29 July 2016

White elephant in Somerset

Hinkley Point in Somerset is planned to become the site of a massive new nuclear reactor project, currently budgeted at £18 billion. The project will be executed and funded by EDF and China, with the return guaranteed by a deal to buy the electricity produced at a 'strike price' almost three times the current market rate (£92.50 per MWh compared with £33).  This difference is estimated by the National Audit Office to be a £29.7 billion subsidy by consumers.  Last night (28th July) we heard  that the board of EDF had approved the deal and then shortly after, the welcome news that the UK Government had called a pause before contracts were signed. 
Photo grabbed from order-order.com

The deal shows the cynicism of the Department of Energy and of politicians, both Labour and Conservative/LibDem coalition, who were quite happy to commit future generations to pay a huge amount for electricity to solve their planning problems.  There is no way that Parliament would support a grant of £30 billion to EDF to build this plant; it may anyway have been an illegal state subsidy.  Instead it was proposed to take the money through households' electricity bills over a 35 year period, a stealth tax on every user. 

The  Hinkley Point C plant is due to produce 3200 MW using the new and unproven European Pressurised Reactor technology.  The first project for this reactor, in Finland, is currently 9 years late and £4 billion over budget.   Every other project is late and over budget.  No power is being produced commercially anywhere in the world with this design. 

What would be a better solution?  Submarines have been driven by small nuclear power plants for many years, and a similar Small Modular Reactor technology is now under development for civilian use.   These can be produced more or less on a production line, and sited closer to the end users, with benefits of the reuse of excess heat for municipal heating.   At say 160 MW each, only 20 would be needed to supply the same amount of power as Hinkley Point C.  Rolls Royce is a leader in this field.   Let's hope that the new UK Government stops the white elephant project in Somerset before too much more money has been sunk into it. 

22 September 2015

RWC 2015 - Day 3

Another exciting day of Rugby, and although the results were much more predictable than Saturday's, there are still some big implications for the rest of the tournament.

Match 6: Samoa v USA (25-16)
Samoa showed that they're going to be a competitor in this group.  Their direct and effective play will challenge both Japan and Scotland.  One highlight was a great right-to-left move at an attacking scrum that put Tim Nanai-Williams over in the corner, on the end of a grubber kick by Tusi Pisi. 

Match 7: Wales v Uruguay (54-9)

Wales won easily but at a big cost in terms of apparent injuries: Corey Allen is out of the squad with a torn hamstring, after scoring a hat-trick of tries.  Liam Williams, Samson Lee, Dan Lydiate, Aaron Jarvis and Paul James all had to leave the field. 

Well-managed match, which didn't become a penalty-fest in spite of the differences in skill levels between the sides.  Uruguay kept going until the end, great courage and spirit. 

Match 8: New Zealand v Argentina (26-16)

The crowd's booing of Richie McCaw aside, there was little to disappoint in this great clash between Southern Hemisphere sides.  Off the field - well, the service at the bars could have been a little better organised; how long can it take to take the tops off four plastic bottles of Heineken and exchange the result for a £20 note?  Someone told me afterwards that Murphy's stout was also available, but no other beers. 

Argentina played themselves to a standstill after leading for much of the game.  All Blacks' attack was very organised and patient.  They won't care that they didn't score a bonus point - all they need to do is win their matches, and no-one else in the group is likely to threaten that aim.

Wembley was brilliant, and the crowd was a record for a RWC pool match, almost 90,000.  England2015 and Transport for London were very well organised to help us get away in good time.  My own experience was this: we reached the back of the queue, 250 metres from the station at 18:55, and were on the (right) train at 19:17, at Waterloo and enjoying a beer (not Heineken) at 19:45.   

10 September 2015

Using TicketSource for Waverley Singers

Just been setting up the account to sell our tickets and this is a test for their Ticket Shop web app:

12 May 2015

Let's stop the Hooker's Shuffle

As a grass-roots referee, I want to see a safe and fair contest at the set piece. The scrum gets lots of attention, but the line-out is also a place of skullduggery.

Some teams consistently win their own lines through good throws, great timing and well executed drills. Others feel the need to add some insurance that takes away all possibility of a contest. It's sometimes said that the side that can't win its own line-outs can't win the match, so this can affect the outcome of important games. 

Here’s how it can happen:
  • a line-out is awarded to Red, at the mark made by the Assistant Referee
  • the referee marks the 5m line: either the line of touch, or where the players should stand, or both
  • the line-out players arrive and take up their positions; the Red hooker arrives, is handed the ball and a towel, dries the ball, listens to the call, confirms the call, discards the towel, and prepares to throw
  • often the AR moves to a different viewpoint, and the referee moves to the back of the line-out
  • Red hooker throws, ball won by Red
What's wrong with that? Blue didn't bother to compete, so why worry?
Simply, the hooker has been allowed to throw along a line (even if straight - who's checking?) that made it impossible for Blue to compete. Watch the hooker's feet after he receives the ball and first stands in the middle - each action includes a subtle shuffle, a boot-width, towards his own side. When he throws, it’s straight along his own players. There’s no contest: if Blue close the gap, that's a FK; if they cross the line of touch, offside (PK)

Normally line-out or scrum to Blue; however, if the referee judges the Red team to be standing on the line of touch (after all, their hooker is throwing along it!), FK for closing the gap.

There’s no fairness here: potential PK to Red versus Blue scrum (if offence is detected).

Solution - fix the line
Law 19.8(n) is specific – “Metre Gap: Each line of players must be half a metre on their side of the line of touch”. Nowhere does the Law allow the referee to say "Black, the line is yours" but this often happens.  Assistant Referees seem to have difficulty communicating the right place for the hooker to stand - often because the mark is ignored or conceded to one side or the other

This ploy spoils the game. 16 of every 30 players are forwards, and they should be allowed to compete as the Laws intend.

26 August 2014

Cliff's question

Last Saturday, we were standing on the balcony in pleasant August sunshine with a beer in hand, watching Petersfield's pre-season warm-up match against a Chichester XV, refereed by the excellent Mike Gill.  In the third quarter, Petersfield scored a try close to the near touchline.  The kicker brought the ball back to the 10 metre line to gain the extra two points for the conversion. Cliff asked why they brought the kick so far back, and I agreed - it looked too far.  Indeed the kick missed.

 Obviously, the reason that the kicker brings the ball back from the try line is to make the apparent target as big as possible.  The parallax effect means that the goal posts look wider apart as you move back, but at the same time the distance for the kick grows, making the kicker's task more difficult. What's the ideal distance to bring the ball back?  Is there a simple way to work this out in the heat of the match?  Probably every professional kicking coach knows this, and maybe there are doctoral theses on the subject, but here's my take on the question. 

The geometry is simple - the width of the target depends on the distance back from the try line and the distance of the mark made by the referee from the mid-point of the goal posts.  The width of the target can be shown as the angle viewed by the kicker from the point where the ball is placed.  So assuming that the pitch has been marked up properly and is rectangular in shape, the following table shows this angle for various positions (distances in metres, angles in degrees):

Offset from
centre line
0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35
Distance from try line 10 31.3 25.5 16.2 10.0 6.5 4.5 3.2 2.4
15 21.1 19.1 14.8 10.8 7.8 5.7 4.3 3.3
20 15.9 15.0 12.8 10.3 8.0 6.3 5.0 4.0
25 12.8 12.3 11.0 9.4 7.8 6.4 5.3 4.3
30 10.7 10.4 9.6 8.6 7.4 6.3 5.4 4.5
35 9.1 9.0 8.5 7.7 6.9 6.1 5.3 4.6
40 8.0 7.9 7.5 7.0 6.4 5.8 5.1 4.5
45 7.1 7.0 6.8 6.4 6.0 5.4 4.9 4.4
50 6.4 6.3 6.2 5.9 5.5 5.1 4.7 4.3

The widest angle for each 5 metre distance (wide and back) is highlighted in the table.  With the crossbar at a height of 3 metres, I don't think many people will choose to kick from closer than 10.

So on this basis, it looks as though the widest angle is always given by taking the ball back as far out as the mark is from the centre of the posts.  On a full-sized pitch, this means that a line through the crossing point of the 15 metre dashed lines (20 metres from the centre of the pitch) and the 22 metre line is very close to the best apparent target.  And conversions from the touchline should never be further back than about 5 metres short of the 10 metre line.

The other important factor in deciding whether to kick, and where from, is the distance.  A kick taken too far back will need a huge knock.  Here's the distance table with the same squares highlighted as in the table above:

Offset from
centre line
0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35
Distance from try line 10 10.0 11.2 14.1 18.0 22.4 26.9 31.6 36.4
15 15.0 15.8 18.0 21.2 25.0 29.2 33.5 38.1
20 20.0 20.6 22.4 25.0 28.3 32.0 36.1 40.3
25 25.0 25.5 26.9 29.2 32.0 35.4 39.1 43.0
30 30.0 30.4 31.6 33.5 36.1 39.1 42.4 46.1
35 35.0 35.4 36.4 38.1 40.3 43.0 46.1 49.5
40 40.0 40.3 41.2 42.7 44.7 47.2 50.0 53.2
45 45.0 45.3 46.1 47.4 49.2 51.5 54.1 57.0
50 50.0 50.2 51.0 52.2 53.9 55.9 58.3 61.0

So you can see that a 10 metre error in the positioning of a touchline conversion will change a 49.5 metre kick to 57 metres, as well as making the angle worse.  On the other hand, taking the same kick from just outside the 22 metre line will worsen the angle by only 0.3 degrees (next to nothing) and make the kick 6.5 metres shorter - could be important for some kickers. 

All of these calculations assume that a kicker can hoof the ball 50-60 metres - easier at altitude - and they ignore weather conditions and pitch slopes that will lead to a more complex decision-making process.  But it does look as though many kickers are making their task more difficult.

Feedback welcome.