What Carl’s Sail Calculator Does:
Physicist and sailor Carl Adler developed this online Sail Calculator for comparing sailboats and its database has grown over a number of years to almost 3000 boats. It should be one of the first places you go on the Web if you want to know the vital statistics about a sailboat, including Length Overall (LOA), Length on the Waterline (LWL), Displacement and Sail Area.
The Sail Calculator will also give you valuable performance numbers for any vessel in its database or any numbers you enter, including the Displacement / LWL ratio, Theoretical Limiting Hull Speed, Sail Area / Displacement ratio, Length to Beam ratio, Motion Comfort value, Capsize Screening value, sailing category and Pounds per inch immersion value.
Naval architects use these values when they design a new boat, and from them you can determine a conventional displacement hull boat’s purpose and predict its performance. Note that planing hulls, catamarans and hydrofoil vessels are not defined in the same way. Here’s what the performance numbers mean:
Displacement/LWL ratio – Heavy boats (D/L above about 300) will carry big loads but require plenty of power to drive. Light boats (D/L below about 150) are generally quicker and more responsive but are affected by loading. Most boats have moderate displacement and they compromise the conflicting virtues of the extreme designs. Contemporary racing boats often have D/L ratios well below 100.
Hull Speed – A conventional hull, which moves through the water rather than rising atop it and planing across the surface, is limited in speed by length of the waves it produces; long waves travel faster. This wave length can be calculated and the top speed of the hull predicted. Long boats make long waves.
Sail Area / Displacement ratio – The SA/D ratio is like the power/weight ratio of an automobile. A high SA/D ratio (> about 18) indicates a powerful rig, while a low ratio indicates a more docile boat.
Length / Beam ratio – A long, narrow hull with limited interior space is easier to drive than a short, fat one with plentiful capacity. Compare L/B ratios to gain insight into the purpose of the boat.
Motion Comfort value – Not as widely used as the previous numbers, the Motion Comfort value tries to predict whether a boat has a quick, motion through the waves or a slow, easy motion. Note that some people get more seasick with a slowly rolling motion than a quick, jerky one. Your mileage will vary.
Capsize Screening number – Developed after the Fastnet Race tragedy, the Capsize Screening number is a quick way to judge if a boat is seaworthy. Values below 2.0 are desirable for offshore yachts. Do not put too much faith in the exact number, as it is an approximation only.
Pounds / square inch Immersion – When you load a boat, it sinks deeper into the water. This Immersion value indicates the weight carrying capacity of a vessel.
There is also a Prop Sizing section which will calculate the optimum propeller to use on any displacement-hull boat, based on noted naval architect Dave Gerr’s formulas.