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The University of Southampton

Sailing & Water Sports

The Yacht Research Unit was stated in the late 1950’s in Southampton with much of the original wind tunnel testing of sail taking place in the low speed wind tunnel. Classic texts such as those by Marchaj derived the information from these tests. This long history of research has developed a wide body of research on sailing.

The Americas Cup boat 'Fly Emirates' sailing
Designing engineering solutions for The Americas Cup


The MEng and MSc taught courses in Yacht & Small Craft each year generate further individual project, group design projects and MSc theses in this area as, some of which are published as conference or journal papers.

Research is on-going across all aspect of other watersports from high performance powercraft, rowing, canoeing and kayak as well as all types of sailing craft. This includes the use of a high speed powercraft simulator that is used in hull design and assesses driving experience thus minimising damaging accelerations that crew are exposed. This work is in collaboration with psychologist, P1 Powerboating and P1 Marine Foundation. Recently work has started on Paraylmpic Va’a racing (single-outrigger pacific canoe) to look at how its design and configuration can be adapted for for athlete disability and performance style.



The Wolfson Unit for Marine Technology and Industrial Aerodynamics, has worked closely with the yachting industry for 40 years, developing longstanding associations with numerous America’s Cup teams and contributing significant improvements to the design and safety of racing yachts.

The academic research into sailing is led from the fluid-structure interactions research group. Some of the current work concerns the use of lightweight composites structures, design of passive-adaptive structures form wing masts and control surfaces, the development of wrinkles on downwind sails, and the use of Bayesian networks for decision making in yacht fleet race simulation.

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PSEL research students have developed a new system for analysing swimming performance that is being used by many of the top British swimmers in conjunction with British Swimming world class technical adviser, Jonty Skinner.

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