Skip to main navigationSkip to main content
The University of Southampton

Sailing to win: Helping North Sails maintain its competitive edge

Published: 8 June 2018

The University of Southampton’s Wolfson Unit has been working with North Sails since 2010, combining its marine expertise with state-of-the-art Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) technology to help North maintain its competitive edge and provide a greater understanding of aero dynamic flow.


The Wolfson Unit has a 50 year history working with the commercial maritime industry, particularly on marine technologies for yachts and small power boats. Today, the Unit employs the very latest computational resources and is developing tools to provide full high-fidelity CFD modelling capabilities to a greater range of subjects and more complex problems such as cavitation and rotational flow.

“Just 15 years ago the world’s most advanced racing yachts were travelling at 10-15 knots”, explains Principal Research Engineer at the Wolfson Unit, Dr Sandy Wright, “now, the world’s elite racing boats are foiling catamarans, travelling at 50 knots in the air, which makes aerodynamics a far more important aspect to yacht racing.”

The challenge for industry leader North Sails is no exception, and our Southampton team are working with the organisation to optimise the aerodynamics of its sail and spar designs.


Aft Quarter

Race focus

The 36th America’s Cup, due to be held in Auckland, New Zealand in 2021, is a current focus point for North Sails. North designers are already collaborating with teams for a new class of hydro foiling monohull. Our facilities at Southampton can be undertaking simulations on multiple North Sail designs a day, from all over the world, for the organisations’ different design houses across the entire breadth of the market. The Wolfson Unit’s capability allows hundreds of data points on each of these sail designs to be tested simultaneously.

 “The University of Southampton team offers a combination of a highly skilled and knowledgeable experts in the marine field, state-of-the-art simulation capabilities, and the experience to understand our goals, both technical and commercial.

“It would be fair to say that our collaboration with the University of Southampton has significantly contributed to maintaining our competitive advantage in the racing world” says Jeremy Elliott, of North Sails Design Services, himself a former graduate of the University of Southampton.

VO70 Streamlines

Transferable knowledge

The Unit’s top end research-level methods are no longer just used for elite yacht racing, many methods are trickling down into use throughout the yacht industry and beyond. North Sails, for instance, is working on special projects and creating designs for leisure vessels.

Southampton’s research and expertise in the field is also being used across a wider range of industry sectors including renewable energy, green shipping (to address emissions) and sail-assisted shipping, providing a better environment for day-to-day life.

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we will assume that you are happy to receive cookies on the University of Southampton website.