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Skylark: a Dymaxion Yacht

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Back in the day, whenever we Industrial Design majors were burning the midnight oil and sorely lacking in inspiration, we would pause in our sketching, look up from the drawing table, and take a deep breath. We would glance over at a little bulletin board shrine that featured pictures of a geodesic dome, a tensegrity structure, a “machine for living”, and a 1933 Dymaxion car. We would ask ourselves under our breaths, “What would Bucky do?”

So in the spirit of R. Buckminster Fuller and the holidays, let us ask the question: what would a Dymaxion Yacht be?

Fuller invented the word Dymaxion: a portmanteau of dynamic-maximum-tension. The proa is already a “dynamic maximum tension” invention, so we are leagues ahead just with the basic architecture. Besides, the proa has a sort of “three wheeler” aspect to it, just like Fuller’s automobile. A proa also shares Bucky’s disdain for practicality and the status quo, giving it all up for mathematical purity and design efficiency.

Material: A tubular frame with riveted aluminum skin, just like an airplane of the day. These days it would be carbon fiber, epoxy resin and foam, again, just like an airplane. That said, I’ve got the “chrome” surface texture on full gleam for this 3D model - feeling the Bucky.

The basic platform: One hull, one “wind engine”, one rudder, one lateral resistance device, one outrigged counter-balance - no more than strictly necessary.

Streamlining: Bucky loved streamlining - the art of outwitting fluid drag. It must have seemed darned near magical to a designer back in the 1930’s - a way to bend an invisible force to your will. As is the way with popular ideas, streamlining was adopted to everything that moved and then to everything that didn’t. Toaster marketing notwithstanding, careful streamlining is important for any vessel that “swims” through the fluids of air or water, whether animal, vegetable or mineral. A Dymaxion yacht should be as teardrop-shaped as possible.

Enclosed cockpit: Sailboats with open sailing cockpits are akin to airplanes with open cockpits. All those people on deck, the sharp boxy shapes, lifelines, and such are just so many drag producing protuberances. Let’s keep the crew safely inside the vessel at all times, with no need to go above deck for the safe operation of the vessel. Steering and keeping watch is handled from within a transparent dome, just like modern airplanes.

Hullshape: an airship for the water, the rounded dirigible-like skin has both the least skin friction and surface area for the most interior volume. The gently arched bottom is designed to plane like sailing dinghy.

The Wing: Blondie Hasler employed a junk rig on his single-handed transatlantic racing folkboat Jester, because the rig can be trimmed, reefed and furled without the need to go on deck. This is also true of the tailplane controlled wingsail of the type espoused by Peter Worsley.

“If a tail is used attached to a boats’ wingsail, it can adjust the wing perfectly to every small change of wind direction, in this way relieving the sailor of this task, which is mostly guesswork and at best very approximate, and it can perform that job much better than any sailor can do.”

The wingsail need never reef, since the tailplane can adjust the angle of attack to de-power the rig as needed, even to full stop, or fully feathered into the wind. The feathered wing has less aerodynamic drag than the bare poles of a traditional soft rig. Other benefits of the rig include superior efficiency, no drag producing stays, light weight, and the ability to trim a full 360 degrees - making it an ideal shunting rig for a Dymaxion proa. I don’t think Bucky could resist putting an airplane wing on his boat of the future, I know I certainly can’t.

Pantograph crossbeams: These permit the outrigger and board to swing aft, aligning with the wing force resultant, creating a perfect balance between air and water vectors. This balance creates a properly aligned tensile structure. The water ballast moving aft brings the CG along with it, to promote planing. The other minor benefit of pantographing beams is the ability to fit within a typical monohull-size slip.

Rudder: This is the one place with requirement of two, though only one is used at a time. They are Brown/Newick dagger-rudders, controlled via cables that lead to a wheel beneath the steering domes.

So there you have it, the imaginary “Buckminster Fuller” Dymaxion yacht. Thank you, spirit of Bucky. There are a host of important issues to be dealt with if the boat were to actually get made, for instance… anchoring and mooring? But that’s typical Bucky… he gave us the geodesic dome, but it’s up to us to figure out how to keep the window seals from leaking.

[ Edited: 22 December 2013 09:23 PM by Editor ]

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What, no hydrofoils?

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Very cool, Michael! Beautiful renderings. I am a big fan of Buckminster Fulller and I can see him written all over this. And you are right, there is a strong affinity between proas and 3wheelers. They are both very easy on the structure and can be light because of it.
I imagine as the boat heels the CoB moves substantialy to lee of the CoG and so would be much more stable than one might think.
I think it would freak a few people out if you pulled into the marina in one of these smile

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The proa is already a “dynamic maximum tension” invention, so we are leagues ahead just with the basic architecture. A proa also shares Bucky’s disdain for practicality and the status quo, giving it all up for mathematical purity and design efficiency.

This is pure poetry to me!!!

Thanks Michael for a great article!
I had a full day yesterday reading with very keen interest everything about Buckminister Fuller, Geodesic domes, hyperboloid structures, Cloud Nine and tensegrity structures.

I really love your Dymaxion Yacht!!

Cheers,
Johannes

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Does it have an autonomous black box?

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This drawing sure got me day-dreaming.

Any detailed construction drawings of the cross-beam hinges and the wing-sail?

Sadly, i’m sure it’s just pie in the sky wishful thinking on my part.
I’m mean, even if the boat was scaled down to 16-17 meters, i doubt it could be built by the DIY, back-yard boat-builder on a budget even if strip-planked.

Imagine the massive bushings and bushing pins needed for the cross-beam hinges.
And how could we stop, and secure in position, the swinging cross-beams without a constantly running hydraulic pump, and ram cylinders.

And then there’s the free-standing, rotating wing-mast.
That would be carbon-fiber and probably rotating around a carbon stub-mast on low-friction bearing material.
I guess there would have to be a series of foil shaped, carbon wish-bone ribs positioned along the whole length of the mast to give shape to, i suppose, a stiff, mylar sail surface.
And is that a cantilever weight off the leading edge of the mast?
And does that act like a flywheel to smooth-out the constant adjustments made by the tail-winglet?

 

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Impressive Michael.  Kudos for making use of the Dymaxion Script font.

Cheers,
Paul

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One of the more impressive design features of the Dymaxion car was its faceted wrap-around windscreen.  Compared to contemporary automobile designs, that was quite an advance. There was a yacht - mentioned elsewhere in this forum - which incorporated something similar. As a design feature, it probably works better on land, than on sea. And on a motorboat, than on a sailboat.

    Proafile - Tesla by Jac Iversens and Fredrick Ljungström

    Webpage about the Tesla sailboat (in Swedish)

    Contemporary article about the Tesla sailboat (in Swedish)

Cheers,
Paul

[ Edited: 27 December 2013 02:17 PM by aerohydro ]

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Thanks for the comments everyone. Even though Skylark seems outlandish, there’s nothing there that couldn’t have been accomplished with 1930’s airplane technology and their considerable metal working skills. As I recall, Bucky hired an America’s Cup naval architect to engineer the Dymaxion car but I don’t recall who it was. But no, it’s not a stitch-n-glue backyard builder kind of project. More like something Howard Hughes could have built if he was into sailboats.

Good catch on the font, Paul, and thanks for showing me the Tesla, that’s a new one for me!

 

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Bucky hired an America’s Cup naval architect to engineer the Dymaxion car but I don’t recall who it was.

It was Starling Burgess (and that’s without using Google!)

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red cedar - 26 December 2013 01:36 PM

And is that a cantilever weight off the leading edge of the mast?
And does that act like a flywheel to smooth-out the constant adjustments made by the tail-winglet?

I believe the counterweight is to bring the centre-of-mass of the whole wing assembly onto the axis-of-rotation. This should prevent any rotation of the wing as the boat heels or pitches, leaving the wing position being driven by the tail-winglet.

Roll on 2014 and good wishes to all proanuts

Peter

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Thing is, Buckminster Fuller did design a Dymaxion sailboat.

In 1947, he came up with a minimalist rowboat that he called the Rowing Needle - the name is a riff on the term “sewing needle”.  The rowboat was the subject of a 1970 patent, which detailed how it could be converted into a sailboat. In addition to there being the usual sailrig and keel, etc, it was to have two fully submerged hydrofoils, positioned fore and aft. It appears that this variation of the Rowing Needle was never realized, which is a pity. Still, it’s a multihull and incorporated hydrofoils - what’s not to love? 

    Buckminster Fuller’s Rowing Needle

    US Patent #3,524,422 - Watercraft - by R Buckminster Fuller

    US Patent #3,524,422 - Watercraft - Figure 5 (page illustrating the sailboat)

So, we now have two Dymaxion sailboat designs, each different to the other. That’s fine, as this is not about Buckminster Fuller (the designer), but about Buckminster Fuller (the influence). After all, as the man himself has stated, “I seem to be a verb”.

Cheers,
Paul

[ Edited: 28 December 2013 07:19 PM by aerohydro ]

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Love it!  Bucky would have loved the pantographing akas that moves the clr fore and aft as necessary. 

Bucky was a lifelong sailor—in addition to his stint in the navy.  His family had a summer house on an island in Maine, and a lot of his early inventions had to do with boaty stuff.  And the stayed masted boats of his time were a huge influence on his development of tensegrity—structures that are purely in tension and compression.  Spreaders came into widespread existence in his lifetime.  That must have been an “aha” for a young Bucky.

I’m surprised that he DIDN"T design a proa.  Maybe he did…

I wonder how he would have felt about an unstayed mast.  He did love his tetrahedrons.  But I bet the aerodynamic and pantographing advantages would have won him over.

I’d order mine with a geodesic/triangulated greenhouse/windows to make the cabin feel airy, and to take in the view.  I’m guessing that the helm is near the mast inside—where the motion is the best.  But a helm in each end, closer to the geodesic “windshield” might give better views from inside.  And it would facilitate popping your head out of the deck for a tank commander like view from the helm.

Lovely work, as usual.

chris

 

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pr1066 - 27 December 2013 08:16 AM

I believe the counterweight is to bring the centre-of-mass of the whole wing assembly onto the axis-of-rotation. This should prevent any rotation of the wing as the boat heels or pitches, leaving the wing position being driven by the tail-winglet.

Roll on 2014 and good wishes to all proanuts

Peter

Thanks,
Ok, so the changing center of gravity pulls the counter-weight and so cancelling the push on the tail-wing, helping to keep the main-wing in correct alignment?

Concerning that wing-sail: does the heeling force calculation treat the wing-sail the same as a mainsail (such as square area)?

Any one care to share an opinion as to likely material costs for a like wing-sail?

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red cedar - 30 December 2013 12:44 AM

Concerning that wing-sail: does the heeling force calculation treat the wing-sail the same as a mainsail (such as square area)?

Heeling force calculations are somewhat different for this sort of wingsail because it is completely free to rotate about its mast. If the wind hits the wing flat on it simply swings round to the angle of attack - which is controlled by the trim wing. It can’t get caught aback and a sudden gust or change in wind direction has much less effect. The only heeling effect that it has is from its own lift - the component of the lift force that is not driving the hull forward is tending to lift the ama.

hope that helps

Peter

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Material costs wouldn’t be as high as skill costs. It really is like building an airplane wing. Land and ice yachts have been dabbling in wing sails for years. Here’s Wingnut 4.

youtube video series of wooden wingsail construction: Part 1.

If the wind hits the wing flat on it simply swings round to the angle of attack - which is controlled by the trim wing. It can’t get caught aback and a sudden gust or change in wind direction has much less effect. The only heeling effect that it has is from its own lift - the component of the lift force that is not driving the hull forward is tending to lift the ama.

The tailplane controlled wing really only comes into it’s own when it is free-standing, with no stays to limit the rotation. On broad reaching or running courses it is possible to sail with the tailplane aiming backwards and still provide safe and efficient forward driving thrust for the boat, with no danger of a gybe. This is the opposite of a C-class cat or America’s Cupper, which must employ stays to keep the wing standing, which limits the rotation, which then demands the wing be highly deformable via moving wing elements to remain efficient at high angles of attack.

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