Modeling and nonlinear heading control of sailing yachts

Lin Xiao, Jerome Jouffroy

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


This paper presents a study on the development and testing of a model-based heading controller for a sailing yacht. Using Fossen’s compact notation for marine vehicles, we first describe a nonlinear four-degree-of-freedom (DOF) dynamic model for a sailing yacht, including roll. Our model also includes two possible steering mechanisms: a conventional rudder and a simple moving mass system. Starting from this model, we then design, for both steering mechanisms, a nonlinear heading controller using the integrator backstepping method,which exponentially stabilizes the heading/yaw dynamics. By computing the equilibrium points of the system, the course is related to the heading angle, and course control
is also achieved. A few simulation results are presented to illustrate the behavior of our control designs.
Original languageEnglish
JournalIEEE Journal of Oceanic Engineering
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)256-268
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2014


  • Heading control
  • Modeling
  • sailing vehicles
  • Nonlinear feedback control
  • Course control
  • Sailing yachts


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