Science Meets Offshore Sailing in Miami
Brad Jackson drives PUMA’s Mar Mostro downwind into the night. Photo courtesy of PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG.
When a slick Volvo Open 70 like PUMA’s Mar Mostro, sporting a state-of-the-art Nortek Doppler Velocity Log (DVL), arrives in a city that several of the foremost ocean and atmospheric scientists call home, an exciting and insightful discussion is bound to ensue. As the PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG team charge ahead toward the finish line of Leg 6 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12 in Miami, scientists, engineers, and performance analysts are coordinating an effort on knowledge sharing. The group has pulled together a panel discussion titled, “Science Meets Offshore Sailing: How Ocean and Weather Forecasting Models Help Around-the-World Sailors.” The forum will be open to the public and allow engineers, modelers, and sailors to compare notes as teams prepare for a leg in which ocean currents will play a key role in their strategy.
Panel organizers include modelers at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (RSMAS) Cooperative Institute of Marine and Atmospheric Studies (CIMAS) along with engineers at Nortek and PUMA’s Robert Hopkins, who has been assembling current tracks collected by the Nortek DVL at the conclusion of each leg of the Volvo Ocean Race. Hopkins sits in the rare position of comparing current models with PUMA’s own current measurements taken using the Nortek DVL. He has been overlaying these tracks with ocean current models, noticing both similarities and differences with this unique data set.
Nortek’s Torstein Pedersen will serve on the panel to discuss the technical details of the DVL and the advantages it can lend to offshore racing. The DVL integrates boat speed, leeway and in-situ ocean current readings, enabling the team to continually optimize performance. Pederson noted, "The cooperation with PUMA has been exceptional. When this all began, I never expected that the complex problem of directly estimating leeway would lead to detailed surface current readings that PUMA is generating."
Also contributing on the panel is Eric Chassignet, director of the Florida State University’s Center for Ocean-Atmospheric Prediction Studies (COAPS). Dr. Chassignet has been the lead principal investigator and coordinator of an effort called “Global ocean prediction with the Hybrid Coordinate Ocean Model (HYCOM)” for the past 10 years. The goal of the group is the depiction of the three-dimensional ocean state in near-real time. According to Chassignet, the high resolution HYCOM outputs are routinely used for ship routing, surface currents forecasts, marine safety, and oil spill trajectories.
Meteorologist Scott Stripling works at the National Hurricane Center and will also contribute to the panel. Scott is a Lead Forecaster in NHC's Tropical Analysis and Forecast Branch and specializes in synoptic analysis and marine forecasting for the tropical Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. He commented, "At NHC, we use the latest advances in remote sensing to access current conditions over the open oceans, and blend this data with the global weather models to produce our marine forecasts for the high seas. Continually improving weather and wave models are used to produce our gridded data base, and allow our forecasts to be customized for specific needs, like offshore racing, by our various users.”
PUMA Ocean Racing’s Robert Hopkins will round out the panel, contributing PUMA’s experiences thus far with the DVL and their use of ocean and weather models in building their race strategy. Hopkins said, “It will be amazing to meet Dr. Chassignet. We live for his HYCOM current data. The last thing I hand to our navigator, Tom Addis, before he docks out is a pen drive loaded with the latest HYCOM current runs."
More Tech Talk
The panel discussion will take place on 17 May at 9:30 am EDT at the Hotel Conrad Miami. For Nortek, it will be part of two days of technology demonstrations in Miami. In addition to the DVL, Nortek will also be showcasing the SeaDarQ radar system, a tool which enables visualization of ocean currents, oil spills and small objects using processed radar images. The University of Miami RSMAS has allowed Nortek to place a radar for demonstration on one of their buildings. Nortek is hosting an international group of interested scientists, engineering firms and oil companies to discuss how this system detects an oil spill and the features which enable the user to overlay current speed, direction and wave parameters to calculate movement of a spill. The radar deployed at RSMAS will look out offshore and may also give users a glimpse of the ocean current conditions where the teams will be racing. Nortek’s SeaDarQ demonstration will take place on 16 May beginning at 2:00 pm EDT and is open to any interested members of the public. Space is limited so please contact Nortek for venue information.
CIMAS, Nortek and PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG are all excitingly anticipating this gathering of science, technology and sport and look forward to not only sharing new advancements with sailing enthusiasts, but also encouraging future generations to carry such fascinating work forward.
Nortek’s point of contact for VOR-related activities is Freda Zifteh, firstname.lastname@example.org, (617) 206-5753. CIMAS point of contact for VOR-related activities is Francesca Forrestal, email@example.com, (305) 421-4931.