Jordan Curtis

'An investigation into the aerodynamics of a wingmast and its subsequent effects on sail performance'


Jordan Curtis has always had a passion for the sea and engineering. From a young age, he has had plenty of mechanical experience. Having grown up in a 4th generation motortrade family, engines and cars were a big part of everyday life. Understanding how these things work and how to fix them was the family livelihood, and thus gave him an insight into engineering. Curtis has also developed a deep love for the water, from being a swimmer who competed at the Scottish Naitonals, to obtaining a RYA Dinghy Instructor and Offshore Yachtmaster qualifications. He has recently completed his honours year at the University of Strathclyde studying Naval Architecture, specialising in High Performance Marine Vehicles. He is about to embark on his master's year, to progress his love for the sea and for engineering. 

Introduction to research

In the present day, a 1% increase in performance can make all the difference in a very lucrative world-class yacht racing industry, with regards to events such as the Vendee Globe, Volvo Ocean Race and Clipper Round the World Race. This small percentage could ultimately result in the difference between victory and defeat, especially in relation to these events, which run over the course of several days to weeks of racing. The primary objective of my project is to analyse that 1%, which essentially concerns the effect that the mast shape exerts on the airflow upon the sail, and the resulting performance of the yacht. This is not currently a well documented topic, particularly in the 3D domain - this project explores this particular gap in the research. 

What made you choose maritime as your area of study and research?

I chose the maritime industry because it combined my two greatest passions; water and engineering. I gained my offshore Yachtmaster at the age of 18 and since then, I have sailed throughout the world. Sailing full time for a year helped me confirm that I wanted to pursue a career in the maritime sector; however, I still sought that engineering challenge. To pursue this knowledge and challenge, I opted to study an integrated masters at the University of Strathclyde in Naval Architecture with High Performance Marine Vehicles. The path I have more recently chosen for my individual dissertation has led me back to my roots, narrowing my focus on sailing yachts and more specifically, understanding the inner working of the sails to help the industry have a greater knowledge of the phenomenon of mast interference. 

What do you hope to get out of participating in the Maritime Masters programme?

The very basis of the UK Maritime Masters program is to enhance the relationship between academia and industry. This notion is something I am a very firm advocate of. At the start of my dissertation in September 2018, I decided to contact the industry before conducting more standard research via books/journal articles etc. I contacted two of the most renowned companies in sailing; North Sails and Selden Masts. Establishing this relationship at the beginning between academia and the industry in itself formed a crucial part of my dissertation, given that the companies practical knowledge proved essential in determining the focus on my dissertation. I believe that the success of my dissertation is attributable to the relationship that I initially established with the industry and therefore, I think it’s highly important to underscore this key relationship to future generations. In establishing this relationship, we find that not only will the research prove much higher in quality, it will also prove more useful in real world applications due to the industry having key hands on knowledge. Not only does this make it far more feasible that the research will be implemented in reality, but it will also ensure that the end result is far more accurate.