Emirates Team NZ: Sunburnt number crunchers at last

Emirates Team NZ - Wingsail test - 3 November 2011

Emirates Team NZ's CFD engineer Steve Collie welcomes the return of sunburn and a little less of the maths. He writes on www.etnzblog.com

Steve Collie Emirates Team NZ
Finally some reality. It’s been a long time between drinks. Four and a-half years in fact since AC32 when we were last testing and developing sails on the water.

For me that time has been filled with a lot of hard yards in front of a computer, doing maths, crunching the numbers, getting pasty white and remembering the days when I got outside and worked with the sailors.

Now we’re into it. Finally with our new SL33 wing we’re seeing the hard work from the office in the flesh, on the water.

Finally I’m sunburnt and computer screens and numbers aren’t the only things bouncing around in my head. Finally we’re developing in the real world and getting huge feedback from the sailors. We’ve learnt a lot in the past few weeks and I feel we’ve really come a long way as a team.

I’m a computational fluid dynamics (CFD) engineer but my job has always been about sails. Now it is also about wings. It’s been a really busy year developing our computer simulations and methods to a really refined level.

At the same time we’ve had to develop the AC72 design and trims and also keep in touch with the wing mechanical guys who make our desires into real achievable shapes (or tell us where to go if we’re expecting too much).

SL33 goes through her paces
We also need to feed the VPP (our performance simulator) with good aerodynamic data – and it is always greedy for more information. Luckily we can test hundreds of designs and trims each week thanks to our Dell supercomputer and our CFD software supplier ANSYS. We’re pretty lucky to have the tools that we do here at ETNZ.

So now we have a big red wing. Great. But is it fast? Does it perform as we predicted? Are the loads as expected and are we sailing the same modes as the VPP says we should? Real life is great but how can you know if you are better with nothing to compare to?

We need another wing… maybe we won’t need to wait too long.