Archive for the ‘racing’ Category

A clean race


The latest edition of the Volvo Ocean Race has just begun, with 7 teams competing in this round-the-world spectacular.  One of the themes of this iteration is fighting the pollution caused by plastic.  The oceans are becoming seas of plastic, from fishing nets to microbeads, and the plastic is getting into the food chain.

One of the biggest offenders is the single-use water bottle, a now common item in many households.  All plastics degrade into tiny pellets, which stay in the environment for a long time, decades in some cases.  Although plastic can be re-used in making some products, the majority is simply discarded, ending up in landfills and the ocean.

Fish ingest plastic in the form of microbeads, which become lodged in their tissues.  Often, the fish are eaten by other fish, further up the food chain.  Humans are at the top of the food chain, so the things that creatures down the food chain consume can end up in our bodies.  The huge increase in the numbers of single-use water bottles portends ever-increasing amounts of plastic getting into our bodies.  The sailors of the Volvo Ocean Race encounter plastic in every ocean, all over the world.


Wings On Water


Wind can power more than turbines to make electricity.  Sailboat racing has become a media-friendly sport, what with the development of miniature cameras and satellite links.  Technology has also influenced boat design and construction, to the the point that the newest boats are made entirely of carbon, even the sails.  Sailing has been characterized as standing in a shower tearing up $100 bills, and a boat is a hole in the water that you pour money into, so the average bloke is not going to run out and buy a new super-maxi sailboat.

But they sure can be exciting to watch, without having people beating each other up.  The sea will do the beating, along with the wind.  Sailboats are now capable of speeds that powerboats dreamed of, 25, 30, and even 40 knots, hour after hour.  Comanche, one of the newest racing sailboats, recently traveled over 600 miles in 24 hours, which is an average of something like 27 knots.  Check out some of the Rolex sponsored events on YouTube, as they are very well covered.  Formula 1 car racing now has some competition for the millionaires money!

Fat Bottomed Girl


There is a new platform for ocean racing with big sailboats, called super maxi’s, which are very powerful. A recent entry to this fleet is called Comanche, and she sails under the U.S. flag.  Comanche is a single masted monohull sailboat, made entirely of carbon, including the sails.  She is 100 feet long, and needs a crew of about 22 or 23 strong, able-bodied sailors, because her sails are huge, and weigh hundreds of kilograms.  She made her debut in the 2014 Rolex Sydney-to-Hobart Race, when she was less than a month on the water.  Comanche still managed to take second line honors, behind Wild Oats, an Australian supermaxi.

About 10 years ago, a novel concept hit the world of off-shore sail racing.  A sailboat usually has a ‘keel’ which helps keep the boat upright, as well as reducing the amount of sideways movement the boat experiences.  Somebody had the crazy idea of making a hole in the bottom of the boat, and attaching hydraulic rams to the keel fin, so that the whole keel, including the big bulb at the end of the long fin which is several tons of lead, can be swung from one side of the boat to the other, providing more resistance to the wind blowing the boat over.  When the wind is coming from the right side of the boat, the keel is swung over to the right side, which helps to hold the boat upright against the wind.  This is called a ‘canting’ keel, and they have been on the big sailboats during many recent races.

Comanche has a canting keel, as well as dagger boards, which can be lowered to help counteract the sideways motion sailboats experience when sailing upwind.  Comanche is also very wide across the beam, compared to her length, thus the nickname ‘fat bottomed girl.’  But that fat bottomed girl has been getting faster and faster, until she set a new record for the distance traveled in 24 hours for her type of boat, with 618 nautical miles traveled in one day.  That means that Comanche must have maintained an average speed of about 27 knots, which is 31 mph.  Even at night.  Just with wind power.