Water tunnel testing of downwind yacht sails

Jean-Baptiste R. G. Souppez, Ignazio Maria Viola*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Downwind yacht sails, such as spinnakers, are low-aspect-ratio highly cambered wings with a sharp leading edge. They are characterised by substantial three-dimensional flow separation and are thus modelled with difficulty with numerical simulations. Furthermore, accurate full-scale validation data are not available. The first quantitative flow measurements have only recently been achieved in water tunnels. In this study, we aim to provide guidelines on this emerging sail testing methodology. We consider six model-scale rigid models at average-chord-based Reynolds numbers ranging from 5 870 to 61 870. A critical Reynolds number is identified, below which relaminarisation of the reattached boundary layer downstream of the leading edge separation bubble occurs. Both lift and drag increase monotonically at subcritical Reynolds numbers while remaining about constant at transcritical Reynolds numbers. The critical Reynolds number decreases with increasing incidence and is insensitive to the blockage ratio. Spinnakers are normally sailed in front of the mainsail, whose circulation is found to generate an approximately
upwash on the spinnaker and higher flow velocity on both sides of it. These findings provide guidelines for the experimental testing of spinnaker-like wings in water tunnels and provide new insights into the flow and experimental testing of highly cambered wings with massive flow separation at low Reynolds numbers.
Original languageEnglish
Article number15
Number of pages19
JournalExperiments in Fluids
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jan 2024

Bibliographical note

This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.


Dive into the research topics of 'Water tunnel testing of downwind yacht sails'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this