2.996 | Fall 2003 | Graduate
Sailing Yacht Design (13.734)


This course was originally offered in Course 13 (Department of Ocean Engineering) as 13.734. In 2005, ocean engineering subjects became part of Course 2 (Department of Mechanical Engineering), and this course was renumbered 2.996.

Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 3 sessions / week, 1 hour / session

Course Description

This subject teaches students, having an initial interest in sailing design, how to design good yachts. As of May 2004, it was offered only once at MIT and this was in the Fall Term of 2003. It is built on some of the material offered in a seminar subject of the same name taught in 2002.

The principal material for this subject comes from:

Larsson, Lars and Rolf E. Eliasson. Principles of Yacht Design New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 2000. ASIN: B000OG021W.

Although the entire part of the textbook related to sailing vessels is relevant, the reading assignments are pages: 1-55, 56-131, 132-263, 295-225, 226-268, 297-310, and 311-321. The student must acquire this book in order to study this course.

Hydrostatics is a crucial sub-topic in sailing yacht design. It includes the level at which the boat floats, the fore and aft trim, and the transverse stability which is inextricably linked to the power that can be absorbed from the sails. The course contains more about hydrostatic fundamentals than is covered in the aforementioned textbook. In addition to lectures on hydrostatics, this material is augmented in an MIT Department of Ocean Engineering set of printed notes titled Ocean Engineering Hydrostatics (September 1991) by Justin E. Kerwin and available from the M.I.T. Department of Ocean Engineering. The reading assignment from these printed notes is pages 1-41. This assignment should be read immediately after reading pages 1-55 in and Eliasson text, or the two reading assignments can be woven together after which the student should do Problem Set number 1.

The design spiral, illustrated on page 5 of the textbook needs to be started with an initial set of preliminary design parameters. A procedure for establishing these is a link on this Web site and its study should be interwoven with reading pages 56-131 of the textbook. The preliminary design requires an estimate of the approximate transverse stability for small to moderate heel angles. A method for estimated this is included as a link on this Web site.

Computer aided design (CAD) is used to design the shapes of hulls, appendages and decks. Many commercial CAD programs exist which provide precise geometry, take the drudgery out of what was formerly calculations done “by hand”, and do not interfere with the design creativity of the boat designer. The CAD program, which can run on either PC or Macintosh® computers, chosen for this course is called Maxsurf which is made by Formation Design Systems Pty Ltd. of Freemantle, Australia. It has the fastest and easiest “learning curve” of all good yacht and ship design CAD systems which is important for a 1-term course. Furthermore a “student version” with on-line documentation is available, free of charge. Whereas the professional program sold by Formation Design Systems can accommodate any number of surfaces, the student version is limited to three surfaces. With it, a hull, fin keel and a rudder, as the three surfaces can be designed. Then the hull without the appendages can be used as a single surface, leaving two surfaces available for design of the deck and cockpit. With each set of three surfaces, they can be intersected and trimmed so all the parts fit properly together. Serious students who intend to use the program extensively after studying this course can purchase versions that can simultaneously deal with more surfaces from the software manufacturer.

The capstone project in this course is the Final Design Project in which each student designs a sailing yacht, complete in all major respects.

Presently, all yachts with lengths less than 24 meters that are structurally approved for sale in the European Union must meet the structural requirement 12215 of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) based in Switzerland. At the time this course was last taught at MIT, copies of ISO 12215 were not available to the class students. Therefore, the structural standards used for this course are the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) for Building and Classing Offshore Racing Yachts, updated to January 1, 2001. ISO 12215 is based largely on this ABS Guide.

Course Info
As Taught In
Fall 2003
Learning Resource Types
grading Exams
assignment Problem Sets