back to the future

Kevin Hall just has to be one of the smartest guys out there and we are proud to present his work…
Sailing Anarchy presents the final installment of Kevin Hall’s three-part series on modern sailboat racing instrumentation and software. Part One: Upwind is here  ). Part Two(a): Downwind is here  and Part Two(b): Don’t get bit.
Nathaniel Herreshoff knew that the fin keel was the future long before engineering was up to the vision. In 1868, we find a fascinating look at the known challenges to building big boats without a full keel (“centerboarders”) on p. 27 of Hunt’s Yachting Magazine . The biggest challenge was “a tendency to weaken the frame of a yacht, just at the point where the greatest amount of strength was desirable.” A few fin-keel-ish boats were built in the 1870s, but outlawed with some girth rules for being too weak.
In 1891, the exceptionally beautiful Herreshoff design Dilemma was built with a fin keel and aft rudder, and she won every race she ever entered. Perhaps somebody will round out the accuracy of this little story/myth-amabobby in the forums. My point is: We can dream things up before we can build them.
For a more recent example, have a look at the screens in the Jetsons in 1962. Also notice that Captain Kirk was on a video phone the very first series episode of Star Trek in ‘66. Now imagine reading this sentence while watching that Trekisode on your black mirror, then Facetiming your kid to tell her that she should do the same!
Here’s a fictional account of the tech that I dream racing keelboats will be sporting onboard in a few years, now that hardware, and software engineering, are totally up to it:
History report, from the year 2025
Onboard software is all open-source nowadays. In 2019, a contest was announced with a hard-to-ignore incentive for a top race boat on the Big Circuit to use the contest-winning system in 2022. Three of the biggest tech companies in the world, each with an affinity for sailing but also weariness of striving for hegemony in existing paradigms, banded together to create a new milieu for the evolution of collaboration.
This came at a great time, because the kids were getting really tired of being tied to fabulous, but legacy deadweighted software of early-90s concept design patterns. It was so stifling for them to not be able do anything about it because of demands for reliability in the field, and a few barrier-to-entry strangleholds around the docks, that many bright young sailors left the sport in the ‘teens when there was no obvious path to keeping their tech selves impressively challenged while also being rewarded with a place to go to have the wind on their faces and their muscles exercised.
Most that left do still miss the trash talk about it over a good beer at the end of the day.
To be continued…