I'm feeling pretty lucky today so I have decided on writing this "delicate" and slightly weird article. Since I'm expecting to lose approximately half of the readers half way into the article I will start off by telling you what value it will bring if you persevere all the way until the end:
- If you are a skipper or someone who is frequently in the position of putting new teams together, this article will give you new overall perspective on this issue.
- If you are a Pro or Amateur Sailor it will help you realize what it takes to integrate into a team and hopefully you will question some of your current practices. (Never a bad thing to take a hard look at yourself, right?)
I will begin by explaining you the basic concepts of gears and a gearbox. (Again, please bear with me!)
- Two or more gears working in tandem are called a gearbox and can produce a mechanical advantage through a gear ratio
Picture from wikipedia, a five-speed gear box
Note the different sizes and tooth shapes of the gears mounted on the shafts
- The purpose of a gearbox is to transmit power from a power source into something else, often allowing for a change of direction and different gear ratios
- The efficiency of a transmission is defined by the quotient of the power at the output and the power at the input. (The more losses you have, the worse the efficiency will be). In an ideal world you would want to have 100% efficiency....
- Gears come in many different sizes and tooth shapes. These shapes include straight cut, helical, double helical, bevel, hypoid crown, worm etc. Check out the wikipedia page on gears if you really want to dig into details...
- Performs under the most adverse conditions (e.g. even if one gear somehow stops working), snow, sun, low and hot temps etc.
- Has the appropriate gear ratios (amount of forward / reverse gears and ratios etc.)
- Has low maintenance requirements (may be even self lubricating)
- Has maximum possible efficiency
- Is user friendly. Meaning that it is relatively non partisan to different kind of operators (the mechanism that shifts between the various gears
- Does all the above at the lowest possible cost
- It has to be designed to the correct specifications
- All the gears need to have the appropriate size and tooth shape (straight cut won't work with helical, duh...)
- Needs to be lubricated properly (oil levels!!!)
- The shafts on which the gears are mounted need to be strong enough and properly aligned, otherwise you will have wear and tear on your gears and thus low efficiency.
So this is the point where I believe that anyone that doesn't subscribe to Popular Mechanics, will have closed this window and is updating their Facebook page with a note telling all their friends that I have completely lost it.
So how does this relate to sailing? Well, most of you have probably figured this out by now (and otherwise you're probably not the sharpest gear in the gearbox!)
I like to compare team members on a sailing team to gears in a gearbox (gearbox being the team).
Designing a new gearbox takes more than experience. Actually often it is closer to performing a long lost craftsmanship than anything else. Some owners/team managers believe that all you have to do is go out and get the best sailors on your boat and they will have the best possible gearbox available and win the regatta. Too many regattas have proved that this is the wrong approach...
I would like to suggest the following approach:
- First of all determine the specifications of your gearbox. What is it supposed to do? How many gears? Which are the most important gears? How long does it have to last? The list goes on.
- What are the resources at your disposal and compare that to the available gears on the market.
- Analyze each gear on their compatibility with the other gears and evaluate what else they can contribute to the gearbox. (Some gears are known to also give back rubs and bake chocolate chip cookies for all the other gears. Such attributes help with keeping the gearbox nicely lubricated, hi Sarah C. !)
- According to your budget and time constraints, build your gearbox and allow it to adjust to each gear (practice time). You can for example also bring in a coach to help you align the shafts (less wear and tear), help modify the tooth shapes and make your gearbox more efficient!
- Once things are moving smoothly make sure to check the oil level periodically. (I have heard that nice team dinners or inviting your gearbox to a ski weekend in Park City works wonders in that area.)
Figure out what kind of a gear you are, so you know where you can add the most value. You don't want to end up somewhere on the shaft, having to work on a task that you're not good at. You won't be happy, and the rest of the gearbox won't be happy. Everybody on the shaft gets shafted, pun intended.
Whenever necessary and within your capacity you must adapt to the position you have been designed to do. This can also mean that you will have to change the shape of your gear teeth in order let things work smoothly. Can you do that?
Pro-Sailors like to gloat about themselves how they can just fit into any team and perform at the highest level. Unfortunately I have often experienced the opposite. Quite a few are prima donnas, need a lot of lube and usually have everyone else adapt to their tooth shape. In the process losing valuable other gear ratios and minimizing efficiency.
Amateur sailors on the other hand sometimes think they have the necessary gear ratios and strength and just can't deliver when the pressure is on.
What kind of a gear truly are you?
Hopefully this article has achieved its goal of allowing you to approach the way you put teams together in a new way and has you second-guessing how you as a gear could help the gearbox work more efficiently.