Category Archives: Sailing

Conservation and performance

Here are two examples of how auto industry leaders might finally be moving away from waste. That’s right, a new value is in town and those who demand quality are taking notice.

First of all, check out the age-old concept of reducing weight and excess in order to increase performance. Nothing really revolutionary here, except that these folks are taking conservation to a whole new level without sacrificing safety (I kind of like the fact that the title to their history page is misspelled and the source says it was created by a Macintosh — quirky but it makes them real). Porche and Corvette (e.g. the Z06) have been obsessing about reducing the weight in their designer profiles on a mostly superficial level (carbon fiber trim widgets look nice, but they are mostly band-aids) whereas this ultra-light exotic-killer is a revolution in engineering and powered only by a Honda civic engine:

Atom 2 power is from the new 2.0 Honda iVTEC engine now regarded as the best 4 cylinder production engine in the world. Featured in the Honda Civic and the Civic Type R the engine and gearbox combines Honda reliability, economic servicing and practical ownership. With the performance emphasis of the Atom geared towards acceleration and handling, the power to weight ration [sic] exceeds that of most supercars giving phenomenal performance and tracks times comparable with pure race cars.

Ah, but how many cup holders does it have? And when is the diesel version coming? Wrap a kevlar or nylon skin around that thing, like a canoe on wheels, and I’d drive it everywhere. Interesing that the alt tag on their main image is “No doors, No screen, No ignition key” but the image itself says “No doors, No screen, No roof”. This makes it seem a lot like a motorcycle with almost none of the risk.

The cost of a used Ariel is only about 25K pounds. With comparable performance to a Ferrari Enzo that costs about a half-million more, it seems like the difference between an A-Class Catamaran to a TP52. So instead of saying an A-Cat is the F1 of sailboats, I think it more appropriate now to call it the Ariel Atom 2. Incidentally, like the A-Cat the Ariel is not a new design but it has benefited greatly from advances in technology and many years of dedication by efficiency enthusiasts.

In other news it looks like BMW had a “duh, why weren’t we doing this already” moment at the end of last year.

The concept uses energy from the exhaust gasses of the traditional Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) to power a steam engine which also contributes power to the automobile – an overall 15 per cent improvement for the combined drive system. Even bigger news is that the drive has been designed so that it can be installed in existing model series – meaning that every model in the BMW range could become 15% more efficient overnight if the company chose to make the reduced consumption accessible to as many people as possible.

Combining the innovative assistance drive with a 1.8 litre BMW four-cylinder engine on the test rig reduced consumption by up to 15 percent and generated 10 kilowatts more power and 20 Nm more torque. This increased power and efficiency comes for, well, … nothing. The energy is extracted exclusively from the heat in the exhaust gases and cooling water so it is essentially a quantum leap in efficiency.

Funny, I haven’t heard or seen anyone with a BMW talking about their Turbosteamer technology. Is it real or just a gimmicky thing to market when people are getting antsy about efficiency and emissions? Also, apparently BMW researchers have not driven the Atom 2, or they might not be saying things like this:

“This project resolves the apparent contradiction between consumption and emission reductions on one hand, and performance and agility on the other,� commented Professor Burkhard Göschel.

Or maybe if your vehicles were not clad with excessive padding and did not weigh as much as a herd of cattle you might not need so much consumption and emissions to push them around? Quiet and plush (the main sources of weight) cars are nice, do not get me wrong, but we all know that quiet and plush are not the primary objective of the BMW performance engineers. This paragraph from the Ariel site puts it nicely:

After 3 solid days of testing and against cars as varied as a Porsche Carrera 4S, Noble M400, Westfield Sport and Lotus Elise the Ariel Atom 245 has been voted as Track Day Car of the Year by Track and Race car Magazine. A five man test team including race drivers Michael Mallock and Stephen Colbert were unanimous in their decision summing it up by saying: ‘The Atom wins because as soon as soon as you get in it, it’s almost as if that unique chassis suddenly becomes some form of exoskeleton. It’s as if you’ve grown Dymag wheels instead of hands and feet and your heart’s been replaced by a two litre iVTEC. Nothing made you feel more involved, or connected to the circuit beneath you.’

Like I said, throw some ultralight skin on that thing, change the gearing and it would be an awesome commuter car. Then convert it to honda’s hybrid-diesel powerplant to make today’s cars look like they were from the era of horse and buggy.

US military brings forth the FSM

This photo is unbelievable. The US Air Force released flares over the Atlantic Ocean and Tech. Sgt. Russell E. Cooley IV, United States Air Force captured the resulting manifestation of the Flying Spaghetti Monster:

A C-17 Globemaster III from the 14th Airlift Squadron, Charleston Air Force Base, S.C. flies off after releasing flares over the Atlantic Ocean near Charleston, S.C., during a training mission on Tuesday, May 16, 2006. The “smoke angel” is caused the vortex from the engines. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Russell E. Cooley IV)

Is that a meatball I see…?

Multi-hull safety at sea and risk perception

I was asked to represent my local A-Cat fleet this evening at a club race planning meeting, to help bring us into the fold with the other approved one-design classes. It was a surprise to find most of the questions about the A-Cat, and multi-hull racing in general, related to safety concerns.

I had to explain the various risk factors and the safety measures I thought were appropriate for a high-performance ultra-light racing platform. This would have been easier if others sailed the same or even similar type boats, but you might say the difference between an A-Cat and a typical club racer is akin to the difference between a Mosler MT900s and a Toyota Camry. We’ve been sailing enough in local events, fortunately, that the issues were discussed with some real-world examples and in the end the fleet was approved.

People on sailing forums sometimes ask about A-Cat security and here are my thoughts in a nutshell:

I say a good radio, whistle, strobe, water and spare set of goggles/glasses (prescription) are most critical…a wetsuit is also typical gear for us where thicker ones give a fair amount of buoyancy. The way I look at it these basic items significantly reduce personal risk and you could still need them even if you manage to stay with the boat after a spill (torn sail, dismast, etc.). It’s bulky but to keep it nice an tidy (and reduce windage) I always wear a giant rashguard over everything.

And that just takes me back to an old Outside article on how to calculate risks during recreation:

NO WONDER, THEN, that the optimal adventure experience for many enthusiasts is one in which the perceived risk is high but the actual risk is acceptably low. Running rapids is a good example. “People look at big whitewater, and their perception is that it’s very dangerous,” says Pamela Dillon, executive director of the American Canoe Association. “But the stats tell a different tale. In sheer numbers—including canoeists, kayakers, and rafters—the most common way someone dies boating is in a canoe, on flatwater, with no PFD [personal flotation device], drinking alcohol.

“Fifty percent of people who die in canoes and kayaks are out fishing,” Dillon continues. “They’re not tuned in to the skills and information they need to participate safely.”

If there’s just one thing you could say about A-Cat sailors, I think “tuned in” might be it. Here’s Glenn doing a nice fly-by for the race committee (note the flat water):