Magazine article Geographical

Are Sailing Boats Pulled along Rather Than Being Pushed by the Wind?

Magazine article Geographical

Are Sailing Boats Pulled along Rather Than Being Pushed by the Wind?

Article excerpt

Both are correct. The physics of a sailing boat are surprisingly similar to those of a winged aircraft, where it's the difference in the pressure above and below the wings as it pushes through the air that lifts the aircraft into the sky. Scientists call the motion caused by the pressure differences the Bernoulli Effect. Its influence on flying and sailing has led to a revolution on boat design.

Physicist and keen sailor Dr Bryon Anderson of Kent State University in Ohio, USA, says that the question of how a sailing boat moves is not entirely settled: "There is a lot of debate about this. A lot of people claim the Bernoulli Effect is not there, that the motion is just due to particles bouncing off the sail. But the key is to measure the difference in pressure on either side of the sail. Wind going around the outside path of the sail takes longer, so the pressure goes down on that side. The pressure reduction on the outside gives you two thirds of the driving power."

If the air pressure differences only provide two thirds of the power, where does the rest come from? …

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