The Effect of Sail Size, Wind Speed, and Wind Angle on the Velocity of a Sailboat

Throughout all of Earth’s history, the human race has developed numerous forms of transportation. People have tamed and ridden the great beasts of the realm. Then people built contraptions of metal to travel across the land in faster, more convenient ways. Eventually, people conquered the skies. People have evolved and adapted to their environments, and so to have their modes of transportation. Watercrafts have been a widely used mode of transportation since ancient times. With all human civilization originating near water, small boats and pontoons have been crucial in transporting large quantities of products, people, and produce across long distances. Watercraft have evolved significantly over the years, and this research intends to discover where further improvements in design could be made on sails and sailing technique. A three-factor DOE was conducted to measure the effects of sail type, wind speed, and wind angle relative to the sail on the velocity of a sailboat. This was done using a wooden boat with interchangeable sails, a PVC pipe track filled with water, and an air supply. The boat was fitted using one of three sails, and then placed on a section of the PVC pipe track 3 feet long. The boat was also supported on this PVC pipe track using a set of wheels that prevented the boat from rolling over. When a trial was conducted, the air supply was held perpendicular to the starboard side of the boat as it sailed along the PVC pipe track. Then, the time taken for the boat to travel 3 feet was recorded. After trials were conducted, the factors that had the greatest effect on the velocity of a boat were found to be the wind speed, wind angle, and interaction effect of wind speed and wind angle. However, based on the statistical analysis, none of the effects were deemed significant because of variability in the range of standards.

Research Conducted By:

Julius Cesar Estrope
Cousino High School

Tyler Mahlmeister
Warren Mott High School