The ignorant sailor is born. And it will go better than all of them. Here’s why


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ignorant sailorIf you think the future of sailing is boats that fly thanks to foils, you have taken a wrong turn.

That’s sound bullshit, there will never in the next ten years be mass-produced sailboats, the kind that mere mortals can buy, equipped with wings that allow the hull to rise above the water and “fly,” overcoming all the laws of traditional hydrodynamics.

But the amazing new boats in the America’s Cup and Vendée Globe, which are exciting anyone who loves even a little bit of sailing and wind-driven sailing, are taking us to the new frontier of sailing: The one in which it will no longer be necessary to know how to sail to maneuver a boat. He will be born, finally, the ignorant sailor.

Heresy? No, we explain why. Let us first realize one incontrovertible element. Our lives already are influenced by software that predicts our behaviors and regulates our lives. You only need to turn on a computer or smartphone to understand this. They, the software, know what we like best and show us precisely news, messages, advertisements that fit our interests.

This is just to give an example in the public eye. If we then cast our eyes to the world of cars, we realize that knowing how to drive well is no longer a prerequisite for driving a car. Software takes care of it to downshift gears, park better, and dose braking. And, rest assured, the development of automated driving is not that far off. Google, Apple, Tesla are getting there.

All this has to do with sailing. Yes, but how? You only have to see an America’s Cup regatta like the ones we saw at the end of December or follow routes, performances, and tactical choices of boats in the Vendée Globe (nonstop solo round-the-world race) to realize this.

Already in these competitions, which are the ultimate expression of sailing, who do you think makes a boat go as fast as possible, depending on wind conditions, gait, sea state? The best sailmaker at adjusting a sail? The human factor is key, but there is software with sensors that monitor the loads on the mast and appendages and triggers alarms if something is wrong. Crucial help for the crew.

In the Cup, then, there is more. The software also tells you when is the exact moment you have to enter the starting field, when you have to tack on the layline of the buoy to turn. And so, as is always the case (thankfully!) this immense effort of technology and human thought applied to technology, spills over into the boats of us, ordinary mortals.


So let’s try to think what will happen. You will not need to be a very good sail or to adjust a sail, to make a sailboat go faster by knowing what is the right trim, how to “catch” the waves, what is the best course to reach the destination.

Software will take care of this, which will make sure that the “physical,” perhaps hydraulically moved, systems do all this.

A new era, that of the sailor who cannot sail, is about to be born.

It may or may not be liked. There will be those who will say: but this is no longer sailing. And we say to him, just unplug the software, take the helm, smell the wind, adjust the sails as you know. And you will be happy to test yourself and demonstrate your abilities. When you are tired, just click on a screen.

One last tip, follow America’s Cup regattas and the Vendee Globe on our channels. You will realize how technological evolution has already revolutionized the practice of sailing. But you will also find that man remains center stage. In the end, he is the one who decides when to trust or not trust the software’s directions. And it makes him arrive before another boat. Fortunately.



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