LONDON The MathWorks analysis tool, MATLAB, is being used by the design team of GBR Challenge, the company behind the British entry to the 2007 America's Cup, to help maximise the performance of the yacht.
Previous years’ entries have shown that, by trading-off one parameter against another, a minuscule increase in boat speed can mean the difference between winning or losing a race. MATLAB is being used for live analysis of boat strain and weather data to make crucial real-time decisions about changing the mast and rig set-up to maximise boat speed. This would be difficult and time-consuming to undertake using a standard spreadsheet or C code.
During training, salient data is taken from various optical-fibre-based devices that measure strain on the boat, as well as various sensors that measure boat speed, wind speed and direction. Fibre optics change their refractive index when put under strain so the strain can be measured by measuring the change in wavelength of the light transmitted.
The data is read via a wireless LAN connection into data files, which can then be quickly and easily manipulated in MATLAB on a support boat. The results can be visually displayed in a variety of different ways to help the team make quick decisions about changing the yacht’s set-up.
The GBR Challenge design team uses a combination of core MATLAB and additional functions from the Statistical Toolbox for analysing and displaying this data. When the location of an upcoming America’s Cup regatta is known, the team also uses MATLAB to identify key statistical averages in historic local weather data so that they can adjust the boat’s set-up to perform to the highest possible standard in average conditions for the location.
Commenting on the team’s use of MATLAB, Dr Richard Pemberton, said, 'We can write it to do exactly what we want, and the online resources such as www.matlabcentral.com have been invaluable as a source of bits of free code from other MATLAB users about half of all our programming has been taken from it.'
The America's Cup is the world's premier yacht racing contest and boasts the oldest trophy in sporting history. For the first time since its inception in 1851, the event is coming to Europe, consisting of a four-year regatta programme. GBR Challenge was set up in 2000 to rectify a 15-year lapse in British participation in this event.
A member of the crew of the GBR Challenge boat the data while the boat is on a training exercise.