"Speed Kills"... article of Kevin Hall, Navigator on Quantum Racing, at sailinganarchy.com


© Panos Douros/istioselida.com (2011)
Το διαβάσαμε στο sailinganarchy.com και είναι ένα από τα πιο ενδιαφέροντα άρθρα πάνω στην ιστιοπλοΐα που έχουμε δει τελευταία.
Ο Kevin Hall, navigator στο Quantum Racing, κάνει μια ωραία ανάλυση στο τι έφταιξε και η ομάδα του κέρδισε το 2011 Audi MedCup.
Είναι στα αγγλικά αλλά αξίζει τον κόπο να το διαβάσετε:
"Two days to go in the 2011 Audi Medcup. If you believed the press, the weight of the world was on the after guard of Quantum Racing, and I overheard one interviewer suggest that the pressure Bribon was applying to us was making us crack.
Four more races. Could we hold on? 
© Panos Douros/istioselida.com (2011)
Before we get ahead of ourselves, let's review a few important facts. Number one, Quantum Racing had been leading the Audi Medcup since the 5th race of the 45 race season, when we won our first of 5 races In Cascais. That meant, in quite simple terms, that any chance Container, or Audi Azzura - or any other team which fancied themselves Season Champions had to make our lives difficult - would be taken.
We did make things a little hard on ourselves with a disappointing performance in the 3rd regatta of the season in Cagliari, but so did Container. Audi Azzura sailed well there to gain points, but not as well as their sistership who won the event. At the 4th event in Cartagena, we earned a very ugly bronze, and while for sure things could have been better - they could have been a lot worse! We were still leading the series, although as we all know it was now only by 3.5 points, and Bribon had skillfully added themselves to the mix.

Every team will have left at least 20 obvious points on the table when they go back through the summer's races. Audi Azzura would have gone into the last regatta in Barcelona feeling like they deserved to be leading the Medcup with 9 races to go, and a little worried that a breakdown in the final coastal might cost them the title that had so far eluded them. Container would be looking to sail the event of their season and let the chips fall where they may, but for sure that might just be good enough. And Bribon would probably be thinking if they do what they did in Cartagena again, namely stay out of trouble and go really fast and be on the correct side (notice i didn't say right!) of the course, who knows what might happen.
© Panos Douros/istioselida.com (2011)
Back to day four. It was a great day on the Quantum Racing, and at the same time the freight train of Bribon's ascendance was halted when all-of-a-sudden, for the first time in the season, not 2, not 3, but 4 of the 8 boats in the fleet had their eye on them at least as much as on us! (Ran wanted to win the regatta, Azzura and Container wanted to be second in the Medcup, and Quantum wanted to seal the deal). I think it's fair to say they felt like the whole world was against them, but describing their tough day to us in the tent gave us the long-awaited chance to say "now you know how it's been for us the whole season!"
This account could be a long, supercilious dissection of whether our after guard should have chosen to ignore one boat more and sail to be top three in any given race, whether we should have pushed it further into the corner with our main competition when we were a strong match, whether if we had just sailed our own race in the final race we would have had better odds of winning the event than by doing what we did.
© Panos Douros/istioselida.com (2011)
But it's not going to be. Instead, I'm going to champion the potentially-unpopular view (at least among us 'Lovelies' down-the-back) that it was not the various after guards which won or lost the Medcup. Nor was it simply the boat design, or the boat handling, or the subtle differences yielded by the hundreds of hours of meticulous care that went into maintaining the fleet at the top of the game. All those things were important. But at the end of the day, winning the 2011Medcup came down to being the fastest TEAM on the water more often than not, and especially at the final event. To achieve that in such a strong fleet required having a competitive edge, something no other team had.
The combination of Quantum Sails, and the ability to fine-tune them, during the race, to not just what looked good to the experienced eyes of the trimmers, and felt like the right amount of bite to the helmsman, but in fact to tune them to exact target depths which we were discovering to be fast - that day! - is what made us better than all the other teams. We'll come back to exactly how we were doing that later, but first some background.

I've often lamented the drastic over-simplification "the boat is fast". This season was fascinating because what I call the static fleet was more widely dispersed in wind range optimization than ever before, despite being the smallest fleet. That is, the fleet at the dock, the one which in a Race Modeling Program run with VPP results, would have very different results for the season depending on the assumed wind distribution, and on the amount of credit given to a boat which was slanted to upwind speed and therefore dealt out a debatable amount of bad air to a boat more downwind-oriented. I don't think it's cutting anyone's ego-lunch to say that the teams out there were all so good that in fact the best design for the aggregate wind conditions at each event may have won each regatta, perhaps with the exception of the final event in Barcelona, which could still have gone to Ran, or instead to Bribon, or to us on the Q with the slightest change in the script.
Our Botin Partners boat liked the Cascais wind and sea state conditions, and what we threw down upwind was not surmountable with a little downwind flair. Marseille was similar except the Coastal race had enough downwind imbalance, and the team on Container had enough skill to sail all the way through the fleet on the long run. Cagliari was predominantly breezy and offshore, and the more extreme, up range Vrolijk boats could sail their fast numbers on the lifts and make the rest of us feel like we had sailed headers all week.
Again, credit to Audi All4One for realizing the potential of the boat, for sure. But hopefully a pattern is starting to emerge here. Bribon, a little lower prismatic, pedestals forward instead of aft, maybe little more lead between the keel and the mast, was able to sheet a little further inboard upwind, and downwind sail either a little higher and much faster, or the same angle and a little faster in the sea breezes of Cartagena. Sometimes they were right in front of us and just "f&%*ed off' on a couple waves on the runs, never to be seen again. They sailed a brilliant regatta too, but I know at least one very talented helmsman who is fond of saying "we're only going to be as smart as we are fast"!
How to be fast? Maybe it's as simple as getting a new main. Audi Azzura had one in Cartagena and they were fast. We had one in Barcelona. But hang on, Synergy used a Grandfathered main from last season in all the races they won! What about saving a button on an A3 and having one more new jib in the last event? Could have been part of Ran's secret to their much-deserved win.
How often do you put a little entry back in the jib you will have to use for the rest of the season? How round is too round in the back in a building sea breeze?
And what about targets - is target rudder angle enough or does it depend on wind weight? Is having the knuckle of the bow in just a little always right or does it depend on heel? What if your rudder angles are still on the low side, should you simply add rake and transform the rig geometry to keep what you know, or should you design a whole new downrange main with more shape in the back, but which will be more cranky as soon as it is over range? Quick disclosure: it's a bit of blatant self-promotion to enumerate the data-oriented bits of this list, as clearly it falls under my purview..
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But it's not where i'm ultimately trying to take you here, since there was a whole fleet of navigators incontrovertibly smarter than me, who plotted the same graphs, and had the same hair-pulling-out debriefs that we did during the season when their team was a bit off the pace. 
We had four trimmers upwind, the rest of the fleet only had three. Louie (Grant Loretz) won a record-equalling third Medcup in a row, two with ETNZ and this one with us. With some very salty-dog consultation from Fernando Sallent of Quantum Sails Barcelona, he didn't miss a call the entire regatta between sailing with only the J1 onboard, putting the J1 up and leaving the J1.5 down below, putting the J1 up and switching to the J1.5 on the run, sailing with only the J1.5 onboard, and sailing with the J1.5 and leaving the J2 down below.
Skip (James Baxter) won his second Medcup trimming the main, with people in one ear saying "trim to go higher please", in another ear saying "trim to go faster please", and probably a few times being willed to "trim to go higher and faster, PLEASE!". We ended up sailing the whole event with the M4, but continued to try to perfect the M3 because the first time Skip saw the M4 was the day before the practice race.

Bull (Ben Durham) was caught between Skip telling him to go runner up sooner, and me telling him the rudder angles were a little on the low side for the high mode that we wanted at times, and did a great job balancing the two of us.
Our fourth upwind trimmer was Jonesy (Brett Jones) and his VSPARS equipment, itself tuned by Andrew Scott. This was our secret weapon upwind. It helped us keep a couple tenuous lanes in the tough races earlier in the season, and helped us earn a 1-2 and essentially win the season on the penultimate day in Barcelona. The win in race 8 was by a huge margin: we lead at the first mark and sailed away from the fleet.
The VSPARS hardware is robust. It started up every day of the Medcup, and after a little expected bedding-in and calibrating in Cascais we had pictures streaming to the database of the mainsail, on both tacks, every race. So those were always there to review at the end of the day. No big deal really, except it's hard to get buy-in to run to the bow and take a picture of the jib during the race, or to lie in the middle of the cockpit and take a picture of the main - even on one tack, while winning, much less on two tacks while mid fleet. We have hours (days) of work ahead of us to go back through the season's race photos and correlate flying shapes to best moments of performance, then more fun with silicon to feed that info back into the Quantum Design Group IQ program and close the CFD loop.

But again, any of the teams could have been doing this.

A little bit of mapping protocol smoothing out after Cascais and we had the flying shapes streaming even further, from our VSPARS onboard real-time software through Bravo Systems to a PDA on deck. It took a little bit of time for everyone to get used to the new kit, and a little more time for the end-users to fully appreciate what we had in our hands. I'll never forget the first day Skip started asking Jonesy for the depths on the water in Marseille - it's a moment every techno-sailor dreams of because the electronics and lines of code and late nights debugging are meaningless without a sailor or sailors who have the patience and the vision to get to the point where those things are able to be cashed in for real-live boat speed.
What I am 100% certain the other teams weren't doing this year is going a 1/4 turn on the D2 before the race because the camber of the mid stripe was still .12 % different tack to tack. I'm also sure they weren't hearing from a guy hiking as hard as everyone else on the rail, with his head down and in line for windage, "getting a little unbalanced vertically, 8, 11, and 10% bottom to top". Or, even more fun to hear for those of us looking for an edge from technology "spot on target cambers from the first beat when we were going the best".

The future, son, is not plastics, but real-time, real-deal information about the shapes of the sails. We were, after all, racing a sail boat.

We had it. They didn't. I wonder if any of them will next year."
"Speed Kills"... article of Kevin Hall, Navigator on Quantum Racing, at sailinganarchy.com "Speed Kills"... article of Kevin Hall, Navigator on Quantum Racing, at sailinganarchy.com Reviewed by Panos Douros on Friday, September 23, 2011 Rating: 5

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