Cloud-based design of yacht sails

CapeHorn Engineering is a British SME which uses Computational Fluid Dynamics to design ocean-going racing yachts for competitions such as the Americas cup and the Volvo Ocean Race. Up to now, most of CapeHorn’s accomplishments have been achieved in conjunction with renowned sporting teams with large budgets. However, the relentless advance and wider availability of HPC resources and improvements in CFD tools now enable CapeHorn to design sailing and motor yachts involving more modest budgets. However, there still exist some barriers to the wider use of CFD by SMEs in this sector. The perception that computationally demanding fluid flow simulations are unaffordable still prevails for most potential users. To overcome this perception, this experiment aims to develop a service which is easy to use and affordable by small end-users and which is available as a one-stop-shop. This service will provide an HPC-Cloud-based tool for the design of sails with better performance, not only for racing yachts, but also for any cruising yacht, large or small. PLUS Solutions is an Italian company which specialises in tailored software solutions and virtual prototyping in multiple sectors such as Computer-Aided Engineering (CAE). HPC resources and expertise were provided by the Italian HPC centre CINECA.


The Challenge

Cape Horn uses computer simulation to design the best sails for its boats. However, sail design is a very computationally intensive process. Sail design workflows need to analyse the sail’s “flying shape”, which affects the airflow and pressure. This is achieved with a complex Fluid-Structure Interaction (FSI) coupling between a CFD and Finite Element Model (FEM) software packages.

97% of businesses in this area are SMEs. In this sector, there are still technological and cost barriers to accessing HPC-based simulation.

The Solution

The outcome of this experiment was the development of AeroSimPortal, an easy-to-use tool for sail design studies. This tool removes previously-existing barriers that prevented small companies from using CFD services. Through the use of an HPC web- and cloud-based simulation platform, all of the necessary tools to analyse sails are made easily available to companies.

The simple graphical user interface (GUI) allows the user to launch complex CFD/FSI simulations by only uploading a geometry and sailing conditions as inputs. Behind the GUI, there is a fully automated simulation workflow. Even inexperienced users can now access design tools that they would previously have been unable to utilise.

Business Impact

The AeroSimPortal platform constitutes an innovative and sustainable approach to deploying specialized sail design workflows. A cloud-based solution is especially useful to SMEs, which would not normally need these services regularly enough to justify the cost of purchasing their own HPC hardware.

The revenue streams resulting from this experiment will include both consultancy services and SaaS fees.

Through the AeroSimPortal platform, Cape Horn is able to reduce the cost of its design and consultancy services by around 50%, while keeping the same profit margins. This will allow it to charge extremely competitive prices to its customers, increasing its market share. Beyond the consultancy service, Cape Horn will deploy AeroSimPortal through a scalable pay-per-use platform. Subject to testing, AeroSimPortal is expected to be available on the Fortissimo Marketplace in early 2019.

PLUS and CINECA will benefit from expertise gained through the experiment. They will be able to target customers in the maritime engineering sector and will be able to better compete for their business thanks to this experience.


Cape Horn have seen the following benefits from their participation in the experiment:

  • Additional revenues from consulting estimated at about €300,000 over the next three years
  • Additional income from the introduction of a SaaS platform, estimated at approx. €200,000 over the next three years
  • Significant time reduction for sail designers, since they can concentrate on design issues and not on fluid dynamics

Organizations Involved

End User: Cape Horn Engineering
Application Expert: PLUS Solutions
HPC Provider: CINECA