Jamestowner wins award for hydrofoil boat thesis
An analysis of the fluid-structure interaction between water and daggerboards may sound more confusing than captivating, but it’s led to a prestigious award and a nice paycheck for one recent college grad.
Jamestown native Casey Brown won the 2016 Mandels Prize and $2,500 from the International Hydrofoil Society for an abridged version of his senior thesis. He co-authored the study with classmate Cody Stansky at the Webb Institute, a marine engineering college in Glen Cove, N.Y.
The highly technical paper, which is filled with figures, charts and equations, describes how water interacts with daggerboards, which are the vertical wings attached to hydrofoils. The shape converts the forward motion into a windward lift, Brown said, countering the leeward push of the sail. It’s the energy that allowed catamarans during the 2013 America’s Cup to have their hulls lift clear out of the water.
The authors, using physics simulation software, studied how the boats warp and change their performances mid-race.
“All structures deform slightly, no matter how stiff they are,” Brown said.
By bending a hydrofoil, which is caused by the boat’s weight against the daggerboard, the hull lifts to a certain height, he said. Since most hydrofoils are built to rise above the water and decrease drag, the thesis could lead to boats that sail faster while remaining stable.
“Our findings could help a builder and designer create a foil with more predictable characteristics at high speeds,” Brown said.
According to Brown, the analysis is a combination of two engineering fields — computational fluid dynamics, which studies the flow around a hydrofoil, and finite element analysis, which is a mathematical structural study.
Brown said his thesis is somewhat groundbreaking, especially at the undergraduate level.
“The lead designers in the America’s Cup, who are all experts in the field, are just getting to that,” he said.
Brown, who was a member of the Webb sailing team, wrote the paper because of his love for sailing and the America’s Cup, where daggerboards first received international attention. He initially was optimistic about winning the award, but the authors had to scale back their experiments. According to Brown, the full extent of their thesis required more than two men in a single year.
“We were a little less hopeful upon submitting it, but we we’re really excited to get it,” he said.
Brown graduated this spring from college with degrees in naval architecture and marine engineering. Before enrolling in college, he studied composites technology at Newport’s IYRS School of Technology & Trades.
Although he’s fresh out of the college, Brown isn’t green in the industry. He’s interned with Gunboat International, Maran Gas Maritime and New England Boatworks, and currently works as a SeaDek fabricator at Mac Designs and designs yachts for Philip Steggall.
He also owns his own company, although Island Longboards is a land-based initiative that has been designing and building skateboards since 2008.