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Taking a Different Tack — Creative Thinking in the Sailing World By Dan Dickison


y now, almost all have had their fill of remembrances about Steve Jobs—the visionary co-founder of Apple who passed away in early October. Jobs not only revolutionized the personal computer industry, but his work had a profound impact in the fields of music, animation and mobile communications as well. This column is certainly not another elegy to the man. Still, it’s hard to dismiss the phenomenal success that Jobs had, success that is almost universally credited to his unconventional outlook. That’s why it’s useful to keep in mind the wisdom behind that definitive maxim he made famous in one of Apple’s

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December 2011


Sailor and yacht designer David Raison sailing TeamWork Evolution 747, which beat his competitors hands-down in the Mini TransAt this year. Raison designed the boat with the broad, scow-like bow, which was at first ridiculed by many. This photo was taken in Brazil after sailing it from France. He set a new course record, prompting others to start rethinking boat design. Photo by Christophe Breshi, MaxxComm-Media.

late-‘90s television ads—“think different.” When it comes to sailing, whether you’re tacking up the leg of a racecourse, exploring new cruising grounds or perhaps considering how sailors might foster greater environmental protections, different is by no means better. Sometimes, the tried-and-true conventional approach is the only way to go. But, if you want to explore new avenues for enhancing whatever it is you’re doing—racing performance, recreational enjoyment, or advocacy within the sport—different is the only way to go. Take the case of David Raison, the French solo sailor and yacht designer, who recently prevailed in the 4,200-mile, single-handed race from France to Brazil known as the Mini TransAt. In 2010, Raison launched a very unusual 21-foot craft that he designed and built to compete in the various Mini 6.50 races. The boat had a decidedly blunted bow that resembled a bathtub toy as much as it did a serious racing vessel. At the time, Raison described that look to the press as a “U.S. scow bow.” Initially, this design suffered steering problems, and Raison didn’t fare well in his first competition. His design was also derided by many who closely follow the Mini scene. But, with more than 20,000 solo sailing miles beneath his belt, Raison coupled that experience with his design expertise and made the right adjustments. By the end of the Mini TransAt race in late October this year, this innovative Frenchman had wowed race followers by finishing the 3,100-mile second leg from Madeira to Bahia, Brazil, nearly 150 miles ahead of his closest competition. In the process, he not only set a new course record on board TeamWork Evolution 747, he also prompted many in this game to begin rethinking hull design. Said Raison shortly after the finish: “My boat is like a kick to the beehive of naval designers.” New Thinking in On-the-Water Cell Phone Apps Closer to home, there are others who understand the value of occasionally aiming a kick at the metaphorical beehive. Meet Dylan Murphy, an unassuming graduate student in Charleston, SC, who describes himself as “someone very concerned with the state of our waterways.” Murphy grew up in Beaufort, SC, and has lived on the coast his entire life. “I’m very invested in the quality of our waterways.” Murphy’s kick—albeit a more subtle one—was the development of a new app for the Android smart phone crowd. In September, he introduced a free app that allows

Southwinds December 2011

Southwinds December 2011