Sail aerodynamics: understanding pressure distributions on upwind sails

Ignazio Maria Viola, Richard G. J. Flay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The pressure distributions on upwind sails is discussed and related to the flow field around the headsail and the mast/mainsail. Pressures measured on several horizontal sections of model-scale and full-scale sails are used to provide examples. On the leeward side of the sails, leading edge separation and turbulent reattachment occurs, sometimes followed by trailing edge separation. On the windward side, leading edge separation occurs on the mast/mainsail and, at low angles of attack, it can also occur on the headsail. Differences were found between the leading edge bubbles on the two sails. Pressure trends for different angles of attack are presented, and these can be explained in terms of standard aerodynamic theory, particularly in terms of short and long leading edge separation bubble types. It was found that the pressure distributions measured on mainsails at full- and model-scale showed good agreement on both the windward and leeward sides. Crown Copyright (C) 2011 Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1497-1504
Number of pages8
JournalExperimental Thermal and Fluid Science
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2011


  • Sail aerodynamics
  • Upwind sails
  • Mainsails
  • Headsails
  • Pressure distributions
  • Wind tunnel tests

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