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Saturday, May 30, 2015

Disrupting

You've probably noticed that suddenly 'drones' seem to be everywhere.
Multi rotor filming platforms, potential parcel delivery systems, recreational FPV (First Person View) quad-copters... Unmanned Aircraft Systems have exploded into the public consciousness.

Seemingly every day a new, creative application is dreamed up to either do at a much lower cost what only manned aircraft could do before, or to make possible things that before were simply not achievable.

This is a result of the convergence of several technologies that have matured sufficiently to be broadly accessible.
Compact light weight processors, reliable very energy dense rechargeable batteries, advanced user interfaces (including smartphone touchscreens), small solid-state sensors (gyroscope analogues), GPS, 3D printing... All now available to the average geek.
Perhaps as importantly, the internet has enabled rapid sharing of information. Open source software (from autopilots to photogrammetry), and online forums, allow everyone to immediately appraise the state-of-the-art, and build on it, adding a contribution in the process.

At a small scale, the effective power of rotary wing airframes makes them practical and versatile. For heavier payloads, and longer-distance missions (or prolonged loiter requirements), fixed wing solutions are superior.

In all cases we are talking about flying objects with considerable energy that can potentially cause problems if they fail.
Irresponsible use can bring them into contact with manned aircraft. Mechanical failure or loss of control can cause property damage or even injury to those on the ground.

As with any new industry, regulation has to strike a balance between staying out of the way of innovation, and guarding against damage caused by unsound practices.

Responsible stakeholders can play an important role in guiding the process of developing regulation.
Operators and insurance underwriters have 'skin in the game'. Voluntary professional standards are a great way to reassure the end customer that she is dealing with a well set up and responsibly run provider.

It is great to see an Australian initiative take the lead in formulating such standards for unmanned aviation.
UAS International held a launch event yesterday.
Carbonix was there, displaying a complete airframe in support of going the extra distance to assure quality. Our presence staking out a claim as a responsible manufacturer, and the first in Australia to offer all-composite airframes for commercial civilian applications.

Much more to come in this exciting space...



Thursday, May 28, 2015

Golden Rule

One final reflection about recent events in the A Class, before resuming normal programming.
Future posts will focus on hopefully interesting technical commentary, and updates on our projects...

Flourishing

The last couple of years gave us extraordinary advances in the capabilities of inshore racing sailboats.
Arguably the root cause is development in the America's Cup, where big foiling multihull 'daysailers' benefited from the focused study, and substantial R&D budgets, of professional teams in a high-stakes arena.

This work furthered our understanding of how to make such boats faster and safer.
It also helped popularise a kind of fast sailing that previously existed on the fringes of a sport not necessarily known by the layman as particularly dynamic.

We have seen multihulls 'go mainstream'. Preconceptions about poor maneuverability, and unsuitability for close racing were dispelled.
Once full foiling became possible, a new dimension of speed, technical challenge, and spectacle became reality.
Basic insights, tools, and technology were quickly applied to 'accessible' craft, including one-design classes, and even fast cruisers.

The top tier of the sport was rejuvenated, and the appeal of sailing broadened.
This did not detract from 'mature' disciplines (the monohull scene is still thriving. Only now there is more on offer).
Keelboats, foiling Moths, and foiling multihulls, all benefit from a broadening of the base. Lessons learned in one specialty advance the others.

Origin

Reflecting with some fellow sailors, an important realisation dawned on us:
ALL of the above flowed from the literal interpretation of a rule specifically designed to prevent foiling.
Think about it: The AC72 Rules had provisions intended to limit foil volume (and hence foil area) to a value insufficient for full foiling.
Clever designers in Emirates Team New Zealand spotted that the wording of the rule allowed a literal interpretation completely contrary to intent.
Yet once written, the rules had to be applied as worded.
Consistency dictated that the plain meaning must be upheld.
Though this gave an initial advantage to the discoverers of the 'loophole', it also opened the door for others to follow. Even to improve on the original idea.

Sports, architecture, and law, are littered with examples of 'rule cheats' that either opened the door to progress, or exposed the absurdity of outdated regulations.
Normally regulators react by permitting such solutions until rules can be properly changed, usually after a season or cycle has concluded, then everyone can start again afresh.

Some interesting examples for the curious (links to external articles):
- Due to sloppy rule drafting the class rules could be literally interpreted to read...
- Committee had exceeded its jurisdiction in issuing an interpretation that changed a Class Rule...
- The F-duct was so smart that the FIA used it in creating what's known as DRS today...
- Brawn's double diffuser in 2009...
- One of many unintended consequences of tax policy...
- Slicing part of the rocker overcomes the prohibition against hollows in the hull with an 'appendage' not as it was intended...
- The judicial is separate from the legislative precisely to objectively interpret law...
- 'Contrary to the spirit of the law', exposed as a ludicrous question...

Lesson

Rule administrators have a duty to be impartial when issuing interpretations.
They must keep intent at arm length, look at the wording with fresh eyes, and read the rule as written. They must ask themselves: "What would this mean to someone reading it with no preconceptions, coming from a different background, unburdened by the baggage of what was in the inscrutable mind of the writer?"

Saying that we should "not [be] spending our time looking for loopholes" is disingenuous.
It is doing a disservice to the Class and the sport.

Those charged with issuing interpretations have a duty to objectively apply the rules.
Attempting to enforce an arbitrary view of preferred outcome is ineffective and unfair.
Ineffective because it invariably fails to achieve the intended outcome, rather fostering elaborate workarounds that divert energy from genuine development. Unfair because it makes it impossible for participants to reliably know what will be deemed acceptable by the whim of the arbiter.

Once loopholes have been found, acknowledged, and exploited, then the discussion can begin to either tighten or get rid of defeated rules.
This is finally happening in the A Class, thanks to the persistence of those who take to heart the history and ethos of a unique and exhilarating development class.

"The golden rule is that the words of a statute must prima facie be given their ordinary meaning."
Viscount Simon, in Nokes v. Doncaster Amalgamated Collieries, [1940] A.C. 1014, at p. 1022.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Declaration of Independence

North American A Class sailors recently voted to Remove Rule 8 as a constraint during their events.

With my apologies for editing one of the most important texts in history, here is a tongue-in-cheek look at why the move was necessary and successful:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Foiling.
That to secure these rights, Technical Committees are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the Sailors.
That whenever any Form of Measures Guidelines becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it. 
When a long train of abuses and usurpations, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their Boatspeed and Stability.
Such has been the patient sufferance of these A Class Sailors; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Measurement.

Hyperbole aside, this initiative could finally return certainty to a Class that has experienced some turbulent times, but is nonetheless popular and loved.
It will hopefully lead to other Nations following suit, eventually bringing about an official change to the International Rule.

I have previously stated that the current Rule, if interpreted consistently, though not perfect, allowed sufficient freedom to keep developing in the historical spirit of the A Class. Such development being key to remaining relevant as the foremost big fleet development beach cat.
However, for reasons that may be genuine or self interested, a small vocal group has insisted on applying what they view as 'the spirit of the rule' as they claim was intended.
The result has been inconsistency, uncertainty, and growing anachronism, as other classes, one-designs, and now even cruising boats pursue the sensible path. While the A struggles with elaborate, inefficient and dangerous rule cheats.

A Few Examples

'AND' does not equal 'OR'.
This hardly needs explaining. Consider the following sentences taken from established jurisprudence:
- Men over 30 and single shall receive admission.
- Men over 30 or single shall receive admission.
Plainly the latter entitles men under 30 to receive admission whilst the former does not.
Read Rule 8.2 and draw your own conclusion.

'All positions' cannot include what happens before or after racing ('racing' is defined by ISAF).
On the beach, we remove our straight, curved, or bent foils, and rest them on the trampoline. Often we place them so they overhang the side of the boat.
Similarly, we lower our sail right past the lower limit band.
For that matter, we might lower the mast by pivoting it forward so it grossly exceeds maximum overall length.
All such actions would not be permitted during racing, the only time when our equipment must be rule compliant.
In order to indicate limits to permitted positions, contrasting bands are painted on.
Though equipment can travel past such bands (a subset of 'all positions'), our honour (plus the possibility of being seen) keeps us compliant during racing.
This is accepted even for 'newfangled' L and T dagger rudders, where full retraction breaches Rule 3.
Standard practice applies throughout: If you don't do it during a race, it is fine.
Should foils somehow be held to a different standard because, in the minds of some, arbitrarily perceived intent trumps consistency and an expectation of objectivity?

Interlinked appendages (such as two rudders connected by a crossbar), both reacting to forces exerted by wind and water, are accepted and common. Join the dots...

Going Forward

Enough said on the way Rule 8 was stretched and tortured.
Removing it makes sense for two principal reasons.

1) It is the only 'non-dimensional' rule in a Class that is otherwise governed by 'boxes'.
Limiting length, beam, mass, sail area, and other key dimensions keeps absolute performance close among different designs, but allows experimentation with novel configurations. All within clear limits.

2) Freeing up how foils may be mounted makes it much cheaper and easier to upgrade an older boat to close the gap with newer ones.

Reiterating Our Conclusion

I believe manufacturers should cater to market demand rather than agitate for rule changes.
There should be an expectation of consistency in the application of a published and valid rule, so that all who invest time and money in our great sport can do so on a level playing field.
When things become plainly untenable, then we should support change.

The message is a positive one: Get out there and develop. Things are looking up.
To abuse another great historical statement:
This is the end of the beginning!

Examples of equipment that can potentially exceed measurement limits in some positions,
but is accepted provided the range of motion is limited during racing.
The most common (not shown) being mast 'black' bands.
Singling out certain types of foil is inconsistent.
Diagram taken from current Measurers Guidelines.
Clearly the measurement 5.79m has no basis anywhere in the Class Rules.
This is one of several guideline that effectively alters the Rules, adding to them without due process. A pattern?
Also from the official Guidelines. 
I superimposed the green foil which is identical to the blue ones in the Guidelines, but shown at an intermediate position not included in measurement.
Foils that exceed rule limits between measurement points are specifically permitted, as long as the breach does not happen during racing.
In this case the appendage would presumably not be retractable during a race.
So to exclude other types of movable but not retractable appendages is untenable.
An L foil inserted from below is obviously not retractable. Therefore it should not be bound by Rule 8.2.
Removing Rule 8 eliminates these niceties. Life will be simpler as a result.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Integration

Intense times as we are gearing up to take on more challenges.

We have completed another recruiting phase. Our extraordinary team has grown even stronger.
If you have missed out on the latest openings, get in touch anyway and we will keep your details on file for future opportunities.

The next step is integrating our various operations under one brand.


A new website is under construction to reflect recent growth and changes.
As always, your support and passion are vital in keeping us going.

Below is an image of our new home, now close to fully fitted out, and re-branded.