We all know about Moore's law, sometimes referred to as the law of exponential growth. Processor chips double in efficiency and halve in cost every 18 to 24 months. They've been doing this for over 50 years and they're not finished doing it yet.

Author and tech head supreme, Kevin Kelly, provides us with a list of 21 small technologies that follow a similar trajectory to Moore's law.

Among the technologies plotted are Digital Cameras plotted by pixels per dollar, DNA sequencing measured in dollars per pair, CPU power consumption in watts per square centimeter, and hard drive storage in Gigabytes per dollar.

Bit of a trend here? Kelly goes on to say that this effect really only applies to small technologies.

They become more efficient and cheaper as they get smaller. It doesn't apply to big things like ships, buses, space stations and aircraft.

Why?

Because as these things get bigger they require more energy, not less. And energy sources like batteries and solar panels don't increase their output exponentially as the technology advances. They only increase linearly.

Gordon Moore jokes that if the technology of air travel experienced the same kind of progress as Intel chips, a modern day commercial aircraft would cost $500, circle the earth in 20 minutes, and only use five gallons of fuel for the trip. However the plane would only be the size of a shoe box.

Digital Camera

RAM

DNA sequencing Dollar per pair 18

Wireless

Hard Drive Storage

pixels per dollar

megabytes per dollar

dollars per pair

Bits per second

Gig per dollar

12 months

16 months

18 months

12 months

20 months

Gordon Moore developed his theory of exponential growth in the increasing efficiency of processor chips over time by plotting just five points on a chart and then projecting a straight line into the future.

The progress in chip technology and the associated reduction in cost has followed the same curve for over 50 years at this point in time.

We can demonstrate that small technologies get cheaper/faster/more efficient over time at a surprisingly consistent and predictable rate (Moores Law). We can demonstrate that the same does not apply to large technologies

So what about sailing boats? The energy source if free, however we have to concede that we're not going to have a lot of influence over the exact characteristics of the energy source at any given time.

That issue aside is it possible we can make the sailing boats go faster and cost less over time like Kevin Kelly's small technologies?

If that it possible then sailing boats would be the only form of transport available to humans that follows such a trajectory.

How can we measure the increasing efficiency of sailboat performance? For one thing we can take a look at times for record breaking circumnavigations and compare that to the maximum speed of cars over the same time frame.

The chart above compares the increasing efficiency of sailing yachts as measured by elapsed times, compared with the top speed of motor cars over the same 43 year period.

The area chart above in dark green plots the circumnavigation times for 8 multihulls sailed single handed starting with Manureva in 1973-74 the bottom and finally with Macif's record breaking run of 42 days and 16 hours in 2017

The lighter green bar chart measures the maximum speed of cars measured over the same time period..

SOLO AROUND THE WORLD RECORD BREAKERS

Macif 2017 42 days, 16 hours, 40 minutes (red square at the top)

Sodebo Ultim'2016 49 days, 3 hours, 4 minutes

Idec 2 2007-8 57 days, 6 hours, 23 minutes

B&Q-Castorama 2004-5 71 days 14 hours, 18 minutes

Idec 2003-4 72 days 22 hours 54 minutes

Un Autre Regard 1988-89 125 days 19 hours 32 minutes

Kriter Brut de Brut 1986-87 129d 19h 17m

Manureva 129 days 19 hours 57 minutes 1973-74

From these numbers we can say that while cars only improved their top speed by 165%, sailing yachts quadrupled their performance.

Manureva; the first modern multihull to make a solo navigation, and for that matter almost certainly the first multihull ever to make a circumnavigation.

In 43 years the number of days for a solo circumnavigation has been reduced by just more than one day every year to decimate Manureva's time by a factor of 4.

In the 43 years from 1974 to 2017 the fastest cars didn't even double in performance. The Lamborghini Countach clocked 288 km/hr in 1974 while the Koenigsegg Agira RS clocked 447km/hr; just 1.65 times faster than the Countach.

From these numbers we can say that while cars only improved their top speed by 165%, sailing yachts quadrupled their performance.

Healy Elliot

104 MPH in 1946

Lamborghini Countach

182 MPH in 1972

Ruff CTR

212 MPH in 1987

Koenigsegg Agira RS

278 MPH in 2017

Even greater gains in efficiency for sailing boats are in the wings

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