In sailboat racing the most exciting part is the windward leg. This is where the most can be gained – or lost. The boat in the lead is the one that has the least distance from the turn mark in the direction of the wind. As the boats cannot go directly against the wind, but must follow the “zigzag” pattern, they will always have to choose either the starboard or backboard tack – left or right side of the course. When the direction of the wind changes, the lead position may go upside down between the boats on the two sides of the course.

In earlier years, when I participated in local sailing competitions on lake Näsijärvi with my friend, we tried to improve our performance desperately. What does an engineer do who did not happen to learn sailing as a child and does not have all the touch and feel in the spine? We looked deep into the literature, and tried to pick up the understanding from all the books we found on weather, sail trim, boat handling, strategy, and tactics of sailing. While we soon became good “theoretical” sailors, it still took several summers more before we started to get it right and occasionally even achieved a bronze medal in the yearly competition of our boat class. Discipline paid off, and we were very proud of ourselves (irrespective of the minor detail that in that year only five boat crews participated in the championship).

Sometimes a single idea sticks in one’s mind very strongly, and keeps coming back in various situations. For me, the excellent book Tactics of Small Boat Racing by Stuart H. Walker has proven to be a vast source of such ideas. What shall the skipper do when he recognizes that the wind direction changed just the wrong way, and he finds himself on the wrong side of the course? “The inevitability of loss must be accepted; … confine its degree by immediate compensating action.” – instructs Walker. That is to adapt to the new situation rather than to keep going in the wrong direction in the hope that the wind would soon change back.

Small and simple, yet efficient improvements in data exchange

Recent years brought major wind shift in ATA’s business, such as changes in offshore industry. We have succeeded in gaining new orders from other industries, and our marine customers have also been very active in renewing their portfolios. As a side effect of this development, today we have significantly more new articles, and our designers have more new drawings/manufacturing documentation to be prepared per month then earlier.

“Something must be done – we must adapt.”

Something must be done – we must adapt.

Increasing our design personnel (boat speed) has not been enough. We must also look critically into the ways we prepare this documentation; CAD work being an important part of it (change the tack). In CAD modeling there are not only two clear choices (such as going the starboard or backboard tack in sailing), in fact there can be dozens of various practices of how CAD models are constructed.

We shall also notice that today most customer drawings are also made in some kind of CAD system, most of them very detailed and well prepared, and we have not yet taken advantage of this. Thus ATA encourages customers to send CAD data files in addition to the past practice wherein only paper-copy (or the digital paper – pdf file) has been accompanying the orders. This will allow us to further reduce lead times; we can start the race from half the course and get to the finish line earlier.

I guess no one would file a protest about this.


Gábor Szánti – ATA’s new Engineering and Development Manager – Ata Gears – blog

Gábor Szánti, ATA’s new Engineering and Development Manager
His hobbies include sailing, motor biking and badminton.