North Sails NEWS

March 27, 2018


North Design Services Goes Beyond Sail Design

From Maxi’s to Grand Prix, the North Design Services team employs the power of the North Design Suite to help yacht designers better understand the complete performance package. The result is owners get the most out of their sailing experience, whether it’s racing or pleasure. © Jeff Brown

The North Design Services is a team of sail design-engineers who specialize in optimizing a yacht’s total performance. Under the radar, yet super effective, this elite group is the North Sails version of the Special Forces.

“We’re getting invitations from yacht designers to help them look at different optimization options,” remarked Jeremy Elliott, Head of North Design Services.  “Some underwater, some over the water, some both, our team is tasked with figuring out how to get the most performance out of these boats. It’s a real privilege for us to be trusted by the designers, owners, and teams to help optimize performance of their projects.”

Elliott is a North designer based in Gosport, UK. Educated in Southampton as a naval architect, his experience is made up of projects young sailors dream of adding to their CV. Volvo Ocean Race, America’s Cup, TP52, time spent learning sail design from the likes of Tim Corben, Henrik Soderlund, Guido Cavalazzi and many more.

The power of the North Design Services lies in the tools and personnel. The North Sails design team has a long tradition of being embedded in America’s Cup and Volvo Ocean Race teams where design collaboration is key. Out of that experience grew development to the North Design Suite, whose capabilities now extend far beyond the analysis of rig and sails. The North Design Suite is a tightly integrated suite of software capable of advanced hull, rig and sails modeling. Once a tool only used by North Sails designers, the suite is now in demand by yacht designers, owners and teams as a key resource to understand how hydro and aero packages interact for best total performance – be that for racing, cruising or both.

“Our software gives North Sails the capability to model the total performance of the yachts. North Design Services is about extending our experience, and the North Design Suite to our clients, their designers and teams,” explains Jeremy Elliott, the designer heading up North Design Services. “We can help our clients to get more from their yachts”.

Evolving sail designs start on the race course. North designers collect data on sail shape, boat speed, and performance before plugging it into the North Design Suite to create optimized sail structure models. ©Jeff Brown

Analytics is an integral part of how North designs sails and adds to our credibility to lead the most exciting and innovative projects in the sailing industry. 35 years of the brightest minds in sailmaking has made North Sails the undisputed worldwide leader in sail structure, aerodynamics, hydrodynamics and optimizing yacht performance. The experience and expertise of North Sails designers are the essentials required to utilize our powerful suite of design and analytics tools.

The power of North’s software is illustrated by its inclusion of an integrated Velocity Prediction Program (VPP). There are many VPP’s available, but North’s VPP is unique because the aero and hydro models are not embedded but totally open in structure allowing sail, rig, hull design features to be integrated independently with as much or as little detail as required for each project. The tool gives sail and yacht designers enormous flexibility and the ability to analyze an entire sailboat as a unified working system.

“The secret weapon is our VPP, where we can simulate how the sails and the rig interact with everything that’s happening underwater – or indeed above the water if it’s a flying boat,” remarked Elliott. “How the sails work and how they de-power is very much related to the hydrodynamics of the yacht. Our VPP brings the aero and the hydro data together. At North Sails, we customize the VPP aero model to represent the exact sails built or proposed for the project. So instead of a “black box” the North VPP is a fully transparent tool balancing aero, hydro and anything else for best total performance.

“Many of the questions we help to solve are too tricky for any one party to answer on their own,” explained Elliott.

“North Design Services acts as a collaboration partnership to bring structural engineers, or the yacht designer and sail designers onto one team. Projects are most successful when everyone involved brings their best experience and information together, then we at North Sails have the software to bring it all together to understand the interactions and the result. It’s not unlike how an America’s Cup or Volvo design team operates.”

“The work often feels closer to yacht design than sail design,” commented Elliott. This may seem like a bold statement to hear from a North sail designer, but it rings true to those familiar with Jeremy Elliott and North Design Services. “In reality, however, it is none of these exclusively – it’s about bringing all the parts and parties together so that we can – together – gain the clearest and most accurate understanding of our project and get the best result for our clients – when a collaboration such as this works out well it reflects well on everyone”.

The key difference between traditional sail design and North Design Services is that much of the data North generates is distributed to outside the sail design team and to yacht designers. In many projects, North Design Services groundwork happens well in advance of the boat concept or before the sail plan or deck layout is defined. It’s only when the rig and the sail plan are defined that North designers can start thinking about designing the sail inventory; work you’d normally think of as sail design.

Shows a Maxi 72 at TWS. Southern Spars & Future Fibres supply the “Windage” component which captures the aero drag of the standing rigging. The VPP balances all of these components together and computes the resulting boat performance over whatever range of wind speeds or angles you require for the project. It also allows North Sails to understand in detail what sail shapes are required for best overall boat performance. © Hull shape and hydro data courtesy of Judel-Vrolijk Yacht Design



Downwind VPP simulation of Malcolm McKeon Design #023, a 34m High Performance Sloop currently in build at Baltic Yachts. For this Project North Design Services delivered a total performance assessment program to assist client and designer understand the unique characteristics of 5 candidate designs. The simulation shown was run to quantify the downwind VMG performance of one of those candidates. A horizontal planar cut through the sail-plan at the height of the gennaker clew is shown below the 3D model in order to visualize optimal sail shape for this condition. © Hull shape and hydro data courtesy of Malcolm McKeon Yacht Design


“North Sails have focused our efforts on analyzing hydro and aero as a total performance package. Each tool in the North Design Suite is powerful, but the real power is the integration of the whole package. North Sails, using our Design Suite can model everything from the keel to the Windex, and then tweak the performance as required.”

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