Vortex Reduction

Hi Steve and Linda, Thanks for all of the excellent books and tapes on you adventures. They have been a great help. I have noticed the winglets on airplane wings over the last few years. Has any one tried making a “plate” at the top of the mast, maybe using carbon fiber as a frame covered with sail cloth, to form a device which would reduce the vortexes created by a headsail & main combination? If if would work with a plate on each side of the mast, to tending would be needed during tacking or gybing. Asked my sailmaker about it but he deals with racers more than cruisers, so he is not too interested in the idea. Since you seem to be interested in making cruisers go faster with less effort, thought this idea might be for you. Thanks for thinking about it. Crawford

Hi Crawford: Interesting concept, and as a glider pilot, with some very long and exotically shaped “winglets” I can relate to what you are suggesting. However, in a sailboat situation there are a whole series of variable which make this idea impractical.

On the other hand, there is another approach which we’ve used over the years which does work in some cases. This is to “endplate” or seal off the bottom of the boomed sails. If you can achieve this for even half of the foot length, the increase in efficiency is dramatic.

On our 67′ ketch, Sundeer, we were able to pick up five degrees in weatherliness–without losing boat speed, when we sealed the main and mizzen. We’ve just had seals made for Beowulf which we’ll be testing in the near future, and will write up for SetSail.

The area added is down low, where it is in turbulent air flow and where the breeze is much lighter. However, the seal effect is very powerful, and if you can make it work with your rig and deck structure, will generate a huge improvement. Note–the less efficient your keel, the more this will help as it reduces induced drag–which hit cruising keels harder than those found on racing boats. Regards–Steve

Posted by Steve Dashew  (November 30, 1999)

Comments are closed.