Seeking to understand boat performance

Published on May 6th, 2019

The Sailing Yacht Research Foundation (SYRF) is stacked with brilliant people on a mission to develop and catalog the science underlying sailboat performance resulting in more accurate sailboat handicapping formulae for the benefit of all racing sailors.

Their current active projects include the following:

• Upload of new materials to the SYRF Library’s unique free access online collection of published research papers and datasets, specifically 15 papers from the 23rd edition of the triennial Chesapeake Sailing Yacht Symposium (CSYS).

Topics in this year’s symposium ranged from CFD validations using SYRF’s Wide Light Project as a benchmark to maneuver simulation and optimization for AC50s. This event was held in Annapolis over March 15-16 at the US Naval Academy, attracted dozens of academics, researchers, technologists, and students, and was supported by SYRF. For more on CSYS papers and other Library materials, click here.

• START, the SYRF-funded mobile phone-based app for race tracking, analysis, and real-time scoring, is reaching its beta launch date next month for testing among selected yacht club race committees who have expressed interest in using the app in their 2019 season of racing.

START’s features promise both RCs and sailors a simple yet robust digital method to track and analyze performance and scoring both in real time and for later upload and offline analysis. The current stage of development is troubleshooting the functional details in the Android version, with the iOS version to come soon thereafter.

SYRF Executive Director McKenzie Wilson has been assisting SYRF Board member Larry Rosenfeld in scoring recent offshore multihull class regattas such as the BVI Spring Regatta in Tortola and Les Voiles de St Barth to help mold the details of this functionality in the app, as well as to assist Larry’s efforts to build a tracking system that both provides real-time standings and performance data for rating systems. For more details, click here.

• H0 Scoring is an intriguing concept for offshore handicap racing. By inputting weather data from GRIB files gathered for the region at a time where the boat is racing, and using a dataset of polar performance of the boat, the H0 method endeavors to quantify the effect of weather on the accuracy of yacht handicap scoring and to educate race organizers and racers on its effect. The trial use of H0 is being proposed for upcoming offshore races. For more details, click here.

• As results become available from the START mobile app, further work is planned on the Boat Performance Database project to enhance its role as a VPP validation tool. The plan is for the data to be uploaded from the app to a data warehouse allowing users to make queries based not only on a regatta, location, and date but also on boat parameters such as LOA, draft, displacement, designer, and sail area. More on this, click here.

• SYRF-funded researchers JB Braun and Michael Richelson from North Sails Design Services have been pulled into research duties for teams in the next America’s Cup being held in Auckland 2021. This has put the Performance Prediction Project on temporary hold.

If there are any questions about these or other possible projects SYRF should consider, or if you wish to know more about making a donation to SYRF to help support these projects, contact McKenzie at

Last word:
At the CSYS conference, Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden has started the recruitment process for a Professor in Sailing. Together Chalmers and SSPA has world class knowledge and facilities for research in sailing, and a proven track record in the area.

“We would like to have as many good applicants as possible applying for the position,” said Christian Finnsgård of SSPA, “and would like to spread the word to the sailing world. To our knowledge this will be the first professorship dedicated to Sailing.”

For the official recruitment page, click here.

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