Dario's Lab

Piercing Insights – Part 3

We saw in Part 1 and Part 2 that generalised statements about the handling qualities of ‘wave piercing’ bows miss the point that bow profile is a reflection of sectional volume distribution, which is a much more useful indicator of design priorities.Multihull bow sections have recently tended to carry volume lower down rather than above the water ‘in reserve’. Maximum buoyancy is available at smaller bow-down trim angles.
These shapes are inherently slab-sided so tend to come together in upright stem profiles.
Such sections, combined with peaked foredecks designed to shed water easily, characterise modern bow profiles, though there is still considerable variation in the details.
Generally it can be said that such shapes behave more lineally: Gone is the sudden ‘tripping’ effect generated by a wide flat deck suddenly becoming submerged.

So far we have concentrated on downwind bow burying conditions. However the choice of bow shape must also take into account more common cases.

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Straight Line Sailing

As we saw in our look at the A Cat state of the art, multihull volume distribution must consider the doubling in displacement of the leeward hull as the windward one leaves the water. As flying a hull has become more common, limiting immersion or ‘sink’ of the leeward hull has become more important. Another reason for more U shaped sections.
In this respect, the decision must take into account the relative importance of wetted area and cross sectional area, values that can to some extent be traded.

As average speeds have increased, prismatic coefficients have grown, making the ends fuller.
This has led to very interesting findings about the sharpness of forward waterline endings. The concept of a fine bow ‘cutting’ the water has been replaced by more sophisticated ideas that have more in common with aerofoil leading edge theories. Fuller bows have evolved into more bulbous elliptical entries that are less sensitive to changes in the angle of the oncoming flow.

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Dynamic periodic motion is a complex subject but the simplified rule of thumb is that the damping effect of fuller extremities is greater than their contribution to pitching.
This is the one context where ‘wave piercing’ is an apt description. Meaning the upper part of the bow does not contribute to pitching moment as there is no upward component to the hydrostatic pressure. On the contrary, there is a small cancellation with the lower part of the bow. Interestingly, stern flare helps with pitch damping as the dynamics there are slightly different.


Modern bows come in a variety of profiles reflecting different design choices in section shape.
Rather than bundling all these types into one sweeping category and then drawing generalised conclusions, much understanding can be gained by looking a bit more carefully at the underlying section shape.
This should enable us to make a good educated assessment of the priorities driving the design choices in each individual case.