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The Physics of Windsurfing

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You glide across the surface of the water at unbelievable speeds, steer towards a white capped wave, and then lift off like a bird, each muscle resisting against the force of the wind. Then you smash into the trough of the wave, leap up from near disaster, and look quickly for the next wave so you can do it all over again. This is the exciting sport of windsurfing.


Windsurfing began in the '60s when an aeronautical engineer and a scientist had a discussion. In 1969, the engineer presented an idea entitled "Wind Surfing: A New Concept in Sailing." This new concept involved releasing the mast from its fixed vertical position and allowing it to turn around its base (Now a days the vertical positioning is not fixed) The sailor then can both steer and balance the board through correct movements of the mast and sail. The early Windsurfer boards measured 12 feet (3.5 m) long and weighed 60 pounds (27 kg).


A sailboard is composed of a board and a rig. There is variation in modern sailboards; they generally range from 8 to 12 ft (2 to 4 m) and weigh between 7 to 18 kg; some have attained speeds of over 40 knots


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Punch a hole through both the top and bottom of the paper at the "X." (Be careful not to crease the paper at the fold.) Place the 15-cm straw through the hole you just punched. Use tape, if necessary, to hold the straw in place. Tie one end of the fishing line to the middle of a 7.5-cm straw. Pass the other end of the fishing line through the 15-cm straw which is attached to the paper. Pull the fishing line through and tie this end to the other 7.5-cm straw. The 7.5-cm straws will be your handles. On the other piece of paper, trace two copies of the airfoil shape below and cut out the shapes. Tape the shapes to the open ends of the "wing." The flat edge of the shapes should be on the bottom of the wing (see illustration). Taking the 7.5-cm straw handles, one in each hand, draw the fishing line tight and position it so the line is perpendicular to the floor. Make sure the flatter surface of the wing faces down. With your arms out in front of you, make a quick sweeping motion through the air. Be certain that the leading edge of the wing is in front.


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In the diagram, the vector TW represents the speed and direction of the true wind, BV represents the speed and direction of the boat and AW represents the speed and direction of the apparent wind. TW has a length representing 20 knots coming from the south. BV has a length representing 15 knots going to the east. AW is the result and represents the apparent wind relative to the boat. Its length represents 25 knots. The angle between AW and BV, shown as ^aw, is 53 degrees. The apparent wind therefore has a speed of 25 knots coming from a direction 53 degrees.

It is the apparent wind that acts on the sail, not the true wind.


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Response to the question

The candidates essay starts off with an engaging introduction, their description of windsurfing is interesting to read and grabs your attention. Though it is clear that this essay is going to be a discussion about windsurfing, there is no title ...

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Response to the question

The candidates essay starts off with an engaging introduction, their description of windsurfing is interesting to read and grabs your attention. Though it is clear that this essay is going to be a discussion about windsurfing, there is no title and the introduction leaves you feeling unclear as to what the premise of the essay is, this can be resolved by clearly stating exactly what your plan to discuss. That said the overall response to this topic is very well written and the candidate provides a detailed and in depth account of windsurfing and the physics involved.

Level of analysis

The candidate clearly understands what they are discussing, that includes the physics principles that they have mentioned. To be able to apply physics to a topic that you have not covered in class shows a good general understanding of the underlying principles and a dedication to your studies. In addition to this the candidate has clearly undergone independent research and this again shows dedication, plus the extra information included in this essay makes it more interesting to read. Furthermore the candidate uses images to help explain what they are discussing and they have included a model to demonstrate lift, this engages the reader and can help you explain complicated concepts. Unfortunately though, the candidate fails to write an appropriate conclusion, which the leaves the reader unsure of the purpose of the essay. A good conclusion summarises the key points from within the essay and specifies why these are important. It is also a good idea to give a personal response to the topic as your teacher/examiner is interested in what you have to say.

Quality of writing

This essay is laid out clearly and is written in coherent manor. In addition to this, technical terms are used accurately and there are no real issues with spelling, punctuation or grammar.

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Reviewed by pictureperfect 25/07/2012

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