Monday, March 22, 2010

Chesapeake Power Boat Symposium

This past weekend I was in Annapolis for the Chesapeake Power Boat Symposium. This was the 2nd of what looks like becoming a biennial event. With a good crowd in attendance and ample quality papers delivered, it looks like it has a great future as an occasion to educate oneself about developments in power boat design.

Held on the campus of St John's College in their lecture theatre, I had only one complaint about the proceedings. The number of papers on the schedule meant that each was squeezed into a 30 minute segment, including question time. Time pressure meant that most of the speakers had to rush their presentations somewhat to fit into the allotted time. It seemed to us in the audience that the 1 hour 45 minute lunch breaks could have been shortened considerably so that each speaker might have had another 5 minutes. That said, it is easy to question the decisions of an organising committee such as that needed for the symposium, without knowing the background to those decisions. On the whole they did an excellent job of putting a large number of technical papers in front of us.

The technical program kicked off with a tribute to Dr Daniel Savitsky, on whose research so much of current power boat performance prediction theory is based. It was an honour to see him there with his wife.

The papers covered a broad range of subjects. At one extreme were those that gave very technical results of research in various parts of the world, with complicated formulae that most will have trouble getting their heads around. At the other extreme were papers on more easily grasped subjects illustrated with video footage. These included radio controlled testing on the open sea of large scale models of military warships and the problems of tank-testing models of racing power boats that travel at speeds approaching 200mph.

An interesting paper was delivered by Paul Kamen on the dangers of current personal water craft (PWCs). This was with particular reference to the lack of brakes, in the form of a reversing bucket on the jet, and the fact that closing the throttle to kill thrust also kills steering. Trying to avoid a collision by closing the throttle and turning is generally totally ineffective and results in high-speed impact.

Another very interesting paper illustrated the wave patterns and associated drag of a monohull as it moves through water of various depths. What a surprise it was to hear and see that a hull has less drag in very shallow water than in slightly deeper water. In retrospect, it explained to me why I have noticed that my Paper Jet slips along effortlessly and with virtually no wake in calf-depth water.

Those of us in the audience who work with 3D surface design were delighted to see the presentation by Matt Sederberg on T-Splines. These are recently developed tools for NURBS surfaces that will make it much easier for us to define the often complicated surfaces of hulls and superstructures of boats. To cap it all, they also allow much smaller design files, for faster processing and smaller storage requirements.

All-in-all, the Chesapeake Power Boat Symposium was well worthwhile attending. I look forward the the 3rd one, in 2012.