15 February 2010


I'm far from a rabid sports fan. I'll sometimes watch the playoff and title games in pro football or college basketball, plus anything to do with whitewater or flying (which rarely make it to non-cable broadcasts). The qualities that engage me are skill, strategy and good sportsmanship.

Add to that list the America's Cup, a sailing regatta match whose prize is the oldest active trophy in international sports (including the modern Olympics). I'm hopelessly out of touch with developments in sailing -- before yesterday, my mental images were similar to those portrayed in the 1992 film Wind, one of director Carroll Ballard's visual feasts.

So imagine my surprise to learn that racing technology has long since gone beyond the traditional single-hulled yacht with conventional fabric sails (see image above, showing two racers vying for upwind positional advantage). The 2010 winner was a trimaran propelled by a rigid wing-sail. A trimaran's added stability enables a hull with a shallower draft and no need for a deep heavy keel, all of which enable enhanced speed and stability, but at the expense of maneuvering tight turns (see image below).

For more on this year's winner, and on the controversies surrounding the race, click here.

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