Vortex flow of yacht sails

A. Arredondo-Galeana, I. Maria Viola

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


The flow around a 1:115th model scale spinnaker of an America’s Cup yacht was studied with particle image velocimetry (PIV). Four cross sections across the span were recorded at a Reynolds number of 1.7 x 104. We found that the flow separates at the leading edge followed by turbulent reattachment, forming a leading edge vortex (LEV). The LEV is stably attached to the leading edge and its diameter grows from the foot to the tip of the sail. On the lower half of the sail, the LEV has a negligible diameter while large trailing edge separation occurs from a quarter of the chord. At ¾ of the span, the diameter of the LEV is a quarter of the chord and trailing edge separation does not occur. The industrial exploitation of these results is enabled by the development of a low-order model (based on potential flow) which will underpin future design tools. This work is the first experimental evidence of the existence of a stable LEV on yacht sails, while it was previously predicted numerically at Reynolds number 6 x 105 using Detached Eddy Simulation (Viola et al., 2014, OE, 90:93-103).
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 7 Sept 2016
EventUK Fluids Conference - London, United Kingdom
Duration: 7 Sept 20169 Sept 2016


ConferenceUK Fluids Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • particle image velocimetry (PIV)
  • leading edge vortex
  • yacht sails
  • flow


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