A funny little anecdote fit for even your non-sailing friends, sent in from the Southern Ocean by Ryan Breymaier in the Barcelona World Race. Got questions for Ryan about diet, albatrosses, garbage, porn, satellite phone bills, sail repairs, whatever? Ask them here in Ocean Racing Anarchy and we’ll get them answered when we speak to him next week. Best question (as picked by super hot ex-SCOTW Nicola) gets a Neutrogena Sailing t-shirt signed by Ryan.
Back in September, Boris and I took the boat to Barcelona to do a photo shoot and then participate in a practice race organized by Barcelona World Race Organizers the FNOB. Things were moving fairly slowly, with several of the boats due to sail the practice race late getting out of the shed, and for this reason, the start was delayed by a week or so. As we had not planned to be in Barcelona for so much time, we had very little to do, and so, we amused ourselves as best we knew how in the fine establishments of the Barcelonetta.
One day we were having a beer, when out of the blue, a young Kiwi guy introduced himself to us. “Are you with the around-the-world boat?” he demanded to know. We answered “yes,” and he proceeded to ask one other very pointed, very important question; perhaps the most important one of all to the modern racing sailor.
“HAVE YOU GUYS GOT APPARENT WIND ON THAT BOAT?”
After the 10 minutes it took to stop laughing, we dig a little deeper, and it turned out that our new friend had seen some TV documentary and learned all about apparent wind…well, kind of…and thought it was the coolest thing he’d ever heard. He felt sure that if we did not, in fact, have some apparent wind on the ‘around-the-world boat’ that we had better get some, right away!
He was a little bit into his cups so to speak, but very enthusiastic, like all Kiwis tend to be, so we decided to ask a few questions, just to see what he would say.
It is here that I think it is good to stop the story for a moment, and just clarify something.
Apparent wind has two meanings really. First usage is simply the wind that you feel, as you stand on the deck of the boat while you are sailing along. This is called apparent wind, because it is just that, the wind that is apparently there. It needs to be remembered that this wind is not actually the wind that is blowing, but a combination of the wind that is blowing and the wind produced by the speed the boat is travelling. Same principal as putting your hand out the car window, you feel 50 miles an hour or so from the front, no matter if outside there is no wind. On Neutrogena, 90 % of the time, the wind you feel is from forward of the beam, as the speed of the boat is high, and therefore a greater portion of the apparent wind comes from the front of the boat.
This is quite a simple concept, and not at all what our enthusiastic new Kiwi mate “was on about, mate!” We led him along with a few questions, and determined that he was talking about something else all together.
He was excited about another concept which is only common to high performance sailboats, and one that he had no practical experience with but found really really cool.
When a fast boat is reaching, the speed increases, and the apparent wind seems to be blowing harder because of it. This is quite simple, and common sense to most people. What happens next is a little miracle that is the Holy Grail of high performance sailboats, and what enables us to travel so quickly on Neutrogena.
The higher wind speed created by the movement of the boat through the water then acts to provide more drive force to the sails, which allows them to produce more power, making us go faster, which creates yet more wind, and more power in the sails and pushes the boat yet faster. This cycle continues until the drag of the boat moving through the air and the water outweighs the increase in power given by the little bit more wind. At that point, the situation stabilizes (usually with the bow in the back of the wave in front) with the boat moving much faster than it would be if just dependent on the actual wind blowing in Mother Nature.
This increase in speed can be up to 25 percent or so, depending on the conditions. It is easy to see on our boat. The instruments do not do a great job separating the apparent wind from the true wind, and sometimes we do a little test just to re zero our brains so to speak. Say we are sailing along with the gennaker up, and the wind speed reads 18 knots. We can bear away, and go dead downwind to slow the boat down as much as possible, thereby allowing the instruments to more accurately read the actual wind. This is always 3 knots lower or so, more like 14 knots. The extra 3 or 4 is what we create in apparent that the instrument system is tricked into thinking is real wind.
This is what Mr. Kiwi was excited about, and with good reason. We have a machine created by man that can, through its motion, create power that allows it to be propelled even faster. I am not sure that anything other than a fast sailboat or iceboat can claim this.
As we speak, we are using apparent wind sailing to achieve an average of around 18 knots towards the next waypoint, much more than a cruising boat, which does not produce apparent wind because it is too heavy with not enough sail area and too much drag, and could only manage about 10-12 knots.
The only disadvantage is that sometimes it is hard to hear yourself think when you are outside, with so much wind over the deck (thanks, Mr. Lombard for the excellent roof to shelter behind).
So in answer to his question, it is an equally emphatic “YES, WE HAVE GOT APPARENT WIND ON OUR BOAT, LOTS OF IT,” and of course, we would not leave the dock without it.