The page you are looking for has moved to our domain.
We are redirecting you now. Enjoy your visit.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Musings on Exploring the Design Space

I have often made the point that rules are as much a driver in the development of racing sailboats as any other factor. 
Access to manufacturing technology, knowledge of materials, power of computation, the accumulation of empirical knowledge, fashion, and the evolution of athletic technique all catalyse within the boundaries of the design space* as defined in the wording of class rules.

The rules act as a lens to both sharpen and distort the theoretical optimum tradeoffs. 
This is often lamented as an undesirable constraint placed on the creativity of the designer, but, on analysis, it is both inevitable and inextricably linked with progress.

On some level every technical challenge is defined by its constraints. In fields such as civil engineering these might typically be budget, available resources, time frame, and physical boundaries such as geological features, existing infrastructure, or private property limits. 
In the aeronautical world the brief may be bounded by a power source, required range, payload, runway length, and similar hard parameters, as well as client preferences.

In sport the constraints are necessarily arbitrary. In football (soccer) there is a stipulated prohibition on players using their hands to advance the ball. In motorsport, each category places limits on engine capacity, fuel potency, aspiration mechanism, chassis dimensions, aerodynamics and any number of other factors.

Quite apart from necessary safety aspects, some of these rules may exist to limit costs, but ultimately they can be traced to a common need to artificially constrain the terms of the game. This means closing off parts of the design space that could lead those who venture there either to a runaway win or down expensive blind alleys.

Competition does the rest. At times, holes in the boundaries of the design space need to be mended as competitors throw resources at methodically testing the edges as defined in the wording of the rules. 
The pressure of competition pushes to uncover newly advantageous points in the space.

Patches, however, can only be implemented periodically, as it is vital that rule validity and immutability be tied to a known time horizon.
Typically this cycle involves some form and degree of ‘arms race’ that depends on the length of the competition cycle, the resources brought to bear, and the effectiveness of the wording of the regulations.

In every case the absolute key to the survival of a game is the ‘knowability’ of the rules. 

Specifically, the knowability of the method used to interpret them, and the period of their validity in their current version. 
If the impartial validity of the rules is in question, it will not make sense to invest in exploring them, designing to them, and ultimately taking part in the game under them. 
The risk of the ‘goalposts being moved’ once one is committed, would make any serious effort to take part with a view to winning a waste of time and money.

These universal principles have given rise to institutions and procedures developed specifically to administer sports in order to strike a balance between the need to crowd the design space to keep competition interesting and the periodic mending of holes in the boundaries of said design space. 
As with complex systems such as economies, knowability is vital for stability and success.

The interpretation of rules involves a hierarchy that ensures constructions (as in 'to construe') will be ranked in a reliably predictable order that everyone will agree on (agree, that is, on the order of interpretative methods, not the outcome). 
Namely, the plain text or literal meaning always takes precedence. 
Only in the case of ambiguity or patent absurdity does intent come into play. 
This makes sense because the plain literal meaning is far more dependably repeatable than conjecture about the mind of whoever drafted the rule, whether they are still around or not.

There is real beauty and value in the elegance of a rule and the attendant machinery for its interpretation and maintenance. 
It is rules that focus minds, channeling competitive drives into targeted refinement that can be quantified by simply looking at the finishing order.

After all, if the brief were simply “get from point A to point B before the other guy”, the best solution could be a powerboat, a plane, or a jetski, depending on the length of the course. 
Even in such an absurdly simple case, boundaries would have to be identified in order to be able to make any meaningful attempt at preparation. 
Things like the course distance, budget, and what the other competitors are doing, would all be used to formulate an analogue to a rule in which to work. 

Even in the case of such an open challenge, one often hears that ‘the size of the shed’, human muscle power, the previous benchmark to beat, or other such constraints were identified at the initial design stage. 
In any case, point A and point B are arbitrary constraints to begin with, and participation in sports is voluntary - albeit occasionally representative of real life challenges and rivalries such as competition between nations for trade routes or proficiency in technology that may have applications in defense.

In other words, like snow crystals that develop into exquisite forms after beginning the process on an airborne particle, the development process needs some starting point and some references to get going. 
The best results come when an open free space is clearly defined by a goal and edge boundaries. This is true in the development of products, businesses and racing vehicles.

Planned economies, where an enlightened elite arbitrarily permits certain things and bans others, have consistently failed. Even if the rulers act in good faith, the outcomes are both distorted and demotivating to wood-be competitors.
Societies where rules are clearly defined and consistently applied give rise through real progress through competition and collaboration.

At the risk of delving too deep into philosophical niceties, I want to share this fascination with the mechanism that forges the expressions of our creativity. 

By happy accident, good class rules gave us the elegance of the IACC boats, the power of IMOCA 60s, the efficiency of Marbleheads, and the sheer speed of the development skiff classes. 
The open wheel tradition of F1, through countless cycles of radical innovation and corresponding tightening of the design space, generated the look that we associate with fast racing cars today. 
Similarly, the ‘happy accident’ of the monohull constraint gave us the ‘T foil’ Moth that, combined with heel to windward, spawned a genuinely new way to resolve the major forces in a sailboat.

In all cases, rules with a known time horizon of applicability and a reliable method of interpretation were instrumental. 
Always scrutinised by those interested in maximizing performance, and always construed in the knowable hierarchy: literally first and foremost.

Creativity excels thanks to the structure provided by rules. 
There is something beautiful and exhilarating in an elegant solution that discovers a new point within a space bound by wording that was penned by another - Another whose intent could not foresee that particular point in the space being originally defined. 

And that is how it should be since nobody today can predict the progressive solutions that competitors will invent in the future. So all we can do today is define the space and let future minds play in it, then marvel at the new places they will discover.


* Think of the design space as all points on a graph that lie between axis representing the parametres controlled by a rule. 
In the case of a simple rule where length and sail area are mandated, there would be two axes. Sail area would be on one axis and length on the other. 
If permitted length were 10 to 10.5m, and sail area 20 to 25 m^2, the design space would be every point on the plain defined by the two axis between the values of 10 and 10.5m on the length axis and 20 to 25 m^2 on the sail area axis. 
If a hypothetical rule also controlled displacement, then the design space could be represented by adding a third axis orthogonal to the first two. 
Now the design space becomes three dimensional. 
The space would be bound by a prism with a cross section equal to the area defined by permitted length and sail area values, and a length equal to permitted displacement values.
A boat with dimensions equal to the middle values for the three permitted ranges would be said to be sitting in the middle of the design space. 
A boat with max length, max sail area and max displacement would be up against the edge of the design space. 
If more than three parametres are restricted by a rule, the rule space becomes an abstract multidimensional one.
But the principle remains the same: each boat that 'measures' in the rule corresponds to one point in relation to each of the measurement parametres.

IACC Rule Space - Image credit: Unknown

Monday, February 20, 2012

Octave Development Bearing Fruit

We now have comprehensive feedback on the Octave design.
Qualitative and quantitative tests have enabled us to evaluate the radical features incorporated into the prototypes in order to decide on values for future production boats.

More detailed explanations of the design choices will be published later, but the broad concept has been validated.
Overall beam, prismatic coefficient, the characteristic forward location of the centre of gravity, the piercing bow, and the chambered deck are all retained.
The treatment of the chines has been softened as the volume distribution is maintained, but the water-shedding characteristics of the chines were found to be detrimental in some conditions.

Overall volume has increased, as has the midships freeboard.
Some moderate hull flare has been introduced in the centre section to reduce sink at large heel angles, and the deck height at the mast has been increased to both increase heeling moment and keep the booms clear of the water in rough conditions...

Congratulations to Ray Joyce who won the day this past Sunday in light conditions with the much modified original Octave prototype.
Results courtesy of Ray and Ridson Brook Radio Yacht Club.

Rank SailNo HelmName R1 R2 R3 R4 R5 R6 R7 R8 R9 R10 Total Nett
1st 93 R Joyce 1 1 2 -4 2 1 -3 1 1 2 18 11
2nd 60 W Behrens 2 -3 1 1 1 2 2 3 -4 1 20 13
3rd 5 P Darcey 3 2 -6 2 4 -6 1 5 3 5 37 25
4th 67 A Furmage 4 -6 4 3 3 -5 5 2 2 4 38 27
5th 10 K Dobbie 7 4 3 7 5 4 6 4 5 3 48 34
6th 19 L Hanson 5 5 5 5 -6 3 4 -6 6 6 51 39

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Congratulations to Michael Hickman

For a well earned third place at the Australian Championships sailing an Ajax by Carbonicboats.
Great to see that the M Class is alive and well, with a very high standard of sailors and equipment.
The Event Site can be found here

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Not What it Said on the Box

I found the following interesting enough to post and comment on.
It is an open letter to the America’s Cup Event Authority (ACEA) by somebody who was associated with a credible prospective competitor. 
Given my experiences as part of an official competitor that found the ever changing new format untenable, I would broadly agree with the principal views expressed in the letter.
However, focusing as it does on the point person, is perhaps to the detriment of a broader look at an organisation that has great resources available, and an admirable stated vision, but appears to be working without defined milestones, and hence with no accountability/metrics for quantifying success with reference to its stated aims. 
The old saying of 'shoot first and call whatever you hit the target' comes to mind.
Analysing the shifting philosophies (such as the decoupling of the ACWS from the AC 'proper'), the stringent controls being stockpiled by the Defender, the inconsistent treatment of different competitors, and the ongoing redefinition of identified profit centres, one cannot help but speculate that at least some of the actions of the many branches of the organisation are governed by different and conflicting agendas. 
Add to the mix massive commercial interests without the checks and balances of a strong voice from challengers with genuine countervailing interests, and you have an event that resembles more a choreographed WWF wrestling show than a 'friendly competition between nations'.
If these were isolated outbursts of individual criticism, they could be dismissed as 'sour grapes' and we could all get on with the show. 
But the mounting evidence is pervasive and compelling
The credibility of the critics is growing, and the objective results are indicative of a deeply flawed approach if the stated goals are taken as a measure of success.
In my opinion the single best thing to come out of this low point in the cyclical nature of the AC is the rediscovery, popularisation, and acceleration in development of the modern racing multihull.
For this unwitting byproduct I am grateful, despite the mess.
The show will be spectacular, in a way similar to the Valencia DoG match: The boats will be spectacular. The images will be compelling because of the backdrop and the accessibility of the course. 
But, again, it will be low in numbers and be steered by a power that is not counterbalanced by genuine opposing interests.
"An Open Letter to America’s Cup Event Authority Chairman Richard Worth from 
Peter Huston
The purpose of this letter is to bring to your attention the concern that many of us share in the direction that you are taking the marketing aspects of the America’s Cup, and to offer suggestions for improvement.
I speak not as an individual; however I do have experience with ACEA as an individual through my association with Paul Henderson and Kevin Reed of Red Maple Racing, a life long association with the sport, and an experienced background in entertainment marketing, including sailing. Rather, I speak as someone who gets constantly asked by friends within the sailing community about what is up with the Cup. They want to place blame on Golden Gate YC for not reaching out to the sailing community and not telling the story of what’s up with the Cup. The blame is not GGYC’s, the blame is yours.
As much as you and the rest of the staff at ACEA might want to spin things, in addition to your failure to reach the sailing community, of those few people you have reached, you have alienated far too many, for no good reason. “Out with the Flintstones and in with the Facebook” was just the start. Many of us grew up with the Flintstones, and have a Facebook page. Announcing ACWS dates, but no venues, and then never fulfilling those dates, as recently as this January. Why have announced dates with no venues too often not materialized? Is it because you had completely unrealistic venue fee pricing expectations based your completely unrealistic and unsustainable event production budget? A checkered flag at the finish line? Seriously? In a day and age when “authentic” is a big buzz word, what is authentic about taking something that is a signature within motorsports and using it in sailing?
Obviously, the front page story in the San Francisco Chronicle Saturday morning said all that needed to be said about the overhype that ACEA has had about projected attendance figures for Cup events. Those of us in the game a year ago knew that ACEA was spouting utter nonsense with those attendance projections. No wonder the City is now giving ACEA very justifiable pushback.
But those are small problems in the scheme of things. Currently, Grant Dalton is screaming that the Cup is not any less expensive than in the past, and is in fact 20% more expensive. Grant is also citing the fact there are only three billionaires and his team currently entered in the 2013 America’s Cup. As a part of one of the teams who a year ago took a very hard look at entering the ACWS and the America’s Cup, I have a decent idea what the costs are, and while we can debate Grant’s statements, the bigger issue than costs is the abject lack of definable media expose for potential sponsors. A year ago ACEA had no real set schedule for ACWS events, and no real media schedule. During the last year, nothing much has changed, including your assumption that broadcasters are going to line up in a bidding war for TV rights. That is not going to happen, especially in the US. If you had signed major TV broadcast partners, you’d be talking about them. Instead, we got press releases about the chef in Cascais. If you had signed major broadcast partners, it is highly likely we’d have more than the current three challengers entered.
Many people think more teams aren’t announcing their entry into the ACWS or Cup because they can’t find sponsorship money. I don’t know about other teams, but I do know about Red Maple. A year ago the issue was not finding interested and willing sponsors, the issue was being able to assure those sponsors that ACEA, meaning YOU, would come through with ACWS venues and a major media schedule. Red Maple elected to not go forward because there was no evidence you were going to perform as would have been necessary to satisfy those sponsors. Those teams who did not go forward are probably relieved they did not. Those teams that are still in the game and are hanging on by their fingernails are still waiting with bated breath for the announcement of your ACWS venues and dates, and for the TV package to be announced.
Simply put, the teams who rely on sponsorship to make it to the starting line in 2013 will not be there unless you announce ACWS venues and dates and your TV distribution package within a couple of weeks. The sooner the better. It almost does not matter what the package is, it just matters that there is something concrete to point to. For the prospective teams to obtain sponsorship there MUST be a media schedule that is actually in place. The most bizarre part about all this is that you cited ESPN2 in the ACEA Media Footprint document which was circulated last year, yet you had not made a deal with ESPN. The single thing that you could do immediately to start to reverse the trend of negative publicity that is currently besieging the America’s Cup is to make a deal with ESPN, and announce it. YouTube is amusing and all, but ESPN brings to the table the credibility that you lack, and which the America’s Cup needs, right now. The group of people who are most likely to come to San Francisco in the greatest numbers for the Louis Vuitton Cup and America’s Cup are people from the US, particularly those who are lifelong fans of the America’s Cup. Why you have essentially ignored the US market is beyond our comprehension.
Sure, there will be an America’s Cup in 2013 in San Francisco. But instead of a grand spectacle, it will be a whimper if no more than three challengers show up. Three challengers is a race, but it is not a regatta, and it is certainly not much of a show.
Right now, because of ACEA’s abject failings Golden Gate YC and the America’s Cup have a very serious credibility problem, largely because you as the Chairman of ACEA, the marketing arm for the Cup, completely over hyped and constantly under delivered on virtually every single thing you set out to do. So, the question is now: Are you just like ‘Captain Coward’ Francesco Schettino of the sunken Italian luxury cruise ship Costa Concordia, seeking refuge in a life raft that is just another ACEA spin city press release? Or, are you man enough to step up to the helm in the storm that you have driven the America’s Cup into as a result of your poor tactics, do the right thing for the Cup and the sport, and finally make some media and venue deals that sponsors can rely on so that they can agree to support teams who want to enter the 2013 America’s Cup? 
- Peter Huston.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Carbonicboats Collaborates with Kedo

Here are some preview images of the Kedo range of carbon fibre houseware and furniture.
These creations are made using a proprietary technique that gives the best features of glassware, with the unique aesthetics of carbon fibre.
You can buy Kedo products now in Australia and New Zealand only from Carbonicboats. 
Choose from the standard range or ask about custom items.