Fast, “eco” and very light! Turin Polytechnic University’s superboats are coming to the VELAFestival!


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Among the protagonists of the TAG Heuer VELAFestival will be the Polito Sailing Team, the student group at the Polytechnic University of Turin that carries out design, construction and operation of prototype skiffs that are ultra-fast, ultralight (the photo shows this) and environmentally sustainable.

In Santa Margherita you can touch their creations, which are hulls made of 70 percent natural and/or recyclable materials: such as the Numen, a boat made of balsa, fiberglass, and flax fiber. And you will also see them in action at the VELA Cup!

The Polito Sailing Team is the student group of the Polytechnic University of Turin that carries out the design, construction and operation of SKIFF prototypes, small boats with a short hull length (4.60 m), 2.10 m overall width, large sail area (33 sq. m. distributed between jib, mainsail and gennaker) whose crew consists of bowman and helmsman. The group’s main goal is the practical training of tomorrow’s engineer: the theoretical part, the idea, the study and the project, is translated into practice in the laboratory workshops of the Turin university complex where future engineers are transformed into modern shipwrights by making the hulls that will later compete. Commitment, perseverance, passion, and collaboration are the key words of our Team that was established in 2014 to participate in the 1001VelaCup university competition. The project started under the aegis of M.R. Dr. Marco Gilli developing over the following years to the present where it finds confirmation and support from M.R. Guido Saracco.

(Part of the Team members together with Professor Giuliana Mattiazzo and M.R Guido Saracco)

Participation in the international competition involves not only the purely competitive part but especially the construction of the boats using materials of natural, BIO or recyclable origin, the constraints imposed by the competition, require the use of 70% by weight of natural materials, or 75% by weight of recyclable and BIO materials.

Under the guidance of Professor Giuliana Mattiazzo (still leading the project) The first prototype to be built was “Eva” , following a study of the possible materials to be used, a sandwich hull was chosen, consisting of the flax fiber skin and balsa core, while a fiberglass skin was used for the deck and structure; an epoxy resin “Super Soap”, made from raw materials from recycled products and biomass, was tested in both realizations.

After this initial experience, our satisfaction increased in the 2015/2016 Academic Year with the “Atka” prototype. Thanks to the use of different materials, a lighter, more solid and aesthetically pleasing hull was achieved by sandwiching balsa, fiberglass and basalt for the skins, and balsa for the core; the deck and internal structure were also renovated using okumé plywood.

(ATKA in training)

Our triad of boats ended in the 2016/2017 academic year with “Numen” , a boat made of balsa, fiberglass, linen fiber. This third project represents the group’s professional breakthrough: the prototype skiff was made entirely by the university team. It is, in fact, a “self-made” laboratory boat, a prototype forerunner to a very large and complex field of sailing, in which the study of materials and technical solutions are absolutely innovative. The new model was created by paying special attention to the evaluation of mechanical stresses and their distribution on the hull, in order to carry out its validation. As a result, new materials such as linen were adopted, and the blanket was sandwiched using a mold to reduce its weight.


Following the excellent result obtained by “Atka,” a silver medalist at the 2018 1001VelaCup university regatta, the Polito Sailing Team has intensified its efforts to further improve the project, setting the goal of building two new boats that will compete to reach the highest step of the podium in the competition to be held in Mondello at the end of September. The first boat is made from Atka’s design, mainly modifying its circuits, adjustments, and terrace height. In terms of performance at present, the results obtained are more than satisfactory: in the most stressed areas of the hull, the search for innovative materials leads us to the use of a special basalt fiber with high mechanical properties that with balsa or PET cores guarantees, together with the minimum amount of glass fibers,a sandwich hull of about 25 kg to which must be added the weight of the internal structure and deck (also carefully sized) for a total of only 50 kg.

(ITA 38 project manager lifting the laminated hull).

Similarly, a second prototype was designed with a new approach to construction, taking a cue from the study of peak performance on the wind range assessed from race course statistics over the past decade, a new boat design was developed with new hull geometries that led to many innovations, including the study of as many as two sail planes as additive manufacturing and a coaming that allows the angle of incidence of the T-rudder to change .

In parallel with project development, our research area is engaged in developing a static and dynamic VPP (Velocity Prediction Program) for a preliminary assessment of boat performance as a function of boat configuration.The goal is to have a design tool that can be used in the construction of new boats, exploiting experimental data and data obtained through numerical models and CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics).

(Fluid-dynamic simulation of wave-free hull in turbulent regime)

Each component of our boats is carefully sized for its purpose. Practicality, functionality and minimal weight are major goals for us; for this purpose we use the Finite Element Method (FEM), topological and shape optimizations. All confirmed experimentally and therefore valid engineeringly.

(“FEM-Aided Structural Design of a Natural Fiber Composite Made Skiff” Publication:




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