Friday, October 25, 2013

Delano's cupolas

This photo shows a crewmember of a freight train looking out the left side window of a caboose's cupola. It was taken in March 1943 by Jack Delano for the U.S. Office of War Information. The train was on the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe system somewhere in western Texas or eastern New Mexico.

The photo is held by the Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress. Although it is unlabeled, its composition and the details it shows are similar to other photos Delano took of trainmen in caboose cupolas during a photo shoot of March 1943 on frieght trains traveling from Chicago to San Bernardino along the AT&SF line. In the files assembled from this shoot the photo is located near photos whose captions give locations in the vicinity of Amarillo, Texas, and Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The trainman's tie and jacket, as well as the fedora he wears with train badge just visible all indicate that his job was conductor. You can see these details a little more clearly in this cropped image. Click this image (and all the others) to view full size.

This photo, taken a few days earlier of a different trainman, gives a full caption. The two images are strikingly similar.

{Caption: Conductor W. E. Zink, watching the train from his window in the cupola of the caboose on the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad between Emporia and Wellington, Kansas; photo by Jack Delano created 1943 Mar.; source: Library of Congress Prints and Photos Division}

The purpose of these photos was documentary. They and the many other images that Delano captured during his journey south and west aimed to show one aspect of war mobilization — the great strength of the U.S. transportation system. Nonetheless, they are far from being naïve propaganda.

The outline that Delano prepared as part of the OWI request for governmental clearance to undertake the work shows his intention to give "a photographic story of the important role played by the railroads in the national war effort," and to this end he showed the astounding magnitude of U.S. rail freight operations.[1] There are lots of long shots of great rail terminals, huge plants for manufacture and repair of locomotives and rolling stock, and the vast landscape of the American Southwest. But he also showed individuals, men and women whose work enabled this vast system to function.

It's in keeping with the philosophy of the FSA/OWI photographic unit that the thousands of photos in its archives contain no photo-op news-shots of politicians, rail system managers, or other public figures. As Delano's boss, Roy Stryker put it, the units images contained "no record of big people or big events ... and absolutely no celebrities."[2] This down-to-earth approach comes out fully in Delano's AT&SF photos. We see yardmasters, engineers, conductors, brakemen, oilers, and wipers. We see workers in locomotive repair shops, on the tracks, in telegraph rooms, and in switch towers. We see workers of European heritage, American Indians, African Americans, and Mexicans.[3]

During the Depression Era the FSA was well-known for its photos of impoverished Americans. The FSA photographers showed them to have a self-possessed grace and this inherent dignity conveyed to viewers some basis for hoping that the millions who suffered misfortune would not just survive but potentially thrive within a reconstructed economy.[4] When the photographic unit was moved from FSA to OWI there was less need and no mandate to produce compelling images of poverty and individuals' struggles to overcome it. During the war buildup and after Pearl Harbor the photos taken by the photography unit both encouraged and reflected a growing sense of American cohesiveness — people working together to produce the industrial output that would be needed to win the war. The OWI photographers did this, however, without entirely abandoning their earlier point of view. From 1940 onward the photos they took continue to show the great diversity of a people who were considered at the time to be "ordinary" citizens.[5]

The portraits that Delano took of the hundreds of workers he encountered during his assignment with the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe demonstrate that he possessed the skill necessary to show the simple human dignity in the "common man" (a phrase, like "ordinary citizen" that was in vogue at the time). He disassembled this collective stereotype into its very specific, individual components. The captions he gave his photos frequently state the job a subject performs and give his or her name and home town and the photos themselves tend to show personal habits through grooming, clothing, and posture. More than that, his photos have a broader aesthetic and cultural value. Delano's understanding of photographic design lifts them above the level of journalism. It's his skill as an artist which leads us now, in examining them, to see that they are something more than documentary artifacts. Delano had to plan his photos. The camera he used most frequently was awkward to use for snapshots. This wasn't really a drawback since it's obvious that he planned his photos carefully, choosing his subject, composition, and camera angle and waiting for the light to be right. It's reasonable to assume he sometimes posed his subjects, or, anyway, asked them to adjust their position to achieve the effect he wished to see.[6]

The FSA/OWI photographers were supposed to make factual images and not to alter them "for effect." During the Dust Bowl years, one of them was criticized for moving a bleached skull to improve his composition, but Delano, and his boss Stryker, understood that there was no fakery involved.[7] A photographer needed to be trusted to show a subject as it actually was in real life, and they lived up to this trust, but they also knew it to be their responsibility to make a photo that was meaningful. Stryker's mentor, Rexford Guy Tugwell, put this objective concretely in a conversation Stryker recalled long afterward. "Roy, a man may have holes in his shoes, and you may see the holes when you take the picture. But maybe your sense of the human being will teach you there's a lot more to that man than the holes in his shoes, and you ought to try and get that idea across."[8] Stryker stated the matter in his own words when, in an interview, he said how wage earners, like the trainmen in Delano's photos, could be photographed in a way that revealed their inherent worth. "They had dignity." he said, "And they sensed this guy [the photographer] could give it to them. Not make them beautiful, not make them look like something they weren't. But he put a dignity into that picture. They responded to him."[9]

Here are some more photos of trainmen in cupolas and a couple of others showing the position of the observation benches within the caboose. All are found in collections of the Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress.

This shows the cupola from the outside of the caboose.

{Caption: Marceline, Missouri. Brakeman in the cupola of his caboose in the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad yard}

From within the caboose, you can see the cupola benches in front of and above the rear door of the caboose.

{Caption: Conductor (right) and brakeman, in their places in the cupola of the caboose on the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad between Argentine and Emporia, Kansas. On the wall between them is the air gauge showing the amount of air brake pressure in the train}

Here is the caboose interior with the end of one of the cupola benches visible at back.

{Caption: Freight train operations on the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad between Chicago and Northwestern Railroad between Chicago and Clinton, Iowa. The caboose is the conductor's second home. He always uses the same one and many conductors cook and sleep there while waiting for trains to take back from division points}

In viewing all these photos you can tell that Delano had an aesthetic appreciation for the dramatic blocks of light and dark present when trainmen observed the train through the cupola's side windows.

{Caption: Brakeman H. L. Duffield, watching the train from the window in the cupola of the caboose on the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad between Emporia and Wellington, Kansas}

{Caption: Conductor J.R. Crawford, watching the train from his window in the cupola of the caboose along the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad between Canadian and Amarillo, Texas}

{Caption: Rear brakeman M. H. Burdette, watching the train from his window in the cupola on the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad, between Chillicothe, Illinois and Fort Madison, Iowa}

It's apparent that riding in the cupola was something like sitting in the upper deck of a London bus — a place to relax and watch the world go by. I'm suspect Delano was making a joke in saying the bottle contained hot coffee.

{Caption: Rear brakeman George Clark having his lunch in the cupola of the caboose on the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad, between Marceline, Missouri and Argentine, Kansas. The bottle contains hot coffee}

This is one of the few shots in which Delano used flash and it's the only one he took from below. Although it suffers the flattening that always occurs with single-source flash photography, it's still interesting in its composition, subject, and point of view.

{Caption: Hart (vicinity), Missouri. The conductor uses his air valve in emergencies when it is necessary for him to stop the train along the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad between Fort Madison, Iowa and Marceline, Missouri}

Here is Delano himself, taken by an unnamed photographer.

{Caption: Jack Delano, Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information photographer, full-length portrait, holding camera, standing on front of locomotive, taken ca. 1943, location not given}

I've marked this 1939 AT&SF map to show Delano's route in March 1943.

{1939 Map of Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe Railway; source: North American Railroads of the 1930's by Richard Parks}


Some sources:

I've done earlier posts of Delano photos, including one from the March 1943 shoot. Click the Jack Delano label at right to view them. For posts showing other photos from Office of War Information files, click the OWI label.

Outline for a trip aboard a fast freight from Chicago Illinois to San Bernardino, Calif. (3 p.) by Jack Delano, in LOT 12024, Box 1, Clearances, Army, 1942-1943, held by the Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress

Letter: Roy Stryker to L.I. McDougle, 1942 October 12 [PDF file, 1 p., 134 kb] LOT 12024, Box 1, Clearances, 1942-1943, held by the Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress

Interview with Roy Stryker, conducted by Robert J. Doherty, F. Jack Hurley, Jay M. Kloner, and Carl G. Ryant on the American Suburb X web site

Oral history interview with Jack and Irene Delano, 1965 June 12 conducted by Richard Doud for the Smithsonian Archives of American Art; transcript, 63 pp of a sound recording on 2 tape reels

Jack Delano in wikipedia

Jack Delano in the Museum of Contemporary Photography web site Delano.pdf?sequence=1 biography, Program of Digital Scholarship, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis

Documenting America, 1935-1943 by Carl Fleischhauer, Beverly W. Brannan, and Lawrence W. Levine (University of California Press, 1988) Stryker's America 3-08p21-24.pdf by Larry L. Levin on his own web site

Capturing the faces of railroading Who is Jack Delano? And how did his photography change the way Americans perceived railroading? by John Gruber, December 21, 2009, on the web site of Trains, The Magazine of Railroading, "This Great Nation Will Endure": Photographs of the Great Depression A Curriculum Guide, National Archives at Atlanta

Chicago and Downstate: Illinois as Seen by the Farm Security Administration Photographers, 1936-1943 by Robert L. Reid and Larry A. Viskochil (University of Illinois Press, 1989)

A Chicago Hub Railroad of the 1930's - 1940's The Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe Railway (Santa Fe) on

Picturing Texas: The Farm Security Administration-Office of War on the Portal to Texas History

Visual Sociology by Douglas Harper (Routledge, 2012)

The History of Photography: An Overview by Alma Davenport (UNM Press, 1991)

Picturing Faith: Photography and the Great Depression by Colleen McDannell (Yale University Press, 2004)

Ordinary People: Jack Delano by Arthur H. Bleich in Rangefinder magazine

Crucible of Freedom: Workers' Democracy in the Industrial Heartland, 1914–1960 by Eric Leif Davin (Lexington Books, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2010)

American Photography and the American Dream by James Guimond (UNC Press Books, 1991)

THE ART SPIRIT By Robert Henri; Notes Taken By M. R. From Robert Henri's Criticisms And Class Talks on Afterall / Online

The Likes of Us: America in the Eyes of the Farm Security Administration by Stuart Cohen (David R. Godine, 2009)

Jack Delano’s American Sonata by David Gonzalez, Lens, New York Times, October 13, 2011



[1] Outline for a trip aboard a fast freight from Chicago Illinois to San Bernardino, Calif. (3 p.) by Jack Delano, in LOT 12024, Box 1, Clearances, Army, 1942-1943, held by the Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress. The outline shows that Delano originally expected to take frieght trains pulled by the new diesel electric engines. As it turned out the trains were engined by steam locomotives, then acknowledged to be more expensive to operate, though now seen as highly romantic. Here is the summary page from this three-page document. Click to view full size.

{Outline for a trip aboard a fast freight from Chicago Illinois to San Bernardino, Calif. (3 p.) by Jack Delano, in LOT 12024, Box 1, Clearances, Army, 1942-1943, held by the Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress}

[2] Quoted in Documenting America, 1935-1943 by Carl Fleischhauer, Beverly W. Brannan, and Lawrence W. Levine (University of California Press, 1988)

[3] You can see something of this diversity by skimming the results of an online search of Delano's photographs from March 1943 in the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division catalog.

[4] Stryker's approach to documentary photography of the American Depression contrasted the dignity and despair of the Depression's victims. His optimism about this dicotemy came out when he said: "Maybe I'm a fool, but I believe that dignity wins out. When it doesn't then we as a people will become extinct." (Quoted in Documenting America). Stryker's biography in The History of American Photography says he came to understand this dignity and and attain his positive outlook while he and his wife were living in a New York tenement during his school years: "Their neighbors were mostly immigrants who worked feverishly simply to maintain the barest requirements of life. This experience impressed Stryker immensely. Food may have been lacking, clothing may have been scarce, but the fiber of these people was based on dignity, endurance, and the simple pleasures afforded by freedom."

[5] Stryker wanted pictures of "the common people," the hard working survivors who built America. "I think it's significant," Stryker later said, "that in our entire collection we have only one picture of Franklin Roosebvelt, the most newsworthy man of the era ... You'll find no record of big people or big events in the collection ... not a single shot of Wall Street, and absolutely no celebrities." Quoted in Crucible of Freedom: Workers' Democracy in the Industrial Heartland, 1914–1960 by Eric Leif Davin (Lexington Books, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2010)

[6] Delano's military authorization for the photo shoot enabled him to have the train stopped or moved for vantage to get a photo he wanted to take. If he could have the engineer and conductor do these things for him, there's little reason to believe he wouldn't also ask his sujects to move about a bit to improve a composition for him.
When WWII began, the FSA was folded into the Office of War Information (OWI) and its photographers were assigned to projects that would promote the war effort. Much to his delight, Delano was tapped for a month-long trip to document America’s railroads; he’d ride with the crews and even had the authority to stop the train (with the engineer’s consent) to get any shots he needed. ... Delano’s first attempt to stop a train for a shot he wanted was met by the engineer’s blunt refusal. “Young man,” he said, “if I stopped the train here we could never get it started again but would go rolling down the hill backward.” So Delano waited until he was aboard a different train, one that was rounding a curve with more than a 100 cars strung out behind carrying bombs, tractors, trucks and tanks. This time the engineer complied and brought the train to a halt. Delano hopped off but found the composition wasn’t right; the train needed to be moved forward some more. He shouted instructions to the engineer and the train inched forward. “Never had I had such a sense of power,” he recalls. “I felt like Hercules. Wow! To think I could move that whole train with just the wave of my hand.” When he’d finished shooting, he signaled the engineer to get moving again and hopped on the caboose as it rolled by.
-- Quoted in
Ordinary People: Jack Delano by Arthur H. Bleich in Rangefinder magazine

[7] On the skull controversy see:
  1. Photography and the Great Depression: Arthur Rothstein, a site was created for a Photographic Archives course at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at Simmons College
  2. The History of Photography: An Overview by lma Davenport (UNM Press, 1991)
  3. The controversy was eventually quelled when Stryker pointed out that while he moved the skull ten feet, he certainly did not move it out of the drought area, which was littered with such skulls.
  5. Oral history interview with Arthur Rothstein, 1964 May 25, an interview of Arthur Rothstein conducted in New York, N.Y., 1964 May 25, by Richard Doud, for the Archives of American Art; Transcript: 31 pages

[8] Quoted in Documenting America, 1935-1943 by Carl Fleischhauer, Beverly W. Brannan, and Lawrence W. Levine (University of California Press, 1988).

Robert Henri, famous painter in the New York Ashcan School, his paintings are realistic, in the usual sense of the word, rather than abstract. He understood the difference between a painting which records an observation and a work of art — the difference between a work of art which simply records a subject faithfully and one that brings out something more from within it. In notes from lectures he gave at the Art Students League he said "Rather paint the flying spirit of the bird than its feathers." Quoted in Affirmations for Artists, ed. by Eric Maisel (G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1996)

Delano realized that a good photograph could sometimes capture this flying spirit, but not always. He put a poem in his diary which he called "Things I cannot photograph." Here's its end:
A train is approaching us!
The glare of the headlight
With a WHOOSH of thunder as it flies by us.
The brakeman gets down from the cupola and watches it go by
Two red lights and a white one pass us
The white one waves up and down.
We answer
Then back again to the drone
I throw a cigarette out of the window
It whirls off in the backwash scattering sparks wildly like fireworks
The blackness again.

-- Quoted in: Jack Delano’s American Sonata by David Gonzalez, Lens, New York Times, October 13, 2011

[9] Oral history interview with Jack and Irene Delano, 1965 June 12 conducted by Richard Doud for the Smithsonian Archives of American Art; transcript, 63 pp of a sound recording on 2 tape reels

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Fast boats

A boat owned by billionaire Larry Ellison won the 2013 America's Cup series of sailboat races. It defeated the challenger Emirates Team New Zealand in a comeback performance having lost most of the early races and won all the late ones. A costly series of overnight refits is credited with lifting the US boat's fortunes.

There is a compilation of videos documenting the race here: America's Cup 2013.

Run on and off since the middle of the nineteenth century, the race pits boats from two countries against each other. An ornate trophy passes to the winner of the event. Various yacht clubs and syndicates in the United States held the cup for many years, and during the past few decades it has been won, and defended, by Australia, Italy, Switzerland, and New Zealand. Great Britain, the first to accept a challenge for the cup, has never won it. By convention, the defending country determines the rules of each race, including the specifications of the boats.

This year's series of races took place between boats representing the United States and New Zealand. It followed elimination contests among challengers from Italy and Sweden as well as New Zealand. Aiming to profit from interest by local spectators and an international video audience, the US syndicate opted for a location, San Francisco Bay, which offered excellent spectator views and a scenic backdrop for video cameras. It chose a boat design which took advantage of the Bay's strong winds and tidal currents. And it set a course which insured that the boats would achieve maximum speed in long up- and downwind legs. The boats themselves, designated AC72, were large catamarans with sails like airplane wings, rudders analogous to the rudder/elevator combination of airplanes, and daggerboards which (akin to the tail and wings of an airplane) served the dual purpose of keel/centerboard and hydrofoil. During preliminary races, the top speed of these boats proved to be greater than fifty miles per hour.

However, sailing at top speed proved to be too dangerous. During the preliminaries an Oracle boat in the US stable flipped and was wrecked with no injury to the crew and another, Artemis from Sweden, flipped at high speed, killing one member of the crew. As a result the race committee established rules to rein in dangerous maneuvering at high speed.

Over the eleven miles that the boats traveled in each race, the eleven-man teams accomplished complicated changes of course — tacks and jibes — very rapidly and with great skill and they made frequent rapid adjustments when traveling on straight paths at top speed, all aimed at gaining the few seconds advantage that made the difference between victory and defeat. Almost literally flying, the boats were made to travel in the downwind leg of the course at twice the speed of the wind. Explanations of the physics that lie behind this achievement are opaque. The skipper of a sailboat will trim his sails to achieve maximum speed for any given course. When the boat is at rest the true wind and something called the "apparent wind" come from the same direction at the same speed. When the boat is sailing at an angle into the wind, the "apparent wind" is greater than the true wind and we are told that the difference between apparent and true wind is what enables a boat to sail faster than the wind.
As the sail moves into the wind, it "feels" a faster wind on its face. This is called the relative velocity of the wind with respect to the sail. A wind of larger relative velocity exerts a larger force on the sail, which accelerates the boat. The boat moves faster, which increases the relative speed of the wind, which increases the wind-force, which accelerates the boat, and on and on.

-- How Sailboats Sail Against the Wind, Physics for Architects

A boat won't actually sail faster than the wind, however, unless the sails are unusually efficient and the drag of the water on the hull is reduced to a minimum. The most efficient sails are no longer made of cloth but rather carbon fiber and kevlar. Called wingsails, they are composed of fore and aft sections that resemble the wing and flap of airplanes. The wingsail's "flap" is unlike the airplane's, however, being proportionately much larger than the wing itself. The wing and flap are constantly monitored by sensors connected to onboard computers and can be independently adjusted to increase or decrease the amount of lift the wing provides. Greatest lift is needed at slow speeds, but it comes at the cost of increased drag. Thus, like an airplane during take off, in flight, and landing, the boat's wingsail is adjusted to give the best balance of lift and drag as the boat moves faster or slower through the water. This constant adjustment takes the place of much of the sail trimming that's needed when using conventional sails (sheeting in and sheeting out) and in fact the AC72's wingsail is swung off center a great deal less than are conventional sails.

This graphic names the parts of a wingsail and explains its operation.

{source: Wing-Sail-tech on}

The second major element in achieving flight on water is the reduction in resistance of the water itself. This drag is reduced to a minimum by use of wing-like hydrofoils to raise the hulls out of the water. Once the wingsail has brought the boat to a critical speed one of the two foils, or both, raise the hulls out of the water. Like the job done by the wingsail, the work done by the foils is difficult to fathom. The weight of the America's Cup AC72 boats is something like 13,000 pounds. Once the boat is foiling, it can accelerate to maximum speed, up to about twice the speed of the wind.

The following photo shows the Emirates Team New Zealand boat elevated on one of its two hydrofoils (the other is raised above the port hull). The two aft rudders have adjustable wing extensions, but they are used, like the elevators on the tail section of an airplane to which they are analogous, to keep the hulls parallel with the water surface and not to raise the hulls into flying mode.

{Caption: Emirates Team New Zealand’s AC72 foil sailing on the Hauraki gulf. Auckland, 6 September 2012. Photo copyright Chris Cameron / Emirates Team New Zealand; source:}

Below is a computer drawing of an AC72 catamaran such as the ones racing for the America's Cup. I've marked the image to show the articulated wingsail and the starboard hydrofoil, which sailors call a daggerboard. Daggerboards not only provide lift, but also help keep the boat from being pushed sideways against the wind. This function is performed by the keel or centerboard of mono-hulled vessels. Note that AC72 daggerboards are lifted up and down vertically while centerboards swing up and down from a forward pivot (keels are fixed in place). The AC72 boats can carry two jibs, as shown here, but in most races they have carried only one small one. The jibs (also called foresails or softsails) are made of cloth and their main job is to direct air over the wingsail.

This image shows the two boats that competed in this year's America's Cup series. The next one, directly below, shows what America's Cup competitors looked like in 1899.

{Caption: Emirates Team New Zealand leads Oracle Team USA down the first run in race seven on day four of the America's Cup 34, 9/12/2013; source:}

The 1899 boats, like all America's Cup boats contenders to 1988, were mono-hulled. They were gaff-rigged sloops with narrow beam. The sail area was enormous. It's evident that they are manned by about twice the number of sailors as are this year's boats (which the rules limit to a total of eleven).

{Caption: Shamrock and Columbia maneuvering for the start, Detroit Publishing Co., Oct. 19, 1899; source: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division}

This image indicates how large is the AC72 wingsail. The AC45 is a catamaran which closely resembles the AC72 on a smaller scale. It was used in shakedown and elimination races prior to this years America's Cup series.


As the image suggests, it's the height of the AC72 wingsail which most impresses. Its supporting mast is 131 feet high. By comparison, the yacht that won the America's Cup for the first time (1851) and the schooners and sloops that raced for the Cup during the rest of the nineteenth century had masts no higher than 105 feet.

The location of the race in San Francisco Bay and its windward/leeward course as well as the speed-oriented design of the boats themselves were chosen with a view to making money off the event. Huge numbers of on-site spectators and world-wide TV viewers could pretty much be guaranteed by the excitement generated in extremely fast racing close to a major city, offering on-land as well as on-water viewing of spectators, and TV viewing via large numbers of video cameras, in helicopter, in tracking boats, and onboard the AC72s themselves.

In fact, the boats' design proved to sacrifice safety for speed. When, during preliminary races, one accident destroyed a boat and another killed a sailor, rules had to be revised to prevent possible collisions during the critical moments just prior to start and to shut down racing when winds, currents, and wave heights made it too dangerous. "Too dangerous" is a relative measure, however, as the race series has proved to involve a great deal of risk for boats and crews.

This graphic shows the course. The high-speed long legs between windward and leeward gates, which the boats traversed three times during each race, insured that spectators got to see many extremely fast tacks and jibes.

It's difficult for people accustomed to soft-sail racing to comprehend how the AC72s are able to reach their highest speeds when sailing with the wind at their backs. They do not run before the wind in the usual sense but rather jibe and jibe again just as if they were tacking into the wind. That is to say they take a zig-zag course when the wind is astern just as they do when it is coming from the front. During these jibes they actually look like they are tacking since the wingsail is not let out, as a soft sail would be, but is kept close-hauled as in tacking. As one sailor said: "You might have also observed how tight in the sails were trimmed in the 'downwind' heading. They were tight – even the non-winged headsail. This means the AC72s were on a close haul heading downwind. Messes with your mind doesn't it?" (Apparent Wind on Americas Cup AC72's)

So, the defender and the challenger in this year's America's Cup were fast and exciting to watch. During early races in the series they were also evenly matched. The boats seemed to be capable of the same speed and maneuverability. Sailing skill, tactical acumen, and quite a bit of luck mattered most in determining who would win each race in the series. Oracle gained an edge, however, after making a number of adjustments to the boat after it lost enough races to come within one of losing the Cup. The most significant change was apparently the installation or revision of an automatic levelling system. It is said that the Emirates Team New Zealand boat, relying on manual control of its stabilizers, couldn't match Oracle's computerized system. Ironically, the technology used by Oracle was designed and built by New Zealanders under contract to Oracle's owner Larry Ellison. It's worth noting that both boats were built in New Zealand and both were mostly crewed by New Zealanders. Many accounts credited the Oracle Team USA win with increases in sailing skill achieved during the race series rather than changes made to the boat.

Early on, the US team had shown that they were capable of cheating. During preliminary races the crew of the US boat were caught adding weight to the bow in order to improve its fore-and-aft trim. In other sports, it's the norm to exclude cheaters from competition, but, since the United States were the defenders, the entire series of races would have to be canceled if the US side was prevented from sailing. Therefore, although race officials declared that "the seriousness of the breaches cannot be understated," they contented themselves with barring from competition the sailors who were found to be directly involved in the scandal and with giving the challenger a two point advantage in the race series. The two-point advantage meant that the Emirates Team New Zealand boat needed nine points to win while Oracle Team USA required eleven. A "point" in this context is the winning of a race in the America's Cup series.

One might suspect that the lack of sportsmanship shown by the American side had something to do with the billionaires' club atmosphere of the races themselves, billionaires being thought by some to be accustomed to getting their way by fair means or foul.

We are accustomed to the influence of individual wealth in sports: baseball, football, and soccer teams owned by billionaires as well as billionaire owners of race horses and race cars. As owners and participants both, wealthy people dominate elite sports like polo and dressage, and they reserve to themselves certain exclusive ski resorts, golf clubs, and shore properties. The America's Cup races were dominated by men of wealth considerably more than other sports. The cost of competing was calculated at about $100 million per participant. Larry Ellison, owner of the US boats, is said to be the third richest man in America, fifth richest in the world, and the owners or major investors in the challenger boats were mainly billionaires themselves. There were three challengers participating in preliminary races to determine who would sail against Oracle Team USA. Sweden's boat, Artemis, belongs to billionaire Torbjorn Tornqvist, a Swedish oil magnate; Italy's, Luna Rossa, by billionaire Patrizio Bertelli, Prada's chief executive, backed Italy’s Luna Rossa. Although New Zealand's team was partly financed by its government, its main source of funds was the sovereign wealth fund of the United Arab Emirates and that fund is directed by the ruling monarch of the country and his family, who are billionaires.

As we're accustomed to the presence of billionaires in sports, so we're also accustomed to the billionaires' practice of treating sports as investments, or quasi-businesses, whose tax consequences are often the production of massive deductions. I've found little information on this practice in the America's Cup races beyond the obvious concern to maximize revenue from spectators, whether in San Francisco or watching TV worldwide.

The down-to-the-wire racing and a dramatic come-from-behind finish of this year's America's Cup series made for an exciting spectacle, but the sport is so much more outrageously elitist than other spectator sports that this Cup is bound, like most of the others, to be quickly forgotten. As the editor of Slate says,
Oracle Team USA fell way behind and then beat Emirates Team New Zealand, proving once and for all that the mercenary Kiwis who race monstrously expensive death boats for the good old Stars and Stripes perform better in the clutch than the Kiwis who race monstrously expensive death boats for the motherland... There’s really no rational reason for someone who isn't from New Zealand and/or some type of robber baron to care even one bit about the America’s Cup, or to root for Larry Ellison and his team of sailing carpetbaggers.
-- The Miracle on San Francisco Bay; Oracle Team USA’s billionaire-funded, cheat-tastic America’s Cup comeback reveals the awesome power of the inspirational sports narrative. by Josh Levin, Sept. 25, 2013, in Slate


Some additional images:

This shows the left, leeward, hull of the US boat, Oracle, showing the leeward hydrofoil daggerboard (below the American flag) and the leeward rudder (red). The rudder has a fin which provides horizontal trim to the hull (it raises and lowers the stern) as well as twisting to turn the boat.

source: AC34, Louis Vuitton Finals: Weekend Wrapup on

This shows the Emirates New Zealand boat from above. It is here shown headed downwind, but nonetheless close-hauled (both jib and wingsail are close to parallel with the hull). The white dash-marks just to the right of the wing (a wide center-mark and adjacent narrow marks) show how very little the wing swivels from side to side. You can see that the starboard daggerboard is down while the port one is up. It's hard to tell, but it seems that neither hull is touching the water; that is to say, the boat is flying on its starboard hydrofoil daggerboard. You can see the disturbance in the water caused by the port rudder, but it's obvious the port hull is entirely elevated.


This list gives the AC72 design parameters:
LOA 22.0 meters (72 feet)
Beam 14.0 meters (46 feet)
Displacement 5,700 kilograms (12,500 pounds)
All-up weight 7,000 kilograms (15,500 pounds)
Wingsail area 260 square meters (2,800 square feet)
Wingsail height 40 meters (130 feet)
Wingsail chord 8.5 meters (28 feet)
Sail trimming Manual grinders
Configuration Twin-hulled catamaran
Crew 11
Sail trimming No mechanically powered systems
Sail area reduction Removable top sections/leech elements
Appendages Maximum of 2 rudders, 2 daggerboards
Construction Minimum 600 grams per square meter outer-skin;
High-modulus carbon-fiber permitted in wingsail spar

-- 34th America’s Cup: New AC72 class, the fast, spectacular, wingsail catamaran unveiled, September 20, 2010

This shows one of Oracle's boats capsizing in preliminary trails a year ago.

{Caption: Oct 16, 2012: Oracle Team USA's disastrous AC72 capsize; source:}

This gives an idea of the size of the wingsail.

{Caption: Emirates New Zealand wing sail; source}


Some sources:

Kiwis Reach Record Speed in AC 72-Foot Catamaran, Associated Press, Jul 19, 2013

The Boat That Could Sink the America’s Cup by Adam Fisher, 05/09/13 on

America's Cup
on YouTube

Day 6 racing blog
SEPTEMBER 15, 2013
Race 10 Performance Data

Course: 5 Legs/10.02 nautical miles
Elapsed Time: ETNZ – 22:00, OTUSA – 22:16
Delta: ETNZ +:16
Total distance sailed: ETNZ – 11.8 NM, OTUSA – 11.7 NM
Average Speed: ETNZ – 32.25 knots (37 mph), OTUSA – 31.76 knots (36 mph)
Top Speed: ETNZ – 43.01 knots (49 mph), OTUSA – 44.98 knots (52 mph)
Windspeed: Average – 18.3 knots, Peak – 22.3 knots
Number of Tacks/Jibes: ETNZ – 7/7, OTUSA – 7/7

Emirates Team New Zealand gets leg up on ORACLE TEAM USA
by Sean McNeill

America's Cup: Emirates Team NZ admits AC72 can foil sailing downwind by Richard Gladwell on

Americas Cup Apparent Wind on

Apparent Wind on Americas Cup AC72's on

America's Cup boats use innovative design built for speed and power on

The Sailors and Their Flying Machines,


wingsails on

America's Cup News and Information on

America's Cup on YouTube

America's Cup: How hydrofoiling works in the AC72's on

Image Bank on

Severe penalties for cheating Team Oracle by Duncan Johnstone, 4/9/13, on

Yet another AC34 Controversy by Adam Cort, Aug 16, 2013, on

AC34 Team Oracle Caught Cheating…Again on

Billionaire death race: inside America's Cup and the world's most dangerous sailboat. Capsized yachts and a sailor’s death cast a pall over this week’s finals. by Casey Newton on September 3, 2013, on The Verge

Winging It: America’s Cup Racers Push the Sailboat to Its Limits by Adam Fisher, August 18, 2011, in Wired magazine

The Husky Sailors Take on America…or at least its Cup

The Lawson history of the America's cup: a record of fifty years by Winfield M. Thompson (Boston, Mass., T.W. Lawson, 1902)

Wing-Sail-tech at

AC34: The Anatomy of an AC72 by Mike Drummond, Jun 19, 2013, in Sail Magazine

AC34: How to Get Around the Racecourse by Kimball Livingston, Sail Magazine, Jun 18, 2013

Well at least the horse racing industry is recovering by Lydia DePillis, September 23, 2013, in the Washington Post

"Valkyrie's Steel Mast Will Be One Hundred and Five Feet Long and Very Light." New York Times, August 6, 1896 (filed Glascow, July 7).

Made-for-TV America’s Cup Imperils Sailors Pursuing Speed by Aaron Kuriloff, Sep 12, 2013, on

AC72: Ellison's Dream Is Scariest Racing Yacht Yet on

Larry Ellison's Ahab-Like Quest For The America's Cup by Daniel Fisher, on Forbes, 5/22/2013

Meet the Billionaires Behind America’s Cup by Tara Loader Wilkinson, 14 August 2013, on

Board of Directors, Investment Corporation of Dubai

Larry Ellison's Amazing Victory and Huge Failure by Jonathan Mahler Sep 25, 2013, on

The Miracle on San Francisco Bay; Oracle Team USA’s billionaire-funded, cheat-tastic America’s Cup comeback reveals the awesome power of the inspirational sports narrative. by Josh Levin, Sept. 25, 2013, in Slate

Kiwi fans ask: 'Did Oracle cheat?' by Tom McRae, 26 Sep 2013,

America's Cup: Legal challenge not likely by Paul Lewis, Sep 26, 2013, on

America's Cup on wikipedia

AC72 (America's Cup 72 class) on wikipedia

Sailing faster than the wind on wikipedia

Wingsail on wikipedia

Sailing hydrofoil


Note: Photos on this page are either in the public domain or are reproduced under fair use provisions of copyright law. Images link back to source and sources are explicitly named. Photos deemed to be infringing will be removed on notification to this blog's owner via comment or email.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Lateen-rigged boats in San Juan harbor

Many paintings are as realistic as photographs. To my eye, this image turns the tables. It's a photo that might be taken for a painting. (Click image to view full size.)

{Caption: Native sailboats, San Juan, P.R. (Detroit Publishing Co. ca. 1903); source: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.}

The subject, composition, and use of light are painterly, but that's true of many photos. What's unusual is the abstract distortion seen in reflections off the water's surface. Here's a detail from the photo.

Quite a few paintings come to mind in which this sort of abstraction appears. Here are two.

{At left: Claude Monet, The Studio Boat (Le Bateau-atelier) 1876; source: Fleischer Museum. At right: Thomas Eakins, The Champion Single Sculls, 1871; source:}

The boats in the photograph are lateen-rigged. They use a large triangular sail which is attached to a spar. The spar is a long wooden pole which is raised and lowered on the mast via ropes called halyards and pulleys called blocks. One side of the triangle is made fast to the spar. Its front corner is attached to the bow of the boat. This is called the tack. The sail's back corner is controlled by a line called a sheet. The sheet can be let out or pulled in as required to catch the wind and make headway. Depending on the direction of the wind with respect to the path of the boat, the wind either pushes the sail from behind or pulls it from front or side. The boats can't sail straight at the wind; they must be at an angle to it which is sufficient for the sail to provide lift in the same way an airplane wing provides lift.

The boats have an ancient Middle-Eastern design much like the dhow or felucca. Across the world's seas where boats of this type have been (and are still being) used, their design has varied greatly. All share the stubby mast and long yard seen in these examples. All sail with the yard canted at an angle, the forward corner attached to the bow and the aft one controlled by the sheet.

Lateen rigs commonly have no second yard (or boom). The lower edge of the sail is attached to lines at the corners and is otherwise free. This gives the boats better sailing efficiency than the more familiar Bermuda rigs which have the fore edge of the sail attached to the mast and the lower edge attached to a boom. Lateen rigs are simpler and a lot cheaper to build than the Bermuda ones. Despite large sail area, they have ample headroom in the cockpit and often have a roofed structure — an open cabin — in the aft part of the vessel. This shed-like structure is present in the boats shown in the photo. It serves a double purpose, both to protect occupants from sun and foul weather and to provide support for the long yard when it is lowered, as it is on the boat at left.

Boats of dhow or felucca design can be multi-masted and quite large. Sixteenth-century Portuguese navigators used lateen-rigged ships called caravels in exploring the coasts of Africa and the Indian Ocean and one of Columbus's ships, La Niña, was one of these caravela latina. Lateen-rigged ships were also favored by Mediterranean and Caribbean pirates.

This painting shows lateen-rigged ships of the eighteenth century. The two ships at either side are galiots sailed by Algerian pirates. The ship at center is a Spanish naval vessel, a xebec (here called a jabeque), which is fighting them off.

{Caption: Antonio Barceló, con su jabeque correo, rechaza a dos galeotas argelinas (1738); source: wikipedia}

Large lateen-rig boats were superseded by steam vessels and the boats we see in San Juan harbor remained the most common general size from the late nineteenth century onward. These small craft lack the romantic association of armed corsairs and naval vessels, but have their own clean-lined grace and charm. Prosaic and work-a-day, they nonetheless marry function and form quite well and their proportions are pleasing.

In use, they are highly maneuverable, comfortable in harbor, and seaworthy in unprotected waters. They can be rowed or poled as well as sailed. They can carry passengers, merchandise for sale, or goods for transport. They can be used for fishing or as floating delivery wagons. Cheap to make, easy to maintain, and not difficult to sail, they are anything but rich men's toys.

Here are some detail views from the photograph.

The boat in this detail has a split yard. Segmented yards were required when sailors needed to stow the mast and yard within the boat, the yard being otherwise too long. Because in this case there is one long segment and one short one, it's likely the sailor has split his yard to make it easy to replace the longer section, which is a the branch of a tree, when it wears out or gets damaged.

Since the long lateen yards could be quite heavy, sailors used a pulley system -- halyards and blocks -- to raise and lower them on the mast.


Lateens came into use some two thousand years ago as an efficient alternative to square-rigged sails which run well before the wind but cannot effectively reach (when the wind is abeam) or tack (when the wind comes from a front quarter). Although they make more effective use of the wind than the more familiar Bermuda rig, they are not nearly so good at the maneuver called tacking. When a sailboat's course requires it to progress directly upwind, it is forced to sail in zig-zags, sailing a bit to the right of wind (starboard tack), then to left (port tack). Lateen rigs are not as good at tacking as Bermuda rigs.

In lateen sailing a proper tack requires the sailor to shift the spar from one side of the mast to the other. This can be done by bringing the spar down, moving it to the other side of the mast, and raising it again. It's simpler, however, to pull the sail around the bow during a jibe. The boat jibes when during a port or starboard tack, it moves away from the wind and comes back in a full circle. When half the circle has been completed and the wind is now behind the boat, a crew member passes the sheet around the bow and pulls the sail, and the spar with it onto the other side of the boat. Much of the time lateen sailors do not move the spar when tacking and the result is a "good" tack when the mast is windward of the sail and a "bad" one when the wind flattens the sail against the mast and thereby decreases its efficiency.

This Dhow is sailing on a "bad tack." The wind is coming from starboard (it is at the cameraman's back) and the sail cannot bellow out as fully as it should because the mast gets in the way.

{caption: Dhow ferrying passengers from Inhambane to Maxixe in Mozambique, by Steven G. Johnson. Its lateen sail is in the “bad tack” (with the sail pressed against the mast). Xebecs often carried sails on opposite sides of the fore, main, and mizzen masts to counteract this problem. source:}

This dhow has let the sheet go before jibing, and will let the sail whip like a flag as the yard is moved to the other side.

In gusty winds or heavy weather, sailors usually reduce sail area, that is shorten sail, by what they call reefing. Lateen sailors can do this, but they generally do not put reef points in their sails. Reef points are grommet holes which allow short lines to be used for reducing sail area by tying the sail down. In practice lateen sailors almost always rely on the flexibility of the yard (it is whippy), or they lower the yard on the mast, or hitch the sail near the top of the yard, or drop sail and row.


Here's the full image again, a bit sharper and with lowered gamma, to bring out detail.

Here are two photos of San Juan harbor taken at roughly the same time.

1. The first shows the harbor from landside.

{Caption: La marina, San Juan, P.R. (Detroit Publishing Co. 1903); source: Library of Congress}

2. The second shows the harbor from the end of the wharf.

{Caption: La marina from wharf, San Juan, P.R. (Detroit Publishing Co., 1903); source: Library of Congress}

This detail comes from the first of the two.

This detail comes from the second.


These drawings show the essentials of a lateen rig.

{sources: Left -- Ship Modelling,; right --}

This two-minute YouTube video tells what little is known about the origin of lateen-rigged boats and shows them in use. In it you can see a number of "bad tacks." Because the mast presses against the sail in these tacks, they're easy to spot. It's apparent bad tacks are not as efficient as good ones but the difference is modest.

This drawing shows how wind propels a boat by means of lift.

Here are two models of large lateen-rigged ships. At left is a model of a 16th-century caravel, a caravela latina, such as the ones used by Portuguese navigators. At right is a model of a Spanish xebec or jabeque, a pirate ship of the Caribbean.

This image gives an idea of the efficiency of the lateen sail — its ability to provide greater lift than other sail shapes are able to do.


This image shows the use of the halyard and block to raise the yard on the mast. It also shows that a small lateen-rigged boat can easily be sailed by one person.



Some sources:


Madagascar Dhows on the blog of the sailboat Marcy from Seattle, USA

Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, Department of the Navy -- Naval History and Heritage Command, Washington Navy Yard, Washington DC 20374-5060.

Basic Sailing Rigs shapes on the DIY Wood Boat web site

Sailing rigs (masts and sails) on the Transition Rig web site

Thread: Lateen on

Caravel on wikipedia

Tack (sailing) on wikipedia

Lateen on wikipedia

Forces on sails on wikipedia

Bermuda rig on wikipedia

Felucca on wikipedia

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

New York City, September, 1942

Here are photographs Marjory Collins took in September, 1942. I was then five months old and the United States had been at war for nine. The Office of War Information had been established the previous June and had immediately absorbed the photographic unit of the old Farm Security Administration. FSA had many fine photographers including Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, Gordon Parks, Ben Shahn, and Jack Delano. Collins was a recent hire. She'd been on the job only a few months before the unit moved to OWI. Nonetheless her approach to documentary photography was typical of the long-term members of the unit. In adopting photography as a career she had turned her back on the upper-middle-class suburban life, with its costly private schooling, in which she had been raised. In matters political she was a New Deal liberal. In matters social she rooted for the underdog. Like the other FSA/OWI photographers she had a knack for choosing photographic subjects that evoked the democratic ideals of fair play for minorities and outcast groups, a rebalanced legal authority permitting unions to stand up to powerful industrial interests, and reassessment of the proper place of women in American culture.

In 1942 OWI photographers supported the war effort by showing Americans making the rapid transitions that mobilization required. In September of that year members of OWI's photographic unit made images for instructional filmstrips on how to grow victory gardens and how to put up fruits and vegetables. They photographed people doing war mobilization work in shipyards, government offices, and factories. They took photo sets to accompany magazine articles on high school students learning civil defense skills, on newly enlisted soldiers adapting to life on base, and on migratory farm workers in West Virginia and upper New York State. OWI photos from September also show miners at the Anaconda Company in Montana, and fishermen in Gloucester, Massachusetts. There are images of the Grand Coolee Dam, of the launching of the S.S. Booker T. Washington, and of a lone sheepherder and his dog in the western mountains.

Marjory Collins' photos of September, 1942, were all taken in New York City. They show people waiting for trains on the Third Avenue El, relaxing on a sunny Sunday in Central Park, at work to prepare the daily editions of the New York Times, and meeting at a convention of maritime workers. Where the other OWI photographs tend to show a nation that is resolute in its determination to win the war, the ones Collins achieve another purpose: they tend to counter enemy propaganda that portrayed the US as a divided society run by gangsters and plutocrats where blacks and other minorities are kept in servitude and the poor are forced hopelessly to endure miserable conditions.

Here are some of them, all from collections in the Library of Congress. See whether you agree that they show a diverse society that has racial, economic, and cultural divisions but none so great as to threaten the nation's ability to achieve its war aims. Where enemy propaganda argued that only totalitarian regimes were able to control social conflict and prevent violence between the parties of the Left and Right, the photos that Collins took reveal a society where divisions exist but are nowhere near so sharp as to threaten the stability of the nation.

1. The New York Times. A few years ago I made a blog post of these images: NYT Sept 1942. Here's a shot from that set.

{Caption: Pressroom of the New York Times newspaper. Putting plates into presses before they start rolling}

2. In August, Collins had taken photos in the 34th Street station of the Pennsylvania Railroad. In September she photographed the 34th Street bus terminal. Here are a couple of images from that assignment.

{Caption: Boarding interstate buses at the Greyhound bus terminal, 34th Street}

{Caption: Boarding interstate buses at the Greyhound bus terminal, 34th Street}

Detail from this image:

3. She spent a warm and hazy Sunday afternoon taking photos in Central Park.

{Caption: Central Park common on Sunday}

{Caption: Central Park lake on Sunday}

{Caption: Central Park lake on Sunday looking east}

{Caption: Central Park lake on Sunday}

{Caption: Bicycling in Central Park on Sunday}

{Caption: The mall restaurant in Central Park on Sunday}

{Caption: Path in Central Park ramble on Sunday}

{Caption: Croquet game on Sunday in Central Park}

{Caption: Croquet game on Sunday in Central Park}

{Caption: Negro chauffeur walking a dachshund in Central Park}

{Caption: Near Central Park lake on Sunday}

{Caption: Drinking fountain in Central Park on Sunday}


4. Early one morning she took the 3rd Ave. El from 94th St. down to 13th.

{Caption: 94th Street. Station of the Third Avenue elevated railway at 8 a.m.}

{Caption: Third Avenue elevated railway station in the "Seventies" at 8:30 a.m.}

{Caption: Looking south on Third Avenue from the 59th Street (Bloomingdale's) station at 8:30 a.m.}

5. On what seems to have been the same shoot, she took photos in the vicinity of 3rd Ave and 14th St.

{Caption: Fourteenth Street under the Third Avenue and 14th Street}

{Caption: Bum who claimed to be Scotch comedian, at Third Avenue and 14th Street}

{Caption: The Bowery about 10 p.m.}

{Caption: Workers' bookshop in a building on 13th Street between University Place and Broadway, which is the headquarters of the Communist party. No mention of Communism appears in the display or on the building}

6. She also photographed activities in a Greenwhich Village salon.

{Caption: Receptionist making an appointment at Francois de Paris, a hairdresser on Eighth Street}

{Caption: Manicurist at Francois de Paris, a hairdresser on Eighth Street}

7. She attended a convention of the Marine and Shipbuilding workers' union. Unfortunately, only low resolution scans are available from that assignment.