Perhaps no area of yachting has reached harder for technology, and grasped less, than sail shape design. The combination of the obsession with secrecy, the background and training of those in the business, the economic characteristics of the marketplace, and the intractability of the problems is formidable and has made scientific sail engineering a grail.
This paper will not solve those problems; rather it reports on an attempt to begin an attack on the fundamental problems and to report the outcome. Thus, the paper will:
- describe the fundamentals of the sail shape design problem so that practical sailors can, with some study, grasp the nature and difficulty of the problem to the extent that claims can be evaluated thoughtfully; and
- report on a research program intended to put the art onto a solid engineering basis by formulating the problem and beginning work on solutions.