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The physics behind almost wrecking a multi-million dollar boat



2013. San Francisco Bay. The 34th America's Cup. Race 8.

Emirates Team New Zealand is neck and neck with Oracle Team USA, headed upwind (the slow point of sail; the 72 foot catamarans might only hit 30mph). In a typical race with typical boats, this would be a run of the mill maneuver. Do your best to stay in front of the other guys, don't lose ground, and find the perfect balance between outright speed and sailing as close as possible to the wind. However, nothing about racing the AC72 is typical.

One of the biggest (pun intended) reasons behind their ability to attain mind-boggling speeds is the 132 foot wing. Most sailboats have, well, a sail. When writing the rules for the 34th America's Cup, Larry Ellison decided, in all his infinite (eg nonexistent) wisdom that the boats would have wings rather than sails. This means that instead of a piece of cloth propelling the boat, a rigid, adjustable wing is used, almost like taking a wing off of an airplane and mounting it vertically. Each time the boat turns, the wing's trailing edge must be adjusted, as must the angle of the curve in its midsection. These adjustments are made with hydraulic pumps, pressurized by the grinders onboard the boat.

Now, back to race 8. New Zealand tacks (turns, pointing the bow [the front of the boat] into the wind as it does so) to avoid Oracle, but seems to lack the hydraulic pressure required to "pop" its wing. The boat has now turned but the wing remains convex to the wind, when it should be concave. This causes their boat to lean near 45 degrees for a heart-stopping 10 seconds before it returns to a normal angle with the water.

In the end, always remember Bernoulli's Principle! If the pressure has not been provided initially, there is no ability to create a pressure differential to properly execute the action.

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Sailing is way more complicated than I ever expected, Honestly anytime i read something about i feel dumb this blog post included

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