Photo of the SailGP Simulator, ©SAILGP-Javier Salinas.
Photo of the SailGP Simulator, ©SAILGP-Javier Salinas.

The Science of SailGP

Photo Credit: ©SAILGP-Javier Salinas
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Photo of the SailGP Simulator, ©SAILGP-Javier Salinas.

About This Episode

On this episode of Playing with Science, hosts Chuck Nice and Gary O’Reilly dive into one of the world’s fastest-growing and exciting sports – SailGP. Similar to other forms of yacht racing, what sets SailGP apart is the F50 boats used by every team and the implementation of open-source data methods that gives every team a chance at victory. Joining Chuck and Gary to bring us the science from inside the boat is Team USA crew member Hans Henken and Team USA performance analyst Phil Crain. 

You’ll discover why the boat is actually racing in two mediums – what’s happening in the water and what’s happening in the air. Hans gives us insight into how the boat functions and sails at such high speeds. You’ll learn about the “hydrofoils” – wing-like foils under the boat that gradually lift the boat out of the water as it gains speed. Hans explains how the boat, only being powered by wind, can even travel faster than the wind that’s powering it. 

We discuss the similarities between SailGP and Formula 1. Hans shares the importance of communication during the race so no one on the team is working against each other. Find out more about the New York City race: why the buildings add an extra layer of difficulty, why racing on the Hudson makes it extremely hard to deal with constantly changing wind and water conditions, and what Chuck learned from watching the race from shore. 

Phil weighs in on the growing importance of data. Explore all the data channels that Phil monitors during a race, and which ones are most important. Because every team can see each other’s data, you’ll hear whether teams change their strategy depending on what’s working for other teams. Lastly, we investigate the new SailGP simulator that Phil and a team of engineers put together for racers to train on in between races and during the off-season. All that, plus, we find out why, even with the influx of data, what really sets each team apart are the people, not the technology. 

NOTE: All-Access subscribers can watch or listen to this entire episode commercial-free here: The Science of SailGP.

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