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The Basic Principles of Hull Design

  • by: Conor McKeon
  • On: 15, Nov 2018
3 min read

After the end of the TP52 Super Series a few weeks ago, and after seeing different racing teams performing at the top of their game, spectators might wonder what makes one boat better, faster and more agile than another.

How does boat design tie into safety? What features does a boat need and what are merely additions? Entirely different boat designs and technology are used when competing in a yacht race, going fishing or enjoying a pleasure cruise. In the following weeks, we’ll be covering all this in a series of posts about the basic ideas behind boat design’s different components, what they do and why they’re important.

When it comes to yacht performance there are two things to consider: aerodynamics and hydrodynamics. Boat engineering considers erosion, corrosion and chemical analysis on top of the structural and architectural analysis that must be considered when a structure is in contact with the ocean and must navigate the physics entailed.

Hull performance can be influenced by many aspects, but a good hull design always results in excellent racing performance. Hull design has three main elements: materials used during construction and both the shape the size of the hull.

Materials Used in Hull Design

Many different materials have been used in boat building throughout history and over time boat engineers and boat researchers have worked to either enhance or replace these materials for better performance. Those most commonly used now are: steel, aluminium, fibre-reinforced plastic (FRP) and polyethylene. Aluminium is widely used now due to its light weight, allowing for greater boat speed without sacrificing hull integrity or strength.

FRP has been commonly used in the last few decades as it is light and doesn’t suffer from corrosion as other materials do. Polyethylene is another material more applicable for professional fishing, thanks to its superior buoyancy and chemical resistance.

Carbon fibre is a state-of-the-art material that is strong and light thanks to its composition. This material is also chemically and thermally stable over a long period of time, which means that abrasion and corrosion can be controlled. During its manufacturing process, carbonisation takes place to ensure that the material gains strength and stiffness. Carbon fibre is used in racing yachts and not only reduces weight but is easy to mould into the desired shape.

Why the Shape of the Hull Is Important

The hull shape depends on the boat’s intended purpose. Another aspect to consider is the type of water in which the boat is going to sail. Some boats are designed for smooth waters such as lakes, rivers and shallow parts of the ocean whilst others are designed for offshore waters. There are mainly two type of hulls: deep-v hulls and flat-bottom hulls.

Deep-v hulls are selected for offshore and rough water purposes because they can steadily knife the waves. To achieve this, draft and a wedge shape are added and stability is reduced. Deep-v hulls are not suitable for shallow waters and more power is required due to the low buoyancy. However, this type of hull performs well in choppy conditions. Examples of deep-v hulls are offshore sport boats and bulks.

Flat-bottom hulls are designed for shallow waters and are characterised by a very low deadrise and performing well on smooth waters where they can reach their maximum speed. Flat-bottom hulls also provide maximum stability.

There are many other hull types including multihulls. Some v-hulls are less deep and are more common for small boats designed for offshore or lake sailing. They are flatter at the stern and deeper at the bow. In the multihull category, catamarans are the most popular. Catamarans have increased stability and a smaller draft which means they can have smaller engines.

Hull Dimensions

Hull dimensions vary depending on the type of boat being built. The boat length, width, height and angles must all be considered to optimise the hull for what it’s designed to do. Computational techniques use different methods based on relocating and scaling hull segments.

The intake value is the length of the hull, then three sections of the hull: entrance, middle body and run. Computational methods facilitate the boat hull design and easily allow numerical parameters to be modified for better design. Other physical factors such as buoyancy, hull shape and the boat material used must be taken into account to have a successful boat of any type.

To learn more, check out these top superyacht concepts, learn about how the superyacht industry will change over the next ten years, or read about growing jobs in the Marine industry.

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