Forces on sails

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Example of wind force on different sail types on different points of sail. Regattas in Cannes, 2006.

Forces on sails are primarily due to movement of air near and relative to the sails.

Understanding the forces on sails is important for the design and operation of the sails and whatever they are moving, sailboats, ice boats, sailboards, land sailing vehicles or windmill sail rotors.

Aerodynamic forces from air pressure differences and air viscosity acting near the sail occur along the entire surface of the sails, but can be summed into one net force vector. Net aerodynamic force may be decomposed with respect to a boat's course over water into components acting in six degrees of freedom. Two components with respect to wind direction can also be resolved: drag, which is the component directed down wind, and lift, which is the component normal to the wind and perpendicular to drag. This analysis is important to boat design, operation, balance, stability, seakindliness and seaworthiness.[1]

Briefly, when the sail is oriented at a right angle to the wind, as in a boat sailing downwind, the aerodynamic force is almost entirely derived from the form drag component - the wind "pushes" the sail along in the direction of the wind.

When the sail is arranged across or into the wind the sail acts as an airfoil. The resulting surface force includes a lift or pressure component normal to the sail surface as well as a tangential drag stress component. Various mathematical models explain the extent and direction of the aerodynamic force on the sail(s). By the law of conservation of momentum, the wind moves the sail as the sail redirects the air backwards .[2][3][4]


The analysis of the forces on sails takes into account the theoretical location of the propulsive force or centre of effort, the direction of the force, and the intensity and distribution of the aerodynamic surface force.

The fluid mechanics and aerodynamics airflow calculations for a boat are more complex than for a rigid winged aircraft. Structural analysis also is involved in modern optimal sail design and manufacture. Aeroelasticity models, combining computational fluid dynamics and structural analysis, are at the frontiers of sail study and design.[5] However, turbulence and detachment of the boundary layer are not yet fully understood.[6] Computational limitations persist.[7] The theoretical results are corrected by reality. So, wind tunnel scale model and full scale testing of sails are required for optimum sail design, function and trim.

Some complexities of boat sails:

  • The wind is not constant.
  • The boat is not traveling in uniform velocity.
  • There may be a mast in front of the sail, disturbing the airflow, although this may be mitigated by profiling it.
  • A mast is not infinitely stiff.
  • The boat profile and position influence the airflow.
  • A sail is usually made of thin and deformable fabric.
  • The air is viscous, causing losses by friction.
  • The flow of the air varies from slow to fast and turbulent to laminar.

Though some software algorithms attempt to model these complexities,[8][9][10] the following assumptions make the analysis much simpler:

  • the water more or less flat
  • the wind more or less constant
  • the sail is set and is not adjusted

Centre of effort[edit]

The point of origin of net aerodynamic force on sails is the centre of effort (or also centre of pressure). In a first approximate approach, the location of the centre of effort is the geometric centre of the sail. Filled with wind, the sail has a roughly spherical polygon shape and if the shape is stable, then the location of centre of effort is stable. The position of centre of effort will vary with sail plan, sail trim or airfoil profile, boat trim and point of sail.[11]

Direction of force on sails[edit]

The net aerodynamic force on the sail is located quasi at the maximum draught intersecting the camber of the sail and passing through a plane intersecting the centre of effort, normal to the mast, quasi perpendicular to the chord of the sail (a straight line between the leading edge (luff) and the trailing edge (leech)).

Net aerodynamic force may be decomposed into the three translation directions with respect to a boat's course in a seaway: surge (forward/astern); sway (starboard/port, relevant to leeway); heave (up/down). The force terms of torque in the three rotation directions, roll (rotation about surge axis, relevant to heeling). pitch (rotation about sway axis), yaw (rotation about heave axis, relevant to broaching) may be also derived. The scalar values and direction of these components may be very dynamic and dependent on many variables on a boat and in a seaway including the point of sail.[1]

The net force vector, \ F_T, is resolved into components in relation to course in a seaway with:

  • \ F_R = the driving force directed along the course sailed


  • \ F_H = the heeling force perpendicular to the course and the mast.

The heeling force can be resolved as a function of heel angle, \ \theta , to:

  • \ {F_{lat}} = {F_H} \times cos(\theta) , the lateral or leeway force


  • \ {F_{vert}} = {F_H} \times sin(\theta) , the vertical or heave force.

Net aerodynamic sail force can also be resolved into two components with respect to wind direction: drag, which is the component directed down wind, and lift, which is the component normal to the freestream wind and perpendicular to drag. The generation of lift and drag, components of \ F_T, and their contribution to boat motion are discussed below.

Pressure on the sail[edit]

For the purposes of modern sail making and study, pressure distribution measurements are done in wind tunnel and full scale experiments as well as in computer models.[12][13][14][15][16]

According to kinetic theory, at the microscopic level, air pressure is the result of collisions between perpetually moving air particles. Their energy, measured by temperature, determines their velocity. In still air, the average particle of air randomly moves around an imaginary fixed point in space, colliding with other particles without too much average movement away from this point. Wind is the particles moving in large numbers in the same direction. So, air pressure on a sail has two origins: temperature and the mechanical influence of wind.

Pitot tubes[17] and other types of manometers are used in wind tunnel and full scale testing to measure the differences between local static pressures at various points on the sail and atmospheric pressure (static pressure in undisturbed flow). Results are graphed as pressure coefficients (static pressure difference over wind induced dynamic pressure) to obtain windward "pressure" to leeward "suction" distribution curves along the mast/sail's chord.[18][19][20][21][22]

Role of atmospheric pressure[edit]

There are fewer air particles at high altitude. Collisions between slower, colder particles are less violent and less frequent. Thus, there is less pressure. At sea level there are more particles with more energy, resulting in more frequent and violent collisions, or higher pressure.

Close to the sail, collisions occur between sail and air particles. These collisions generate a force on the sail at sea level of about 10 tonnes-force per square meter of sail (101325 Pa). If the pressures on each side of a sail are perfectly balanced, the sail does not move.

Value of force[edit]

Forces of air on each side of the sail are due to:

  • On the windward side, atmospheric pressure, wind pressure, and virtually no depression due to wind.
  • On the leeward side, atmospheric pressure, a bit of depression and almost no wind pressure.

To simplify the manipulation of these forces, the forces are summed into a single force for the entire surface of the profile in a simple formula valid for airplane wings, rudders, sails or keels (see lift):

F = C \times E


  • E : force obtained with maximum wind (see Max Q);

According to the Bernoulli equation, the maximum stress of wind or maximum density of kinetic energy for the entire surface of the sail is:

E  = e_c \times S = Max Q  \times S = \frac12 \times \rho \times S  \times V^2

The full expression of the force is:

 F = \frac12 \times \rho \times S \times C \times V ^ 2


  • S  : typical surface. For the sail, it is the sail area in m²
  • C  : aerodynamic coefficient, which is dimensionless. It is the sum of two percentages: the percentage of recovered energy on the leeward side + the percentage of the recovered energy on the windward side.[26] For this reason, the aerodynamic coefficient can be greater than 1, depending on the angle of upwind sailing.
  • V : Speed is the speed of the wind relative to the sail (Apparent wind) in m/s.

The sail is deformed by the wind, taking an airfoil form. When the flow of air around the profile is laminar the telltales of the sail (tufts of yarn or ribbon attached to it) are stable, and the wind induced depression factor becomes crucial. Based on studies and theories of sail design:[27]

  • Depression on the upper (leeward side) represents two thirds of the aerodynamic force,
  • The pressure on the lower surface (facing the wind) represents one third of the aerodynamic force.

Breakdown of force: introduction to the concepts of lift and drag[edit]

The general form of the force F = \frac12 \times \rho \times S \times C \times V^2 is calculated or measured in an air stream, with speed as uniform as possible, arriving on the sail. The force is decomposed along three dimensions with respect to wind direction. The viscous air rubs on the airfoil, and creates resistance to movement. More importantly, this viscosity disrupts the air flow around the airfoil. This disturbance causes a considerable force perpendicular to the airfoil. Because the airfoil is not infinite in length, the ends also generate a force in the remaining dimension.

Airfoil diagram showing the relation of drag \ C_D and lift \ C_L to angle of attack. Lateral lift is almost never shown because the airfoil is treated as having infinite aspect ratio and measured values are low.

The breakdown according to three dimensions is:[28][29][30]

\vec{F} = \vec{F_x} + \vec{F_y} + \vec{F_z}.


  • \vec{x} : The axis parallel to the direction of particles' movement \ V not yet disrupted by the sail, that is, well before the particles arrive on the sail. Force projected on this axis \vec{x} is called drag. For convenience, the force has the same equation F_x = \frac12 \times \rho \times S \times C_x \times V^2. The aerodynamic coefficient is replaced by a coefficient, \ C_x, adapted to this axis. By nature this force is resistive, i.e. the profile takes energy from the air. In the literature \ C_x is also noted \ C_D, with D for drag.
  • \vec{z} : The axis perpendicular to the direction of movement of particles \ V not yet disrupted by the sail, and perpendicular to the wingspan.[31] Force projected on this axis \vec{z} is lift. For convenience the force has the same equation F_z = \frac12 \times \rho \times S \times C_z \times V^2, where the aerodynamic coefficient is replaced by a coefficient, \ C_z, adapted to this axis. The direction of this force with respect to the sail varies with the value of the incidence. In the literature \ C_z is also \ C_L with L for lift.
  • \vec{y} : The last axis. The force of the last axis is called lateral lift. The lateral lift's equation F_y = \frac12 \times \rho \times S \times C_y \times V^2. It is zero for an infinitely long airfoil. For a sail, the profile has two ends and thus the lateral air pressures are balanced perfectly. The airfoil shape is usually straight, long and thin, (bent airfoils such as the gull wing are rare) which creates a low lateral lift compared to the first two axes. In our case of a sailing boat, usually the side lift is negligible. The airfoil model is then reduced to a simpler two-dimensional system. ( Note, 3D effects are taken into account as they may have some influence. For example, the induced drag is a purely 3D but the modeling is done in 2D.) The case of a spinnaker is a perfect counter example. The spinnaker has a low aspect ratio and a high camber draught and it is difficult to determine clearly the axis of lift. The spinnaker generates forces along the three axes, and the vertical force has a great importance for pitching.

Lift's effect on the sail[edit]

To study the effect of lift we can compare cases with and without lift.[32] As an approximation of a gaff sail, take a sail that is rectangular and approximately vertical, with an area of 10 m² - 2.5 m of foot by 4 m of leech. The apparent wind is 8.3 m/s (about 30 km/h). The boat is presumed to have uniform velocity, no heel and no pitch and there are no waves. The density of air is set at: ρ = 1.2 kg/m³.

Sailing in stalled flow[edit]

The boat is running downwind. The shape of the sail is approximated by a plane perpendicular to the apparent wind.

The depression effect on the sail is second order, and therefore negligible. The remaining pressures are:

  • on the windward side atmospheric pressure and wind pressure
  • on the leeward side only the atmospheric pressure

Forces of atmospheric pressure cancel out. There remains only pressure generated by the wind.

Roughly speaking, collisions of particles on the sail forward all their energy from wind to 90% of the surface of the sail. This means that the Cz or aerodynamic lift coefficient is equal to 0.9.

F = \frac12 \times 1.2 \times 10 \times 0.9 \times 8.3^2 = 372 \ newton

Wind on sail could be modelled as a jet of air with the sail a deflector. In this case the theorem of momentum is applied. Effort on sail varies as a sinusoid of angle of attack, \alpha, with wind.[33][34][35][36] Force is F = \rho \times V^2 \times S_{air} \times \cos ( \frac{\pi}{2} - \alpha) [35][37][38]

At 90° and running downwind, force is maximal and S = S_{air} then F = \rho \times V^2 \times S , so C_D = 2 = C_{D_{max}}  .

In reality, C_{D_{max}} depends on the profile. The coefficient is set between around 1 to 2.[39] Two is also a good number for many rigid profiles [40] and around one is a good number for a sail.[41]

Sailing in attached flow[edit]

The boat is close hauled, with the sail set at, for example, 15° relative to the apparent wind. The camber of the sail creates a lift. In other words, the effect of depression on the leeward side comes into play. As air pressure forces cancel out, significant resulting forces are:

  • on the windward side wind pressure
  • on the leeward side wind depression

The only unknown to be determined is the drag coefficient. In a well trimmed sail the curve profile is close to optimal airfoil shape NACA 0012.[42][43] A less well trimmed sail, perhaps of older technology, will have greater draft with more camber. The coefficient of aerodynamic lift will be higher but the sail will be less efficient with a lower lift/drag ratio (L/D). The sail profile may be similar to NACA 0015, NACA 0018.[44]

For a given profile, there are tables which give the lift coefficient (Cz), which depends on several variables:

  • Incidence angle of apparent wind to sail profile,
  • The slope of lift of the sail, which depends on its Aspect ratio,
  • The surface roughness and Reynolds number, which affect the flow of fluid (laminar, turbulent).

The coefficient is determined for a stable and uniform fluid, and a profile of infinite extension.

The Reynolds number is:  \mathrm{Re} = {{\rho {\bold \mathrm U} L} \over {\mu}} = {{{\bold \mathrm U} L} \over {\nu}}


  •  U - fluid velocity or apparent wind [m/s]
  •  L - characteristic length - since this is a rectangular sail the length at any height will do, e.g. the foot of the sail [m]
  •  \nu - fluid kinematic viscosity:  \nu = \eta / \rho [m/s]
  •  \rho - air density [kg/m³]
  •  \mu - air dynamic viscosity [Pa] or Poiseuille [pl]

so for this sail about  \mathrm{Re} =  10^6

With an incidence angle of 15° and a Reynolds number of one million a NACA0012 profile reached a Cz of 1.5 (as opposed to 0.9 for 90° incidence).

F = \frac12 \times 1.2 \times 10 \times 1.5 \times 8.3^2 = 620 \ newton

The lift has increased by 50%. The force on the sheets and rig also increases by 50% for the same apparent wind.

Contribution of lift to the progress of the vessel[edit]

Detailed diagram outlining the boat velocity vectors (V), wind (W) and apparent wind (A) for a sailing boat.

When running downwind the direction of the apparent wind is equal to that of the true wind and most of the sail force contributes to the advancement of the ship. There is no sail lift, so the boat can not go faster than the wind, and propulsive force decreases gradually. When the ship approaches the speed of the true wind, the apparent wind speed and the force drop to zero.

In the cases with lift, the sail has an angle of incidence with the apparent wind. The apparent wind also forms an angle with the true wind. Similarly, wind creates an angle to the direction taken by the ship. Forces on the sail do not contribute fully to the advancement of ship. With a ship pointing close hauled, an example scenario is:

  •  \beta , angle between apparent wind and ship's course, is 40°.
  •  \alpha , incidence angle between apparent wind and sail chord, is 20°.
  •  \lambda , leeway, is nil.

(See diagram under section Lift/Drag. Upwind sail cut and trim for illustration and definition of relevant angles on upwind sailing.)

The lift force vector, perpendicular to the apparent wind, does not participate fully in the progress of the vessel. It forms an angle of 40° to the course sailed. The propulsive force vector is more than 76% of the total value. The remaining 36%[45] is perpendicular to the vessel, and generates leeway angle and heeling moment.

For the same sail with the same apparent wind speed, lift coefficient is 1.5 close hauled and 1 downwind. The vector of force towards advancement of the vessel remains 15% above cases without lift.

Velocity vectors boat, wind and apparent wind at different points of sail. For the same boat, apparent wind speed close hauled is much higher than downwind. Consequently close hauled speed is well over 15% of sailing downwind

The more the boat accelerates the more the apparent wind increases. So the force on the sail increases. At each speed increase apparent wind direction moves. So, re-trimming the sail is needed for optimum effect (maximum lift). The more the boat accelerates, the smaller the angle of the apparent wind to the direction of the ship. So sail force angle is less oriented towards the course of the boat, requiring bearing down a bit to gain maximum power sailing conditions. The ship can go faster than the true wind. The ship to wind angle can be quite small. Consequently the point of sail may approach the dead zone requiring the boat to back away from the wind.

Influence of apparent wind[edit]

When a ship is moving, its velocity creates a relative wind. The sum of the true wind and the relative wind is called the apparent wind. If the ship moves upwind, the two winds are cumulative, and the apparent wind is larger than the actual wind. Downwind, the effect is reversed, winds are subtracted and the apparent wind is lower than the true wind.

Influence of rigging tension on lift performance[edit]

Trimming a sail involves two parameters:

  • Angle of attack, or incidence. i.e. the angle of apparent wind to sail chord to create maximum lift, or a maximum L/D. This angle varies with sail height, which is aerodynamic twist.
  • Airfoil profile which is composed of: 1. Camber of the sail as defined as the ratio of maximum draft depth to chord length and 2. Draft position.

Sail set and shape is generally flexible.[46] When the sail is operating in lift, if a sail is not properly inflated and stretched, there are wrinkles on the sail. These folds form a break in the profile. The air does not slip along the sail. The air streams come off the airfoil profile. Areas of recirculation or turbulent separation bubbles appear. These areas considerably diminish the performance of the sail. The assumption of a non wrinkled profile will simplify sail analysis.

A sail may be rigid where the canopy is composed of non stretchy fiber. Tightening a flat piece of such cloth inflated by the wind results in folds at the attachment points. To avoid wrinkles, the sail could be tightened harder. The tension can be considerable to eliminate all wrinkles. So, in the case of a taut rigid sail, the inflated shape is static, hollow and with its draft position immobile.

The more elastic sail deforms slightly to its locations of high stress on the material, thereby eliminating wrinkles. The sail is no longer flat. Consequently, the sail can take several forms. By varying the tension of the sail, it is more or less empty. It is possible to vary the shape of the sail without folds. The potential sail shapes are intrinsically linked to the cut of the sail. So in the elastic case, there is a family of possible forms and draft depths and positions the sail may take.

Sailmakers try to build rigidity into sails for a predictable working shape with a degree of advantageous resilience depending on the sail's type, application and range: racing, cruising, high, moderate or variable wind, etc.

The airfoil profile of the sail changes depending on the sail trim. At a given incidence, the sail can take different forms. The shape depends on the rigging tensions such as on clew corner of the sail, the tack with Cunningham adjustment, the backstay, the outhaul, the halyards or the boom vang (kicking strap). These elements help determine the shape of the sail. More exactly, they can decide position of maximum draft along the camber of the sail.[47]

Each profile represents an appropriate value of Cz (lift coefficient). The position of the draft along the chord with the most lift is about 40% of the foot from luff. The leeward side of a sail is close to the NACA series 0012 (NACA 0015, NACA 0018, etc.) within the possibilities of trimming.

The position of the draft is not independent of the camber setting. These parameters are linked by the shape of sail. Modifying the camber modifies the position of the draft.


The curves of propulsive component of lift and heel versus the angle of attack vary with the camber of the sail, that is to say, the biggest draft depth relative to the chord of the sail. A sail with high camber has a higher aerodynamic coefficient and, potentially, a greater propulsive force. Though the heeling coefficient varies with draft depth in the same direction. So finding the optimal camber will be a compromise between achieving a large propulsive force and an acceptable list.[48] · [49]

Propulsive and heel aerodynamic coefficients and sail camber depth.

Note that with a small camber (1 / 20), performance degrades significantly. The propulsion coefficient plateaus around a ceiling of 1.0.

Draft position[edit]

The curves of propulsive lift and heel as a function of the angle of attack also depend on the position of the draft's proximity to the luff.[50] · .[51]

Propulsive and Heel aerodynamic coefficients, point of sail for varied masted mainsail draft positions. After Larsson and Eliasson wind tunnel data. Note a more forward position would likely suit the jib.

Influence of Aspect ratio and Sail Planform on Induced Drag[edit]

Sails are not infinitely long. They have ends. For the mainsail:

The transfer of air molecules from the windward pressured side to the leeward depressed side around the edge the thin sail is very violent. This creates significant turbulence, loss of pressure difference and loss of propulsion. On the end of a wing this is manifest as wingtip vortex. On a Bermuda sail, foot and leech are two areas where this phenomenon exists. The drag of leech is included in drag in the usual lift curves. The sail airfoil profile is considered as infinite (i.e. no ends). But foot drag is calculated separately. This loss of efficiency of the sail at the foot is called Lift-induced drag.

Influence on coefficients[edit]

Aspect ratio influences on driving and side forces at different points of sail. From wind tunnel data of C A Marchaj.

Lift-induced drag is directly related to the narrowness of the extremities due to premature stall over the heavily loaded short chord profile. The longer is the narrow head, the higher is induced drag. Conversely, the sail can be reefed, i.e. reduce surface of the sail without reducing the length of the head. This means that value of the lift-induced drag will be substantially the same. For a given length of head, the more sail area, the lower is the ratio of lift-induced drag on lift. The more elongated the sail, the less lift-induced drag alters value of the lift coefficient.

The curved shape of the mast and the battens to maintain the curved profile of the leech are clearly visible in this picture of a windsurfing sail.

Lift-induced drag on the sail also depends on aspect ratio, λ. The equation is defined:[52]

\lambda = {b^2 \over S}


  • b the length of luff
  • S the surface area of the sail.

Lift-induced drag is:

Ci = {{Cz^2}  \over {\pi \times \lambda \times e}}


  • Cz : Lift coefficient of airfoil
  •  \pi  :  pi \approx 3.1416
  •  \lambda  : Aspect ratio (wing) (dimensionless)
  •  e  : Oswald efficiency number (less than 1) which depends on the distribution of lift over the sail span. "e" could be equal to 1 for an "ideal" distribution of lift (elliptical). Elliptically shaped ends help reduce induced drag. In practice "e" is the order of 0.75 to 0.85. Only a three-dimensional model and tests can determine the value of "e".

Optimal distribution for maximum reduction of lift-induced drag is elliptical in shape.[53][54] Accordingly, the luff will be elliptical. So, the mast is not straight as on a classic boat, rather designed with the closest possible form to an ellipse. An elliptically configured mast is possible with modern materials. This is very pronounced on surfboards. On modern sailboats the mast is curved thanks to shrouds and backstays. Similarly, the leech will be elliptical.[55] This profile is not natural for a flexible sail. So, mainsails have battens to maintain this roach curve.

An ideal lift-induced drag distribution creates an elliptical sail. But current sails are rather a half-ellipse, as if the second half part of the ellipse was completely immersed in the sea. This is logical because, as wind speed is nil at the sea level (0 m), the sea is equivalent to a mirror from an aerodynamic point of view.[56] So only half an ellipse in air is necessary.

Influence on efforts[edit]

Formulae are :

F_L = \frac12 \times \rho \times S \times C_L \times V^2
F_i = \frac12 \times \rho \times S \times C_i \times V^2
Ci = {{C_L^2} \over {\pi \times \lambda \times e}}
\lambda = {b^2 \over S}

Then :

F_i= F_L^2/ (0.5 \times\rho \times V^2 \times e \times b^2 )

This result is important(cf. Lift/Drag ratio and Power paragraph). The induced drag force (not coefficient) is independent of aspect ratio (\lambda ). In sailing, lift is quite often limited by the maximum righting moment. Since induced drag force doesn't depend on \lambda , but does depend on the lift coefficient (C_L ) which depends on sail area, for optimal performance \lambda may be changed while keeping span the same. This concept is often used by airplane designers.


Influence of the height of the foot relative to sea level[edit]

The gap between the edge of the sail and the sea surface has a significant influence on performance of a Bermudan type sail. In effect it creates an additional trailing edge vortex. The vortex would be nonexistent if the border were in contact with the sea. This vortex consumes extra energy and thus modifies the coefficients of lift and drag. The hole is not completely empty, as the sail is partially filled by the freeboard and superstructure of any sailboat.

For a height between the edge of the sail and the deck of the sailboat of 6% of the length of the mast, changes are:

  • a 20% increase in the drag coefficient
  • a 10% loss in the lift coefficient.[58]

The crab claw sail may partially circumvent this problem by harnessing the delta-wing's vortex lift.

Shape of luff, leech, and foot[edit]

A sail hauled up has a three-dimensional shape. This form is chosen by the sailmaker. The 3D shape is different for the hauled up form compared to when empty of wind. This must be taken into account when cutting the sail.

The general shape of a sail is a deformed polygon. The polygon is slightly distorted in the case of a Bermuda sail and heavily distorted in the case of a spinnaker. The shape of edges empty is different from shape of edges once the sail is hauled up. Convex empty can go to straight edge when the sail is hauled up.

Edges can be:

  • convex
  • concave
  • straight

When the convex shape is not natural (except for a free edge in a spinnaker), the sail is equipped with battens to maintain this pronounced convex shape. Except for the spinnaker with a balloon shape, the variation of edge empty compared to straight line remains low, a few centimeters.

Once hauled up, an elliptical sail would be ideal. But as the sail is not rigid:

  • You need a mast, which for reasons of technical feasibility, needs to be quite straight.
  • Flexibility of the sail can bring other problems, which are better to fix at the expense of an ideal convex elliptic shape.


On a Bermudan type sail the oval is the ideal (convex), but a concave shaped leech improves the twist at the top of the sail and prevents overpowering the top of the sail in the gusts, thereby improving the boat's stability. The concave leech makes sailing more tolerant and more neutral. A convex shape is an easy way to increase the sail area (roach). Marchaj[59] discusses crescent shaped foils like a raked wing tip device as seen on various fish fins, Brazilian jungada sails, crab claw sails, and America's cup boat Stars and Stripes to reduce lift induced drag.


Once hauled up, the edge must be parallel to the forestay or mast. Masts and spars are very often, except in windsurfing, jangada boats, and proas, straight. So, a straight luff is usually needed.

But the draft of the sail is normally closer to luff than foot. So to facilitate the implementation of draft of the sail when hauled up, the empty form of luff is convex.[60] This convexity is called the luff curve. Sometimes rigging is complex and the mast is not straight.[61] In this case, the shape of luff empty can be convex at bottom and concave at the top.


Foot form has little importance, particularly on sails with a loose foot or free edge. Its shape is more motivated by aesthetic reasons. Often it is convex empty to be straight once hauled up. When the border is attached to a spar or boom a convex shape is preferred to facilitate formation of draft of the sail. On retractable booms, the shape of the edge of the border is chosen based on technical constraints associated with the reel than consideration of aerodynamics. A winglet[62] as used on airplanes to minimise lift induced drag is so far not practically seen on sails.

Relationship of lift coefficient to angle of incidence: polar diagram[edit]

Polar curves showing the relationship between lift and drag for sails of aspect ratios 6, 3, 1 and 1/3 over varied incidence angles.

The aerodynamic coefficients of the sail vary with angle of attack (incidence of chord to apparent wind). The analysis on a polar diagram correlates to the respective lift and drag components of aerodynamic force:

  • The component perpendicular to the apparent wind is called the lift coefficient;
  • The component parallel to the apparent wind is called the drag coefficient.

Each incidence angle corresponds with a single lift-drag pair.

Summarising the behaviour of the sail at varying incidence:[63]

  • When the sail is loose, this is the equivalent to having no sail. Lift and drag from the sail are effectively null.[64]
  • When the sail is perpendicular to the wind, the air movement is turbulent.[65] This is the case of no lift and maximum drag.
  • These are the intermediate cases:
    • Sail loose to maximum lift: the flow is attached, i.e. there is an airfoil. There are no eddies (dead zones) created on the sail. It is noted in the case of a good well trimmed sail, maximum lift is greater than maximum drag.
    • Maximum lift to maximum dead zone: the wind does not stick properly to profile of the sail. Flow is less stable. Air becomes gradually lifted or taken off. This creates an area on leeward side, a dead zone where depressions form on the sail. At typical angle, dead zone has invaded the leeward side.
    • The dead zone to maximum drag: Dead zone has invaded the whole face on the leeward side, only on the windward side is there an effect. Air in these high angles, is somewhat deviated from its trajectory. Air particles are just crashing on all surfaces of windward side. Force is almost constant, so the polar sailing describes an arc of a circle.

As the lift is more effective than drag in contributing to the advancement of ship, sail makers trying to increase the zone of lift, i.e. increase force of lift and angle of incidence. The task of a knowledgeable sailmaker is to decrease the size of the dead zone at high angles of incidence, i.e. to control the boundary layer.[66]

Influence of altitude: aerodynamic twist and sail twist[edit]

The gaff schooner Bluenose.

The rapid increase of the wind speed with altitude will increase both apparent wind speed and its angle of incidence to course sailed, (β).[67][68] When using sails with lift, the sail must be twisted to have a consistent angle of incidence of sail with apparent wind, (α), along the leading edge (luff). This results in the lower sail chords being at smaller angles to the course sailed, (β - α), ( see decomposition of forces diagram below) than the upper chords to compensate for the smaller β angle closer to the deck.

The air moves primarily in slices parallel to the ground or sea. While air density can be regarded as constant for our calculations of force, this is not the case for wind speed distribution. Wind speed will increase with altitude. At the sea surface, the difference of speed between air particles and water is zero. The wind speed increases strongly in the first ten meters.[69][70][71][72] KW Ruggles gives a generally accepted formula for the relation of the wind speed with altitude:

U = \frac {\mu'} {k}  \ ln ( \frac {z + z0} {z0}) [73][74][75]

With data collected by Rod Carr[76] the parameters are:

  • k = 0.42,
  • z altitude in meters;
  • z0 is an altitude that reflects the state of the sea, i.e. the wave height and speed:
    • 0.01 for 0-1 Beaufort;
    • 0.5 2-3 Beaufort
    • 5.0 to 4 Beaufort;
    • 20 5-6 Beaufort;
  • \mu' = 0335 related to viscosity of air;
  • U m / s.

In practice, the twist must be adjusted to optimize the performance of the sail. The primary means of control is the boom for a Bermuda mainsail. The more the boom is pulled down, the less twist. For the foresail, depending on the rig, twist is controlled by adjusting jib leech tension through sheet tension adjustments of: sheet angle with sheet block track (fair lead) position, jib halyard tension, jib Cunningham tension, or forestay tension.[77][78]

Influence of the roughness of the sail[edit]

As on a hull or wing, roughness plays a role on the performance of the sail. Small humps and hollows may have a stabilizing effect or facilitate stalls as when switching from laminar to turbulent flow. They also influence friction losses.

This area is the subject of research in real and wind tunnel conditions. It is currently not simulated numerically. It appears that at high Reynolds number, well chosen roughness prolongs the laminar mode incidence a few degrees more.[79][80]

Influence of the Reynolds number[edit]

The Reynolds number is a measure of the ratio of inertial forces to viscous forces in moving fluids. It also indicates degrees of laminar or turbulent flow. Laminar flow occurs at low Reynolds numbers, where viscous forces are dominant, and is characterised by smooth, constant fluid motion. Turbulent flow occurs at high Reynolds numbers and is dominated by inertial forces.

The stronger the wind, the more the air particles tend to continue moving in a straight line, so are less likely to stick to the wing, making the transition to turbulent mode nearer. The higher the Reynolds number the better the performance of the sail (within other optimal parameters.)[81]

The lift force formula F = \frac12 \times \rho \times S \times C \times V^2 is practical and easy to use. The aerodynamic lift coefficient, C, depends on wind speed, V, and surface characteristics. The lift coefficient depends on Reynolds number as shown in the tables and polar diagrams. The Reynolds number is defined by  \mathrm{Re} = {{{\bold \mathrm U} L} \over {\nu}} . The Reynolds number depends on wind speed, U, and length, L, travelled by the air (characteristic chord length) and kinematic viscosity, {\nu}. But the influence of the Reynolds number is second order relative to other factors. The performance of the sail changes very little for a variation of the Reynolds number. The influence of very low Reynolds number is included within the tables (or chart) by plotting the lift coefficient (or drag) for several values of the Reynolds number (usually three values).

Increasing the incidence or the maximum lift coefficient by good choice of the Reynolds number is very interesting but secondary. The Reynolds number depends only on three parameters: speed, viscosity and length:

Viscosity is a physical constant, it is not an input variable for optimisation.

Wind speed is a variable of optimisation. It is obvious that we look for the highest possible wind speed on the sail for sailing maximum force much more than for reasons of Reynolds number. This parameter has already been optimised.

The sail is inherently inelastic and of fixed size. So, the characteristic length is fixed for a given sail. Length optimisation is the responsibility of the naval architect, except for sail changes by the sailor. Performance tuning of the sails by varying the characteristic length of the Reynolds number is masked by the optimisation of other parameters, such as looking for better sailing performance by adjusting the weight of the sails. The weight of the sail is an important point for the balance of the ship. Just a little more weight in the higher part of the sail may create a major change affecting the balance of the ship. Or, for high winds, the sail fabric must resist tearing, so be heavy. The sailor is looking for a set of sails adapted to each range of wind speeds for reasons of weight more than for reasons of Reynolds number: jib, storm sail, main sail, spinnaker, light genoa, heavy genoa, etc. Each wind speed has its sail. Higher winds tend to force small characteristic lengths. The choice of the shape of the sails and therefore the characteristic length is guided by other criteria more important than the Reynolds number. The price of a sail is very high and therefore, limits the number of sails.

The coefficients of lift and drag, including the influence of the Reynolds number, are calculated by solving the equations of physics governing the flow of air over a wing using computed simulation models. The results found are well correlated with reality, less than 3% error.[82]

Lift/Drag ratio and Power[edit]

Example of sailboat racing upwind, making the crew trapeze to decrease the heel.

Polar curves of lift versus drag initially have a high slope. This is very well explained by the theory of thin profiles. The initial constant drag and lift slope becomes more horizontal, as maximum lift is approached. Then at higher angles of incidence a dead zone appears, reducing the effectiveness of the sail. The goal of the sailor is to set the sail in the incidence angle where the pressure is maximum. Considering the proper tuning for a Bermuda-rigged boat, it is rare to set a sail with theoretical optimum L/D. The apparent wind is not constant for two reasons: wind and sea. The wind itself is not constant, or even simply variant. There are swings in the wind, there are gusts of wind and wind shifts. Even assuming constant wind, the boat can be raised with the swell or wave, the top of the sail finding faster winds, or in the troughs there is less wind. Up or down a wave the boat pitches, that is to say, the top of the sail is propelled forward and back constantly changing the apparent wind speed, relative to the sail. The apparent wind changes all the time and very quickly. It is often impossible to adapt to sea conditions with correspondeningly fast adjustments of the sails. Therefore, it is impossible to be at the theoretical optimum. This is not necessarily a disadvantage as the "pumping" phenomenon of abrupt changes in incidence has been shown to increase lift beyond the steady flow situation.[83] Nevertheless, setting to the maximum optimum may prove quickly disastrous for a small change in wind. It is best to find an optimum setting more tolerant to changing conditions of apparent wind, state of equipment and weather.

The important parameter influencing the type of sail trim is the shape of the hull. The hull shape is elongated to provide a minimum of resistance to progress. We need to consider effects of wind on direction of the hull tilt: forward (pitch) or heel (roll). Downwind, sailing thrust is oriented in the direction of travel so will result in a forward pitch. Maximizing sail area may be important as the heeling force is minimal. The situation changes if part of the force is perpendicular to the vessel. For the same force as sailing downwind, the force perpendicular to the vessel may result in a substantial heel. Under heavy list, the top of the sail does not take advantage of stronger winds at altitude, where the wind can give maximum energy to sail and boat.[71][84][85][86][87]

The heel phenomenon is much more sensitive than sail induced pitching. Accordingly, to minimize the list, the type of setting will be different close to the wind versus downwind: Close hauled, the setting is for L/D. When sailing downwind, the setting is for power.

Performance limitations of a sail[edit]

A sail can recover energy of the wind. Once the particles have passed their energy to the sail, they must give way to new particles that will in turn give energy to the sail. As the old particles transmitting energy to the sail evacuate, these particles have retained a certain energy in order to escape. The remaining energy of the particle is not negligible. If the old particles evacuate too soon to make way for new particles, these particles carry with them a lot of energy. They then hand the sail less energy. So there is little energy per unit time, or power, transmitted to the sail. Conversely, if the old particles evacuate too slowly they certainly convey a lot of energy to sail but they prevent the new transmission of power. So there is little power transmitted to the sail. There is a balance between incoming particle speed and exit velocity, giving maximum power to the sail. This limit is called the Betz limit  :

 P_{extractable}^{max}=\frac{16}{27}.P_{arriving on sail}

with  P_{arriving on sail} =
P_{kinetic} = \frac{1}{2}.\rho.S.v_{incident}^3 \,


\rho  : fluid density (1.23 kg / m³ in air at 20 °C)
S: surface wind "cut" by the sail m²
v_{incident}  : speed incident (upstream) of the fluid in m / s, ie the apparent wind speed.

So the sail can not recover more than 60% of the energy in the wind. The rest being used to evacuate the air parcels off the surface of the sail. Note that the surface of the Betz limit is not the surface of the sail but the surface wind "cut" through the sail.[88]

The formula for the force on the sail is F = \frac12 \times \rho \times S \times C \times {V_{apparent wind}}^2


\ S is a characteristic surface in the case of sail on the surface of the chord.

\ C is the aerodynamic coefficient.

\ C \times S represents the percentage of energy recovered over the upper(outer) surface multiplied by the upper(outer) surface area plus the percentage of energy recovered from the lower surface multiplied by the surface area of the lower(inner) surface. By definition for a sail, the fabric is thin, so the upper surface area is identical to the lower surface area. Considering the sail as inelastic, the sail airfoil is relatively thin. The camber of the sail can be very important in lift mode lest the airflow comes off the airfoil and thus decreases the performance of the sail. Even for a highly deformed spinnaker, the spinnaker must be set to catch maximum wind. The upper surface area or the lower surface area are approximately equal to the surface area through the chord. The surface area of the sail is approximated to the surface area through the chord \ S. So the drag coefficient \ C has upper limit 2.

On the other hand, the apparent wind is related to the true wind from the formula:

 {V_{true wind}}^2 =  {V_{apparent wind}}^2 + {V_{boat}}^2 -2 \times V_{apparent wind} \times V_{boat}
 \times cos (\beta  -\pi)

with  \beta, the angle between true wind and the direction of movement of the boat in radian.

The apparent wind depends on the true wind and boat speed. The true wind speed is independent of the boat. The boat can take any apparent wind speed. So if the sailor increases the apparent wind with the true wind fixed, the boat speed increases, with some practical limits.

Research is intended to improve the speed of boats. But improvements are limited by the laws of physics. With all the advanced technology available, the aerodynamic coefficient has a theoretical limit, which limits the recoverable force at constant speed. Recovered energy from the wind intercepted by the canopy is limited to 60%. The only way for the sailor to go faster is to increase the energy recovered per unit time (or power ) by increasing the surface wind intercepted by the canopy. Without going into calculations, the faster the boat moves, the more the surface area intercepted increases, the vessel has more energy per unit of time, it goes even faster. If the boat is faster, the area intercepted is even greater. It gets even more energy. It goes even faster than before. The boat then enters a virtuous cycle. If the apparent wind increased indefinitely. with no heeling problem and hull resistance, the boat would accelerate indefinitely. The other possibility is to increase the area of the sails. But, the sailor can not increase the surface of the sails indefinitely. Increasing the surface area of sail, the responsibility of the naval architect, is limited by the strength of materials.

Lift/drag. Upwind sail cut and trim[edit]

Decomposition of force on sailing upwind: Apparent wind (W) at incidence, (α) and angle to course sailed (β). Aerodynamic force (A). Lift (C), perpendicular to flow. Drag (B), parallel to flow. C1 is portion of lift propelling the boat and C2 the portion causing heeling and leeway (λ). Drag (B) will also contribute to heeling, leeway and reduce propulsion.

In the example of upwind sailing, the apparent wind, with incidence, α, to the sail chord, is at an angle, β, to the course sailed. This means that:

  • a (small) part of the drag slows the boat.
  • the other part of the drag of the sail is involved in the vessel's heel and leeway, λ.
  • much of the lift of the sail contributes to the advancement of the vessel,
  • the other part of the lift of the sail is involved in the vessel's heel and leeway.[89]

Sailing high to the wind generates a perpendicular heeling force. Naval architects plan optimum heel to give maximum forward drive. Technical means used to counter the list include ballast, hydrofoils and counter ballasted keels. Heel can be almost completely offset by the counter- heel technology such as boom / swing keel, type of hydrofoil, etc. These technologies are costly in money, weight, complexity and speed of change of control, so they are reserved for elite competition. In normal cases, the heel remains as extra ballast begins to decrease forward drive. The architect must find a compromise between the amount of resources used to reduce the heel and the heel remaining reasonable. The naval architect often sets the optimal heel between 10° and 20° for monohulls.[90] As a result, the sailor must stick as much as possible to the best heel chosen by the architect. Less heel may mean that the boat is not allowing maximum sail performance. More heel means that the head of the sail drops, thus reducing pressure, in which case the sailing profile is not the best.

The sailor desires optimum heel, a heel giving optimum perpendicular force for the best resulting driving force and to minimise the ratio of perpendicular force to driving force.

This ratio depends on the point of sail, incidence, the drag and lift for a given profile.

As the lift is the main contributor to the force that drives the boat, and drag usually the main contributor to perpendicular heeling and leeway forces, it is desirable to maximise the L/D.

The point of sail depends on the course chosen by the sailor. The point of sail is a fixed parameter, not a variable of optimisation. But each apparent wind angle relative to the axis of the ship has a different optimum settings.

The sail trimmer will first select the trim profile giving maximum lift. Each profile corresponds to a different polar diagram. A sail is generally flexible, the sailor changes the trim through:[91]

  • the position of the draft of the sail by adjusting the elements acting on the tension of the fabric of the sail
  • adjusting twist of the sail using the leech tension lines such as boom vang or jib sheet angle adjustment.

Many polar curves exist for the possible sail twists and draft positions. The goal is choosing the optimal one.

The twist will be set for constant incidence angle along the luff for maximum sail performance, remembering that apparent wind strength and angle varies with altitude.

The best L/D is usually obtained when the draft is as far forward as possible. The more forward the draft, the greater the angle of incidence over the luff area. There comes an attack angle when the air streams do not stick to the sail, creating a dead zone of turbulence which reduces the efficiency of the sail. This inefficient zone is located just after the luff on the windward side. The tell tales in this area become unstable.[92] The flatter the stretched fabric over the sail is, the less the draft. The yacht has several elements acting on the tension of the fabric of the sail:

  • Cunningham tension,
  • the tack,
  • the head point,
  • the clew of the sail.
  • the backstay,
  • shrouds. They act indirectly.

These elements can interact. For example, backstay tension also affects the tension of the head point and therefore the shape of the luff. Both high clew sheet tension tightening the foot and a tighter backstay cause slackening of the leech.

For a flexible sail, the camber of the sail and position of the draft are linked. This is a result of their dependence on shape of the cut of the sail. The camber is a major factor for maximising lift. It is the naval architect or sail maker that sets the cut of the sail for the draft-camber relationship. The thickness of the airfoil profile corresponds to the thickness of sail fabric. Variations in thickness of a sail are negligible compared to the dimensions of the sail. Sail thickness is not a variable to optimise. Contrast mast thickness and profile which are much more important.[93]

For the naval architect the sail-shape offering a large L/D is one with a large aspect ratio. (see previous polar diagram) This explains why modern boats use the Bermudan rig.

Sail drag has three influences:

  • induced drag (see influence of aspect ratio on the lift). As the profile is not of infinite length, the ends of the sail, foot and head, equalise the depression of the leeward surface with the pressure of the upwind surface. This dissipated pressure balance becomes the induced drag.
  • friction drag, related to boundary layer laminar turbulent flow and roughness of fabric
  • form drag, related to choice of the airfoil profile, camber, draft position, and mast profile
  • (parasitic drag is related to parts extraneous to the sail, but may influence rigging, boat and sail design)

Prandtl's lift theory applied to thin profile is less complex than the resolution of Navier-Stokes equations, but clearly explains the aspect ratio's effect on induced drag. It shows that the principal factor influencing L/D is induced drag. This theory is very close to reality for a low-impact thin profile.[94] Smaller secondary terms include the form drag and friction drag. This theory shows that the factor with main influence is aspect ratio.[95] The architect chooses the best aspect ratio for best sailing, confirming the choice of Bermudan rig. The sailor's choice of sail trim affects the factors of secondary importance.

A higher L/D means less drag, for the same heeling force. The maximum L/D will be preferred. So among the remaining profiles that give maximum lift, the sailor selects the profile with maximum L/D (draft forward on the sail). Now that the profile of the sail is set, it remains to find the point of the polar diagram of the profile giving the maximum forward force to the vessel, that is to say the choice of the angle of incidence.

On a triangular sail the zone of maximum lift coefficient (0.9 to 1.5) has two characteristic points (see Marchaj's polar diagram above, and[13]):

  • Point 1: the maximum L/D (0 to 5° incidence, the correct zone)
  • Point 2: maximum lift (15° incidence on the polar diagram).

As total aero and hydrodynamic drag slows the boat, it is necessary that the portion of the lift that moves the boat is greater than the contribution of the total drag:

{F_{p}} = L \times sin(\beta) -{D_{t}} \times cos(\beta) > 0

and  {D_{t}} = {(L/D)_{\alpha}} ^{-1} \times L

hence \ {(D/L)_{\alpha}}  < tan(\beta)


  • \ \alpha incident angle between the chord of the sail and the apparent wind,
  • \ \beta angle between apparent wind and boat's course made good (including leeway).
  • \ {(L/D)_{\alpha}} Lift/Drag of sail at α
  • \ {F_{p}} propulsive force
  • \ {D_{t}} total of aerodynamic and hydrodynamic drag
  • \ {L} lift

This means that we[who?] should not increase incidence beyond the point of the polar curve or decrease the tangent at this point less than the tangent of β. Hence between the maximum L/D noted point 1 (end of correct zone) and a L/D of tan(β) noted point 2. The evolution of the propelling force is as follows: at 0° incidence to point 1 both forward force and heel increase linearly. Point 1 to the optimum forward force still leaves the polar curve flattening, which mean that the drag slowed the boat's progress more than lift adds. But overall as the heel increased, the sail has a lower apparent wind. The top of the sail is no longer at the altitude of fast winds. From the optimum point to point 2, forward force decreases until it becomes zero, the ship stands up. Optimal adjustment of incidence is between point 1 and point 2. The optimum point depends on two factors:

  • changes in the L/D
  • changes in the heel.

The sailor will find a compromise between these two factors between points 1 and 2. The optimum operating point is close to point 1 and close-hauled, where the heel is dominant factor. Since it is difficult to heel on a broad reach, the optimum will be closer to point 2.

Note that the L/D is determined through the polar of the sail. The polar is determined regardless of the apparent wind speed, yet the heel is involved in setting speed (wind in the sail), so the L/D of the polar of the sail does not depend on the heel.

Oops! Heel is too much for the smooth running of the yacht.

The position of the draft is the dominant factor in the search for the optimum. All the knowledge of ocean racing is to advance the draft forward. With a setting of "too much", the sail answers. The optimum trim is always on the verge of dropping out. The jib luff lift and main leech lift are so very important. At this optimum the main leech and jib luff tell tales are horizontal and parallel to the surface of the sail.[107][108][109]

The purpose of trimming the boat is to have maximum propulsive force (Fp). A simple way might be to set a giant sail, except the boat will capsize due to Fc, the capsize force. The ratio Fp/Fc is an important consideration.

In summary, at points of sail where lift acts, the L/D is determined by the height of the sail, sail fabric and cut, but especially good sail trim. Close-hauled, there can be variations in the L/D of 100% comparing one sailing crew to another. In the race, boats are often close in performance (the role of racing rating rules). The dominant factor for the speed of the boat is the crew. The L/D is not a secondary concept.[110][111][112]

A sail boat can drift, this leeway creates lift from the submerged form, the force used to counteract the force pushed perpendicular to the sail. So in other words, minimising the heel also amounts to minimising the leeway of the ship. Minimising leeway gives better upwind performance. The L/D of a yacht enhances its ability to go upwind.

Similarly, the concept of balancing L/D, is in various forms:

  • trimming the boat for optimal sailing upwind,
  • Fp / Fc, the inverse of capsizing tendency,
  • design capacity of the boat to go upwind,
  • L/D of the sail, or slope of the polar.

Power. Downwind sail cut and trim[edit]

Decomposition of the aerodynamic sail force to forward, and lateral components at different points of sail.

Downwind sailing forces tend to pitch the boat forward. Heeling (rolling axis) forces are less important (in theoretical steady state conditions only). The apparent wind is at an acutely aft angle to the axis of the ship. The chord of the sail is roughly square to the axis of the ship. So:

  • much of the sail's drag contributes to the advancement of the ship
  • the other part of the sail drag is involved in the vessel's heel
  • much of the lift is involved in slowing the vessel,
  • the other part of the lift is involved in the vessel's heel.[13]

The optimum setting depends on the apparent wind angle relative to the course. The sail profile is chosen for maximum drag. The heel is not a big factor reducing boat speed. The L/D is not a factor in applying the right profile. The overriding factor is to get the sail profile to give the maximum forward drive based on drag or "power". To maximize the power or maximize propulsive effort are equivalent.

The polar "power" plots have a higher maximum propulsive effort compared to polar "L/D" plots. The polar plot giving the maximum drag is a draft located behind the sail. Unlike the optimum setting for close hauled, there is no sudden drop in pressure if the trough is set a little too far. The setting of the sail is wider, more tolerant .[92]

The power of the sail depends almost solely on the part of the sail force contributing to the advancement of the ship (along the axis of vessel speed or course made good). The power is treated as part of the sail force contributing to the advancement of the boat. The power is determined by the polar plot of the sail. The polar plot is independent of the apparent wind speed. Nor, in steady state theory as opposed to dynamic reality,[122] does the heel on the sail intervene with the speed setting. So the heel is not taken into account in the polar plot (same for the L/D of a polar plot). The profile of maximum power is not the profile of maximum L/D, where a setting of "power" creates too much heel, a fairly standard error.[130]

Several sails: multidimensional problem resolution[edit]

The previous method for estimating the thrust of each sail is not valid for boats with multiple sails, but it remains a good approximation.

Sails close to each other influence each other. A two-dimensional model explains the phenomenon.[131] In the case of a sloop-rigged sailboat, the foresail changes air flow entering onto the mainsail. The conditions of a stable fluid, constant and uniform, necessary for tables which give lift coefficient, are not respected with multiple sails. The cumulative effect of several sails on a boat can be positive or negative. It is well known that for the same total surface sail, two sails properly set are more effective than a single sail set correctly. Two sails can increase the sailing thrust 20% compared a single sail of same area.[62][132]

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ a b Marchaj, C. A. (2003). Sail performance : techniques to maximise sail power (Rev. ed. ed.). London: Adlard Coles Nautical. pp. Part 1 ch 5 p20 fig 16 "Seakindliness and Seaworthiness". Part 2 Ch. 4 "The effects of Aerodynamic Forces" p76 fig 58. ISBN 978-0-7136-6407-2. 
  2. ^ "When air flows over and under an aerofoil inclined at a small angle to its direction, the air is turned from its course. Now, when a body is moving at a uniform speed in a straight line, it requires a force to alter either its direction or speed. Therefore, the sails exert a force on the wind and, since action and reaction are equal and opposite, the wind exerts a force on the sails." Sailing Aerodynamics New Revised Edition 1962 by John Morwood Adlard Coles Limited page 17
  3. ^ Gilbert, Lester. "Momentum Theory of Lift". Retrieved 20 June 2011. "errata should read F=mw/unit time" 
  4. ^ "The physics of sailing". Retrieved 21 June 2011. 
  5. ^ Fossati, Fabio; translated by Martyn Drayton (2009). "10.3 The frontiers of numerical methods: aeroelastic investigation". Aero-hydrodynamics and the performance of sailing yachts : the science behind sailing yachts and their design. Camden, Maine: International Marine /McGraw-Hill. p. 307. ISBN 978-0-07-162910-2. 
  6. ^ "Millennium Prize Navier Stokes equation". 
  7. ^ "Pressure PIV and Open Cavity Shear Layer Flow". Johns Hopkins U. Laboratory for Experimental Fluid Dynamics. Retrieved 22 October 2011. 
  8. ^ JavaFoil
  9. ^ Logiciel Calcul Voile Bateau Aile Portance
  10. ^ For example, see XFOIL and AVL programmed by Mark Drela
  11. ^
  12. ^ Marchaj, Czeslaw A. Sail Performance, Techniques to Maximize Sail Power, Revised Edition. London: Adlard Coles Nautical, 2003. Part 2 Aerodynamics of sails, Chapter 2 "How and Why an Aerodynamic Force is Produced", page 49 "Pressure differences - the right way to explain sail forces"
  13. ^ a b c Damien Laforge Sails: from experimental to numerical
  14. ^ Fossati, Fabio; translated by Martyn Drayton (2009). Aero-hydrodynamics and the performance of sailing yachts : the science behind sailing yachts and their design. Camden, Maine: International Marine /McGraw-Hill. pp. ch 8.12 Wind tunnel tests; ch 10.2 numerical methods. ISBN 978-0-07-162910-2. 
  15. ^ Applied Fluid Tech, Maryland USA
  16. ^ WB-Sails Finland
  17. ^ "The Engineering toolbox. Pitot tubes". Retrieved 25 October 2011. 
  18. ^ Marchaj p 57 Part 2 Ch 3 Distribution of pressures over sails figs 39 and 41
  19. ^ Fossati 8.12.2 p229 Test apparatus and measurement set-up
  20. ^ Crook, A. "An experimental investigation of high aspect-ratio rectangular sails" (PDF). see Figure 2. Center for Turbulence Research Annual Research Briefs. Retrieved 22 October 2011. 
  21. ^ "An explanation of sail flow analysis". Retrieved 22 October 2011. 
  22. ^ Viola, Ignazio; Pilate, J, Flay, R. (2011). "UPWIND SAIL AERODYNAMICS: A PRESSURE DISTRIBUTION DATABASE FOR THE VALIDATION OF NUMERICAL CODES" (PDF). Intl J Small Craft Tech, 2011 153 (Part B1). Retrieved 22 October 2011. 
  23. ^ Roussel, J. "MÉCANIQUE DES FLUIDES". Retrieved 23 October 2011. [dead link]
  24. ^ "Intégrales en physique : Intégrales multiples". Wikiversite. Retrieved 2 September 2013. 
  25. ^ "Chapter: 05. Aerodynamic Characteristics". Piano software. Retrieved 26 October 2011. 
  26. ^ coefficients of shape are neglected, because these are to close to 1. Usually sails have insignificant thickness relative to their other dimensions.
  27. ^ Eliasson, Lars Larsson & Rolf E. (2007). Principles of yacht design (3rd ed. ed.). Camden, Me: International Marine. pp. Ch 7 Sail and Rig Design pp 142, 143 Fig 7.1. ISBN 978-0-07-148769-6. 
  28. ^ (French) texte very educational in french
  29. ^ (French)
  30. ^ (French)
  31. ^ The reference for wingspan is often based on the line of all the first quarter of the chord. This first quarter chord is chosen because this is at the aerodynamic center where the pitching moment, M, does not vary with angle of attack  \ C_M(1/4c) = - \pi /4 (A_1 - A_2) (see Airfoil and Aerodynamic center). The line is often a straight line.
  32. ^ Vent réel - vent apparent - forces aéro et hdrodynamiques
  33. ^ [1]
  34. ^ [2]
  35. ^ a b see équation (10)
  36. ^ page 12
  37. ^ [3]
  38. ^ name of book: Mécanique des fluides 2e année PC-PC*/PSI-PSI*: Cours avec exercices corrigés by Régine Noel,Bruno Noël,Marc Ménétrier,Alain Favier,Thierry Desmarais,Jean-Marie Brébec,Claude Orsini,Jean-Marc Vanhaecke see page 211
  39. ^ [4] Cd of plate
  40. ^ exemple naca0012
  41. ^ [5]
  42. ^
  43. ^ indeed if the airfoil is symmetrical and sail shape not symmetrical
  44. ^ hnjb324.tmp
  45. ^ It pushes the sail on the major axis, Fprin, of the vessel and its perpendicular, Fper. F is the forward thrust of the sail. Fprin = F * cos 40° = 76% * F. Fper = F * sin 40° = 36% * F
  46. ^ not the case for hydroptere, wind surf...
  47. ^ book partially scanned Bien naviguer et mieux connaître son voilier by Gilles Barbanson,Jean Besson sheet 72-73
  48. ^ Principles of yacht design, by Lars Larsson et Rolf E Eliasson ISBN 0-7136-5181-4 or 9 780713 651812 page 140 figure 7.9 and 7.10
  49. ^ figure 5
  50. ^ Principles of yacht design, by Lars Larsson and Rolf E Eliasson ISBN 0-7136-5181-4 or 9 780713 651812 page 140 figure 7.11
  51. ^ figure 5
  52. ^
  53. ^
  54. ^
  55. ^ This ideal elliptical shape is result of calculus for a stable and uniform flow of wind, as wind is not uniform (see :Influence of altitude: aerodynamic twist and sail twist), the ideal shape must be mitigated.
  56. ^ in French see page 51 in this thesis, the author explained that due to proximity of the deck, the deck can be used as mirror surface instead of sea level.
  57. ^ Also see: Marchaj, Sail Performance..., Part 2, Ch 10, "The importance of sail planiform"; Larsson and Eliasson, Principles of Yacht design 3rd ed, Ch 7, "Sail and Rig design" ; and Fossati, Aero-Hydrodynamics..., Ch 5.5, "Sail Drag"
  58. ^ Larsson, Lars; Eliasson, Rolf E. (1999). Principles of yacht design (2nd ed. ed.). London: Adlard Coles Nautical. pp. 139 figure 7.8. ISBN 978-0-7136-5181-2. 
  59. ^ Marchaj, C. A. (2003). Sail performance : techniques to maximise sail power (Rev. ed. ed.). London: Adlard Coles Nautical. pp. 208–211. ISBN 978-0-7136-6407-2. 
  60. ^
  61. ^ Microsoft PowerPoint - analyse des forces.ppt
  62. ^ a b Al_Atabi, M. The Aerodynamics of wing tip sails. Journal of Engineering Science and Technology.Vol. 1, No. 1 (2006) 89-98. Multiple sails figure on page 94 of article
  63. ^ Etude de la force aérodynamique
  64. ^ If the sail is loose, the sail shakes, thus providing some resistance. The sailing ship is slightly back, in this case there is a slight drag. It is also noted that under these conditions the mast, the rigging, superstructure and topsides will provide much more aerodynamic force than the sail itself.
  65. ^ telltales are unstable
  66. ^ Naca 12
  67. ^ figure 5
  68. ^ Section 2.2 Apparent wind-true wind
  69. ^
  70. ^ Zasso A, Fossati F, Viola I. Twisted flow wind tunnel design for yacht aerodynamic studies. EACWE4 — The Fourth European & African Conference on Wind Engineering J. N´ prstek & C. Fischer (eds); ITAM AS CR, Prague, 11–15 July 2005, Paper #153
  71. ^ a b
  72. ^
  73. ^ sheet 2
  74. ^ formula is given in introduction
  75. ^
  76. ^ Wind Gradient
  77. ^
  78. ^ Sail Shape
  79. ^,%20Schultz%20&%20Esquivel%20JoA%202004.pdf
  80. ^
  81. ^ figure 6 page 23
  82. ^ Viola, I.M., Fossati, F. Downwind sails aerodynamic analysis. BBAA VI International Colloquium on: Bluff Bodies Aerodynamics & Applications. Milano, Italy, July, 20-24 2008.
  83. ^ Marchaj, C. A. (2003). Sail performance : techniques to maximise sail power (Rev. ed. ed.). London: Adlard Coles Nautical. pp. 343–350. ISBN 978-0-7136-6407-2. 
  84. ^ voir figure3b
  85. ^ see the figures
  86. ^ FTE: Heel For Speed | Sailing World
  87. ^ Sailing World
  88. ^ A true wind approach will be more rigorous than used a surface cut.
  89. ^ Les voiles
  90. ^ Bob Sterne How to Sail Fast
  91. ^ voiles
  92. ^ a b Les réglages de voile - Réglage de grand voile, réglage de génois, réglage de spi
  93. ^ Viscous Computational Fluid Dynamics as a Relevant Decision-Making Tool for Mast-Sail Aerodynamics
  94. ^ | Ask Us - Drag Coefficient & Lifting Line Theory
  95. ^ page 28
  96. ^ calcul avec la méthode des lignes portantes avec les deux vortex d'extrémité de profil
  97. ^ Induced Drag Coefficient
  98. ^ The Drag Coefficient
  99. ^
  100. ^ voir (3.2.1) page 38
  101. ^ aerodynamic lift
  102. ^ Lift
  103. ^ figures 27 and 29
  104. ^ Principles of yacht design, by Lars Larsson and Rolf E Eliasson ISBN 0-7136-5181-4 or 9 780713 651812 page 151 figure 7.20 This figure shows well the different types of drag
  105. ^ figure 26
  106. ^ figure 17
  107. ^ Voile-habitable : Réglage et conduite au portant sous spi
  108. ^ WB-Sails Ltd
  109. ^ tuning @
  110. ^ MD / Voile & Mer
  111. ^
  112. ^ Capacité de porter de la toile
  113. ^ Estimating Stability
  114. ^ Stability and Trim for Ships, Boats, Yachts and Barges – Part I
  115. ^ page 42 equation 47 breakdown identical with other notation
  116. ^
  117. ^ 1 3 Dynamic Stability Ppt Presentation
  118. ^ Heeling arm definition
  119. ^
  120. ^ PII: 0169-5983(94)00027-1
  121. ^ (French)
  122. ^ a b Marchaj, C. A. (2003). "Part 2 Ch 7 Sailing Downwind (Rolling)". Sail performance : techniques to maximise sail power (Rev. ed. ed.). London: Adlard Coles Nautical. pp. 351–360. ISBN 978-0-7136-6407-2. 
  123. ^ Figure 19 on page 34 and Figure 17 and Figure 20 an incidence value of 90° is slightly wrong. This is due to the fact that for a flexible sail the sailor can not place the entire surface of the sail perpendicular to the wind (to cut the wind on the full sail). For a jib, maximum drag is at 160° and the incidence of lift is zero. For a mainsail, max 170°. For a headsail genaker type or large genoa, 180° max.
  124. ^ Grain de Sel : Navigation à la voile
  125. ^ see page 31
  126. ^ example on ORC class
  127. ^ The Development of Stability Standards for UK Sailing Vessels, B. Deakin PDF
  128. ^
  129. ^
  130. ^ Si nous parlions assiette
  131. ^ The Aerodynamics of sail interaction
  132. ^ Richards, Peter; Lasher, William (20–24 July 2008). "WIND TUNNEL AND CFD MODELLING OF PRESSURES ON DOWNWIND SAILS". BBAA VI International Colloquium on: Bluff Bodies Aerodynamics & Applications. Retrieved 2 June 2012. 


  • Royce, Patrick M. (1993). Royce's Sailing Illustrated: The Sailors Bible Since '56. Prostar. ISBN 978-0-911284-08-9. 
  • Marchaj, C. A. (2003). Sail performance : techniques to maximise sail power (Rev. ed. ed.). London: Adlard Coles Nautical. ISBN 978-0-7136-6407-2. 
  • Bethwaite, Frank (first edition in 1993; next in 1996, last in 2007). High Performance Sailing. Waterline (1993), Thomas Reed Publications (1996, 1998, et 2001), and Adlard Coles Nautical (2003 and 2007). ISBN 978-0-7136-6704-2. 
  • Eliasson, Lars Larsson & Rolf E. (2007). Principles of yacht design (3rd ed. ed.). Camden, Me: International Marine. ISBN 978-0-07-148769-6. 
  • Fossati, Fabio; translated by Martyn Drayton (2009). Aero-hydrodynamics and the performance of sailing yachts : the science behind sailing yachts and their design. Camden, Maine: International Marine /McGraw-Hill. ISBN 978-0-07-162910-2. 
  • (French) Curry, Manfred (1930). L'aérodynamique de la voile et l'art de gagner les régates. Etienne Chiron, Ed. nouv. with new document (1 juillet 1991). ISBN 978-2-7027-0027-3. 
  • (French) Bertrand, Chéret (June 2010). Les Voiles. Comprendre, régler, optimiser. Gallimard. ISBN 978-2-7424-0767-5. 
  • (Latin) Leonhard Euler E110 Scientia navalis full title is Scientia navalis seu tractatus de construendis ac dirigendis navibus Pars prior complectens theoriam universam de situ ac motu corporum aquae innatantium. Auctore Leonhardo Euler prof. honorario academiae imper. scient. et directore acad. reg. scient. Borussicae. Instar supplementi ad tom. I. novorum commentar. acad. scient. imper. Petropoli typis academiae scientiarum MDCCXLIX.

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