DOI: 12, 2021Proceedings Paper

Sail Aero-Structures: Studying Primary Load Paths and Distortion

Zhenlong Xu, Robert Ranzenbach


A method is described to conduct an integrated Fluid-Structure Interaction (FSI) simulation of sails that is based upon knowledge of the sail’s design shape geometry and membrane material properties. A Finite Element Analysis (FEA) of the sail structure and a Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) model of the aerodynamic field are combined and iteratively solved to compute the actual flying shape of the sail under aerodynamic load, the stress strain behavior of the sail membrane, the integrated aerodynamic forces produced by the sail such as driving force and heel moment, and the resulting loads on sheets, halyards, etc. An important contribution of this particular method is the incorporation of wrinkling phenomena into the FEA portion of the calculation. Results from a study of working sails for a 30’ MORC racing yacht designed by Nelson-Marek (NM) in the 1990’s are presented and discussed with particular emphasis on the variability of primary load paths with changing trim and sailing conditions as well as the impact of sail deformation in the direction of relatively small stresses that is often poorly addressed in many proprietary sail construction methods.

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