The most frequent question from customers asks what changes are planned for our products. Aside from issues of marketing and product development secrecy, it’s difficult to predict with any certainty what modifications we’ll incorporate until they have been evaluated and refined. We constantly strive for objectivity, otherwise what simply looks good invariably takes precedence over function, but quantifying the relative performance of changes that are often smaller in magnitude than the drag of two comparable pilots is difficult at best. Nevertheless, some improvements just look and feel right from the start.
Last November, Dustin returned to the Canoa Open (Ecuador) in hopes of repeating his 2007 win. Canoa is a flat-out ridge race that, for pilots of comparable skill, pretty much comes down to glider performance. Dustin expected that Jeff O’Brien would be his closest competition since Kevin Carter (also flying a T2 154) had narrowly edged him out of first place two years earlier. Dustin scrutinized every detail of his gear and made a bunch of seemingly minor changes. Of course Jeff was doing much of the same. On race day, Dustin almost inexplicably walked away from Jeff and the rest of the field and could pass them at will. Where did that come from?
Dustin made two types of changes: (1) a handful of small fairings for the sidewire tang, VG cleat and control bar apex, and (2) he sealed his sail. The equivalent drag area reduction of (1) amounts to letting 2 fingers loose in the airflow—hardly enough to explain the results. Sealing the sail could easily explain the difference. In fact, we had a similar experience 20 years ago with wingtip fairings. An HP with wingtip fairings demonstrated a much greater performance advantage than could be explained by the smoother shape of the tip. The difference instead was the result of losses associated with the circulation of high-energy free-stream airflow into the bottom surface and venting out the tip. 15 years ago when I designed the RamAir, I sealed the sail more thoroughly to reduce the increased losses expected with the active pressurization system.
A couple of weeks after Canoa, Dustin was at the shop and we were trying to figure out how to simply and effectively seal production sails and, for the last several months, all T2Cs have included baffles and neoprene covers to make the sail as airtight as possible. How well does it work? There is no easy way to isolate the contribution of each of many small changes to the current T2Cs but it’s undeniable that they are demonstrably better performing and handling than those produced just last year. I hope some of you have a chance to fly one at upcoming demo days (see http://www.www.willswing.com/demodays.asp).