Science of Hull Shapes

January 11, 2017

Boat hulls come in all shapes and sizes, each with their own particular method for improving boat performances – enhanced when working in unison with an effective foul release coating. Battling harsh winds, fierce wave conditions and cutting angles, designers are constantly tweaking hull designs to reach the holy grail for the ultimate sea surfing experience. In this blog, we will expose some of the best hull designs and the science behind what makes them the go-to choice for different pursuits of boating.

Beaming benefits:

The beam of a boat is simply referring to the boats width and therefore the width of the hull. The greater the beam, i.e. the wider the vessel, can have some heavy influences on functionality and performance.  More robust rigs will be better supported by a wider beam and can offer larger decking area as well as more interior cabin space. The downside to these bulky beams is the greater water resistance that comes along with a larger contact area which struggles through strong waves as the hull crashes down on the crest of the wave. This results in a more uncomfortable and hindered ride with juddering impacts especially in lighter winds. Conversely, while sacrificing storage and leisure space, slender, narrow hulls like clipper bow or counter stern designs have less difficulty moving through the water and thus can slice through oncoming waves better.

Heavy hull helpings:

Some of the weight on the boat can work for you. Distribution of more weight in the keel of the boat can aid in harnessing wind force and is mostly reliant upon the proportion of ballast in the keel area to the overall weight of the boat. Additionally, bulkier hulls will have greater resistance to being thrown around by the forces of nature in heavy wave segments. As such, many hull designs are constructed with the consideration of alternative materials that can affect this weight ratio such as foam-cores in racing boats. On the other hand, a lighter boat corresponds to a greater ability to skip over waves and consequently requires more concentration as it glides over the water surface twisting and turning through more exciting angles with enhanced maneuverability.

Length liabilities:

Rating bodies use various measurements for evaluating key elements of hull design in relation to length such as; dock space, earning potential and speed potential. Hull speed can be heavily hindered by the physics that a boat endures as it battles against the wave it creates. This speed can be calculated using the formula: Speed = 1.34 x LWL (Length on waterline). Essentially, the momentum of a boat is impeded by the bow wave it generates as it reaches the length of the hull and the increased resistance that comes with it. Exaggerating the overhangs on hull designs has had a significant effect on improving and exceeding speed potential for boats. This reduces wetted area meaning that the vessel is not restricted and can go faster in lighter winds particularly when overhangs fore and aft come into contact with the water. This particular aspect of hull design was implemented into the huge warships, implementing the dreadnought bow hull design which is thought to give better hydrodynamic drag.

Volume and velocity:

Tinkering with the distribution of volume in the boat can impressively enhance boat speed and performance.  Greater volume in the middle section as opposed to the finer ends (known as the ‘prismatic coefficient’) of a boat correlates to a lower potential top speed but the ability to accelerate at a better rate. This effect can relate to the same principle discovered by the famous ‘eureka’ moment of Archimedes when making the connection between weight and volume of water displaced by causing his bath to overflow. The rake forward of the stem, flare in the top sides or larger overhang adds volume to the vessel allowing it to stay above the waves. It is most ideal to marry this higher volume with a finer bow such as a clipper design that is able to tackle choppier seas as they cut through the waves.

Cruising conclusion:

Ultimately, formulating a well-balanced hull design considered all these elements is the way to acquire optimum performance. While greater length is always better, the other characteristics mentioned like beams, weight and volume should be compromised with an even distribution for effective hull design.

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