A popular one-design dinghy class association recently announced that its rules committee had approved new class-legal digital compasses. I was curious to learn more about the breakthrough, wondering if the committee had finally given in to data. Cruisers and handicap racers find that data can simplify sailing: inexpensive computers tie routing to actual weather, a start can be precisely timed with clocks that account for speed and distance, and tactics can be determined based on actual fleet and global positioning. Instead, I learned that the committee had barely budged: Finally allowing its sailors to pick from two 20-year-old digital compass designs, in addition to the analog kind, but only “provided that the devices do not have the capacity for information other than heading.”
America’s Cup foiling ranks among the top technical feats of this young century, on par with the booster rocket that lands itself or the pictures sent from the surface of a comet. Well-funded teams of great engineers make miracles.