US Sailing Eyes Olympic Victory With Innovative Hydrofoil Design

HydrofoilDigital design technology is transforming transportation, from aircraft and auto parts to military and rescue watercraft. Now, this technology of tomorrow is tackling Olympic competitive sailing—at least on the side of the official US Sailing team.

Richard Didham—a design/analysis engineer for US Olympic Sailing Innovation, Research and Development—hopes to wring every possible performance improvement out of the many variables that affect Olympic sailing ahead of the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo.

Working at Autodesk Technology Centers in San Francisco and Boston, as well as US Sailing’s own FAST USA technology center, Didham needs to steer the huge number of moving parts in this venture toward a single endpoint. “The three most important factors in sailing are boat speed, boat speed, and boat speed,” Didham says. “Many factors influence an athlete’s performance in a race, but if their boat is faster, it can make up for mistakes in other areas.”

In the Venn diagram of boat speed, the confluence of variables includes racing environment, tactics, human factors, coaching, and—crucially for Didham and his team—sailing equipment.

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