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The University of Southampton


With its experienced staff of specialist engineers and facilities, WUMTIA, a contributor to the PSEL, has won global recognition as a centre of excellence for ship design, yacht design, small craft design, naval architecture, marine technology and industrial aerodynamics, providing high-class tank testing, wind tunnel testing, design software, onboard systems and innovative research.

One of the Volvo Ocean Race boats in full action
Designing engineering solutions for the Volvo Ocean Race


The technical design and performance of racing yachts has been a core aspect of WUMTIA’s work over four decades. This has included developments in the hydrodynamics of hulls, keels and rudders; the aerodynamics of sails; model testing techniques and equipment; safety regulations; and design software. In each of these fields WUMTIA is recognised as the world leader.

As is often the case in high-technology sports, the drive and funding for the work has come, for the most part, from competitors in prestige racing events such as the America’s Cup and Volvo Ocean Race. However, the engineering knowledge also benefits for the wider sailing community, with developments made for competitive sailing spreading into the wider yachting industry and in particular the superyacht industry.

The consultancy services have been complemented by the doctoral research programme in Ship Science, with four WUMTIA staff having completed their PhD in areas related to sailing performance.

America’s Cup races

WUMTIA has worked with America’s Cup teams since the early 1980s. The Unit is staffed by professional engineers and naval architects who work full time on enterprise projects. This setup enables them to work at a high pace to suit industry’s needs. This is particularly important for the America’s Cup, since its design, build and race cycles are typically 18-24 months, which do not fit with normal academic research timescales. In 2007 almost every America’s Cup team included a PSEL alumnus.

WUMTIA has worked for New Zealand (NZ) teams from their first participation in the 1987 America’s Cup. The NZ design co-ordinator for the 32nd America’s Cup was Andrew Claughton, one of WUMTIA’s long-standing naval architects, before being seconded to lead the design for the NZ team. WUMTIA also worked for the Prada and Luna Rossa Italian America’s Cup teams from their inception in 1997, and Ian Campbell, a principal research engineer with WUMTIA, doubled as senior scientist for their 32nd Cup design team.

WUMTIA has provided continuity through numerous America’s Cup cycles, developing and preserving best practice for teams. It has also provided design, model testing and analysis services for several America's Cup syndicates as well as the 2007 Louis Vuitton Cup finalists (Emirates Team New Zealand and Luna Rossa Challenge).


Recently, WUMTIA engineers carried out a series of model scale towing tank tests for optimising the hydrodynamic performance of the 58 metre sloop Kokomo, which late last year won the award for best sailing superyacht over 40 metres at the International Superyacht Society awards in Fort Lauderdale.

Due to the worldwide interest in these prestige competitive sailing events, the WUMTIA brand has become familiar to many interested and involved in the sport. This is reflected in the significant number of undergraduate and postgraduate students attracted by its reputation in yacht design. Their engineers teach two modules on the Yacht and Small Craft (MSc/MEng) degree programmes.

Mike Golding's recognition as International Racing Yacht Forum (FICO) World Champion in 2006 was celebrated by WUMTIA engineers who played a part through their work with his boat's designer, Merf Owen of Owen Clarke Design.

WUMTIA has worked on three of Owen Clarke's designs, starting with Kingfisher, Ellen McArthur's Open 60 yacht. In 2009 WUMTIA was involved with the successes of the top three finishers in the Jacques Vabre transatlantic race (Le Havre to Puerto Limon, Costa Rica), having worked extensively with the skippers and designers of each of these leading yachts. Guillaume Verdier and VPLP Yacht Design for Safran (pictured) and Groupe Bel and Owen Clark Design with Ecover 3.

Yacht testing

WUMTIA conducted tank testing and other consultancy services for these projects in the Open 60 IMOCA class. With its experience of developing a range of yacht testing services over the last 40 years, it has in recent times been world leading in techniques and technologies for the experimental testing and performance evaluation of these Open style boats.

An important aspect of the PSEL work is the versatility provided in seeking solutions to design questions raised by competitors. This versatility comes from years of experience in dealing with the needs of sport and industry and is necessary when working to suit the different budgets and expectations of competition teams.


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