Wing technology trickles down to youth sailors


|source: Oracle Racing|
The America’s Cup is such a technology-driven event that it often benefits the sport of sailing as a whole. Past innovations such as the wing keel have helped cruising yachts achieve shallower drafts so that they can get closer to shorelines. And advancements in sail technology benefit every layer of the sport.

When it was announced that wingsails would be used in the 34th America’s Cup, many wondered how the technology would trickle down through the sport. While the final applications are far from decided, the technology has trickled down to the youth sailor in the form of a wingsail for an Optimist dinghy.


President of IODA, Peter Barclay (left), with 2011 Optimist Worlds Committee member, Peter Dawson and the mysterious wingsailed Optimist (courtesy Terry Nicholas)
The optimist is one of the oldest, most used trainers for youth sailors. It was designed in 1947 by Clark Mills, and the square bow design with gaff rig has withstood the test of time. The International Optimist Dinghy Association has national associations in 126 countries and there are more than 130,000 Optimists registered worldwide.It is such a popular trainer that the children of some of ORACLE Racing’s teammembers own an Opti as they start what could be a career long path towards the America’s Cup. Several of the design team took the initiative to adapt a wingsail for the Optimist that was trialed recently ahead of the New Zealand Optimist Nationals.
“The idea came about when talking with some 470 sailors at Wakatere Boating Club, who are always building things for boats or skateboards or surfboards,” said Mike Drummond, a designer with ORACLE Racing. “The top section of our A-class catamaran wing is removable, and about the same size as an Opti rig. It was very easy to add a standard Opti mast tube to be able to step it into a normal Opti.”
The wing was constructed with the aid of James Turner and Logan Dunning-Beck, the 470 sailors from the Wakatere Boating Club.
“James made up the plywood control arms, Logan rigged it up; then it was stepped and sailed within a couple of days,” Drummond said. “The rig is a little far forward so the helm is a bit light, but it sails easily. It hasn’t lined up against a conventional rig though – as you can see it is a bit smaller in area.”
When it was trialed ahead of the nationals Drummond was impressed the sailors asked very good questions about how the wing works and why it has a slot. The wing isn’t class legal so it won’t be seen on the racecourse in the immediate future, but down the road wingsail technology will undoubtedly become widespread.
Wing technology trickles down to youth sailors Wing technology trickles down to youth sailors Reviewed by Panos Douros on Tuesday, May 03, 2011 Rating: 5

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