Mikko Brummer of WB Sails in Finland provides an insight into the wideranging sail development programme that helped Freddy Lööf and Max Salminen to win Olympic gold at London 2012
There was a time when sail development meant eyeballing your sails on the water, looking where creases and wrinkles would form and then attempting to iron them out using small recuts to obtain the fairest profile possible. Not so in the computer age when sail development, like almost everything else in our lives, has changed dramatically. Today you can simulate the flying shapes of the sails, estimate forces experienced and produced, analyse cloth stress and stretch and measure the motions of the boat itself in a seaway… all in pursuit of the optimal sail shape over the chosen wind range. Certainly there is still an element of trial and error, but nothing compared to how things were not so very many years ago.
For London 2012 we were working with the Finn and the Star. We had no customers for the 470 this time, and the rest of the Olympic classes are monopolies with no development allowed.
We had already worked with Swedish Star sailor Freddy Lööf before for Beijing 2008, but those sails were designed for very different conditions from what we could expect at Weymouth in 2012.
The English Channel is windier, while strong tides make the waves shorter and steeper and, as an additional feature, the Weymouth winds usually arrive from over a coastline making for more turbulent flows. Weymouth’s sometimes dramatic temperature differences between the water and the air were yet another influence on the structure of the wind to be accounted for in creating optimal sail shapes.
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