Challenge 428 Response
with Jon Forceton
Jon Forceton’s “Matuu and the Sail” might be classified among stories of “the big fish that got away.” Might it be true? Or might the story of a super-penguin be a tall tale designed to while away the time on a long, monotonous ocean voyage?
[Jon F.] Unknown to sailors of that time was the concept of windsurfing. With the mast able to pivot or lean in any direction the sailor has options a fixed mast cannot duplicate.
As a sailboat moves through the air it almost always leans away from the wind, the apparent wind speed the sail feels increases as the boat’s speed increases. A windsurfer can lean the mast into the wind while sailing into the wind or across the wind. This is usually done in relatively high winds.
As the sail is brought more parallel to the surface of the water the lift from the sail will cause the sail to act like an aircraft’s horizontal wing. This reduces the drag of the hull in the water and again allows an increase in speed. Windsurfers can fly briefly off waves, and with two sails maybe they could soar as the Velaro-pájaro does today.
I wonder if the windsurf concept ever existed in any form in the early days of sail. I haven’t found any references to it. A good steampunk story might have a greased cast iron ball joint to step the mast into.
[Don W.] Thank you for the colorful description of windsurfing, Jon. Indeed, it is quite a sight to watch the windsurfers on San Francisco Bay, flying across the water on the winds funneling through the Golden Gate.
However, if a windsurfer falls into the water, that’s a minor inconvenience. Any larger craft, even a sailboat, requires stability above all, and capsizing can quickly turn into a disaster.
Windsurfing is done basically on a surfboard with a sail, under special wind conditions. I think we see it today taken to its practical limits. Anything more and it might become hang-gliding on a plank!