PBS KIDS GO!dragonflytv

Find out when DragonflyTV is on in your town.
Discover DFTV!
This text is replaced by the Flash movie.

Sailing by Emmanuel and GiGi

Whether traveling the New York Harbor in a speedy skiff, or floating model boats in Central Park, we love to sail. While sailing our toy boats in the pond, we noticed that our boats seem to travel faster in some directions than in others. Our question: What is the fastest sailing direction and why?

What did we do?
We began our investigation by sailing our boats in three directions: with the wind (called "running"), with the wind, but at an angle (called "broad reach"), and into the wind at an angle (called "close hauled"). We set up some balloons in the sailing pond as markers and timed our boats sailing in those three directions. Once we found the fastest direction, we investigated wind speeds around the sails by booking a trip on a real sailboat out in New York harbor.

What did we find out?
Sailing our toy boats in Central Park, we found sailing "broad reach" took the least time, meaning it was the fastest speed. To understand why, we took a digital wind speed indicator (anemometer) with us on a real sailboat. When sailing "broad reach", we measured the wind speed on the outside of the sail and the inside of the sail. We found a difference between the two, indicating that the boat was getting some kind of an extra push when sailing "broad reach".

What can you do?
  • Can you make your own anemometer? Take it with you on a sailboat and see what it tells you.
  • Investigate other kinds of wind-powered vehicles, like wind cars or ice sailboats. What direction of travel gives you the fastest speed?
  • Use this sailing investigation as a science fair project idea for your elementary or middle school science fair! Then tell us about it!
more resources
More on Newton's Laws

Go to the DFTV Boards, and tell us about your science investigation.
whiz quiz
What country built the first windmills?

dragonflytv PBS Kids Go!