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CFD Software Makes Waves in the America's Cup
Posted Tue April 01, 2003 @12:00PM
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Application The landlocked European nation of Switzerland is not renowned for its seafaring traditions. However, in Auckland, New Zealand during the last three months this stereotype was firmly knocked on the head, as the Swiss-based Alinghi Challenge, skippered by Russell Coutts, won yachting's blue ribbon event, the America's Cup, from two-time holders Team New Zealand in a dramatic 5 - 0 series. This has been one of the most unprecedented yachting victories in the 152-year history of the venerable competition.

At the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland - the Official Scientific Advisor to the Alinghi Challenge for the 2003 America's Cup - researchers working in the group of Prof. Alfio Quarteroni have applied leading-edge numerical flow simulation techniques using Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) software. These simulations have provided valuable information to the Alinghi Designers Rolf Vrolijk and Manolo Ruiz del Elvira who, together with Coordinator Grant Simmer, designed the winning high-performance Alinghi racing yacht.

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The use of the commercial CFD software FLUENT from Fluent Inc., along with in-house and third party codes, has allowed the EPFL and Alinghi to analyze hydrodynamic and aerodynamic flows, and even yacht/yacht interactions. CFD has allowed Alinghi to obtain a competitive edge in an application area where small performance improvements result in significant time gains.

Grant Simmer, Coordinator of the Alinghi Design Team noted that "To have a realistic hope of winning the America's Cup, we needed to excel in many areas. That's the reason the partnership with EPFL was so important to us. The EPFL's academic expertise helps us to validate ideas quickly in broad fields such as material resistance, structural integrity, aero- and hydrodynamics. In particular, the results of computational fluid dynamics simulations have provided Alinghi with essential information necessary for optimal design choice."

Prof. Alfio Quarteroni from the EPFL added that "We are very proud of Alinghi's strong performance in the America's Cup, and we are pleased that our CFD group was able to contribute to the victory."

Gerard de Neuville, Corporate Vice President of Fluent Inc. and Manager of Fluent France shared in the excitement of Alinghi's win, "The EPFL has been using CFD software from Fluent Inc. for several years now and we are pleased that our code's success in other sporting areas such as Formula 1 Motor Racing and Olympic Sports has been repeated by Alinghi. All South Europeans salute this unique sporting victory by the Swiss team."

Surface pressure and pathlines around the bulb appendages.

surface waves
Waves generated on the water surface by a Wigley hull.

boat interaction
A bird’s-eye view of two sailboats on the water, sailing downwind; pathlines indicate the interaction between the boats.

data comparison
Comparison of computed (blue line) and experimental (red circles) values of the waterline on the surface of a 2.5m Wigley hull.

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