If the arrival of GPS was the defining change in the 1980s — then the most significant technical development in the 1990s was the availability of lightweight, robust, solid state motion sensors.
Rate gyros and accelerometers would come to be fundamental to many of the improvements in the accuracy and effectiveness of sailing instruments over the next couple of decades.
It was Graeme Winn at Sailmath that first applied their potential to sailing after his involvement with the Blue Arrow challenge for the America’s Cup in 1988.
This experience formed the basis for a new system for the 1995 America’s Cup which became the WTP.
The new feature for this system was the removal of wind vectors created by the pitching and rolling of the yacht by the use of rate gyros for [measuring] pitch and roll; the resulting wind was much steadier and required less damping.
A couple of years later it was added another rate gyro for yaw to the WTP, and so provided the functionality of a gyro-stabilised compass.
At the same time, continuous developments were taking place in sensor technology, particularly in measurement of two of the four fundamental pieces of data essential to any racing boat; boat speed and heading (the other two are wind speed and angle).
The measurement of the yacht’s heading and spatial motion has continued to be revolutionised by the advances in accelerometers, rotation sensors, inertial navigation systems and of course GPS.
These new sensors have enabled many of the dynamic errors in the instrument systems – the spikes seen in wind direction and speed during tacks and gybes – to be eliminated.
This enabled the calculation of new data functions that were fully integrated into the system.
There’s no shortage of fundamental problems still to be solved either, wind share and upwash remain largely unmeasurable, and no real-time sail vision system yet exists at a price point accessible to anything but very well-funded pro teams.
If you haven’t read the Part IV, The R-evolution of the equipments, it’s here.
Friday 17, Part VI: Go ahead to the future.