The boat

Diagram of a simple sailing boat

A standard sailing boat has four main parts:

  • Hull: Base platform, floats in the water. Probably also holds most of your electronics.
  • Sails: Transfers energy from the wind to the boat. Sails are most effective when acting as an airfoil, not just a bag catching the wind.
  • Keel: Heavy weight underwater, stops the boat falling over.
  • Rudder: Sticks into the water, turns to steer the boat.

If you don’t want to build your own boat, a good shortcut is to look for remote controlled model sailing boats. Complete boats with servos for the sails and the rudder are available for a few hundred euros/dollars/pounds. The RC laser is one popular model, while the International One Metre class is a specification that many different models are made to.

A small sailing boat in the water

The Black Python, based on an International One Metre class design, at WRSC 2016 (larger image).

If you are interested in building a hull, the MaxiMOOP design is freely available (files on GitHub). This is designed for robotic sailing, and among other features, it has much more space for electronics than most remote controlled boats.

3D hull shape with large keel

The MaxiMOOP hull design

Other things to try

Boat with wing sail and air rudder
  • Wing sails are rigid airfoils rather than a flexible sheet. They can be balanced so that changing and holding their position needs little force. Åland sailing robots have used a wing sail controlled by a smaller tail wing, avoiding the need to actively turn the main wing (2016 paper).
  • An air rudder steers by deflecting air instead of water.
  • Multi-hull designs, like catamarans and trimarans, have two or more hulls side-by-side, with a gap between them. This can help make the boat more stable.