all sailing south against the backdrop of Otsego Lake and its surrounding hills. The event ends back at the club with dinner and shared sailing stories around a big bonfire.

The facility itself includes camp grounds, a club house complete with a kitchen, changing rooms and bathrooms labeled “gulls” and “buoys,” a launch as well as docks and moorings. Membership means mandatory participation in spring dock days to prepare for summer sailing, as well as in autumn activities for taking the boats out of the water and dry-docking. Belonging also means access to sailing programs.

The junior sailing program is for ages10 to 17, with the class size usually limited to 20 students. Typically, the beginners are taught in the mornings during the summer months, and advanced students in the afternoons. The students taking the advanced class must have completed one year of junior sailing. 

Walker said OSC teachers are usually well-seasoned sailors “who are great at teaching their skills to young people.”

“They’re really good at making it fun for their students,” he said.

There is an adult sailing program taught on evenings and Saturday afternoons. The kids hone their expertise on small Laser sailboats. But don’t let the size of craft or sailor fool you, both kids and Lasers are out in full force for races on the lake.

The racing during the course of the summer involves all the club members. 

Ken Higgins, editor of OSC’s newsletter “Gusts and Puffs,” said even members who originally had no experience or inclination to race find themselves changing their minds. He said his family’s first race was the fourth time they sailed. 

Realizing they had to make it around the buoy left no time for giving up, regardless of wind conditions, according to Higgins. He said racing challenged them to make decisions and use their skills, and they were able to complete the race knowing a great deal more about sailing than when they started. 

“Sailing is all about the boat, your skills and the weather,” he explained 

When asked what drew one inexperienced sailor to join the club, a single mother of two sons responded that it was the serene surroundings and the feeling of welcome and support she felt from the other club members. She said she had a boat and a desire to find an activity that her family could do together. 

For more information about the club or the 2013 Glimmerglass Regatta, visit www.otsegosailingclub.com.


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