An introduction to sailing physics ( What you should REALLY know about sailing )

How a sail produces a force

Probably the single most important phenomenon to understand about sailing is how a sail produces a force

For a minute we'll switch to airplanes, as things are easier to figure out with wings than with sails

As shown on the figure below, the air partly flows above and partly below a wing

Air flow around sail

As soon as the profile receives the airflow according to some angle, a relative void is created near the end of the wing on its upper side

Faster airflow upper side

This relative vacuum calls for more air to pass above the wing than below, so as to compensate it, and ultimately makes the air flow faster on the upper side of the wing

This faster airflow causes a depression on the upper part...

Depression caused by air speed

... that "sucks" the profile upward

Lift force of a sail

This force ( which is perpendicular to the plane of the wing ) is what allows an aircraft to fly and a sail to produce a force

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