Scientists aim to jet propel sailors to Olympic glory

October 14, 2005

British scientists claim to have discovered how their country can win more Olympic gold medals in sailing.

Physicists from University College London and Reading University have uncovered the mysteries of coastal wind jets - a power source they believe could boost sailors' performance by up to one and half times.

The jets are like rivers of fast-flowing air that form close to coasts.

They are thought to have helped the British sailing team to secure a gold medal in last year's Olympics in Athens.

The scientists recreated the jets in labs and found that if sailors raced close to the coast, their sails would pick up the jets and move faster.

They then discovered how to predict when the jets form and how strong they are, something sailors could rely on when creating a strategy for a race.

Andrew Orr, a research associate at UCL's space and climate physics department, said: "This could give the British team the upper hand.

"The jets can gust up to 40 per cent higher than normal wind speeds. They are sometimes only a few kilometres wide and consequently have often been under-predicted by weather forecasters.

"Improved understanding of them may enable us to optimise wind energy along our coasts. The next step is to develop a computer program to predict when the jets form.

"This, as well as helping our Olympic sailors to continue winning gold medals, will be a valuable resource for the forecasting of wind energy and for flood prevention."

The British scientists were helped by their peers at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany and the Laboratoire des Ecoulements Géophysiques et Industriels in France.

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