In prawn-trawling operations, otter boards provide the horizontal force required to maintain net openings, and are typically low aspect ratio (∼0.5) flat plates operating on the seabed at high angles of attack (AOA; 35–40°). Such characteristics cause otter boards to account for up to 30% of the total trawling resistance, including that from the vessel. A recent innovation is the batwing otter board, which is designed to spread trawls with substantially less towing resistance and benthic impacts. A key design feature is the use of a sail, instead of a flat plate, as the hydrodynamic foil. The superior drag and benthic performance of the batwing is achieved by (i) successful operation at an AOA of ∼20° and (ii) having the heavy sea floor contact shoe in line with the direction of tow. This study investigated the hydrodynamic characteristics of a generic sail by varying its twist and camber, to identify optimal settings for maximum spreading efficiency and stability. Loads in six degrees of freedom were measured at AOAs between 0 and 40° in a flume tank at a constant flow velocity, and with five combinations of twist and camber. The results showed that for the studied sail, the design AOA (20°) provides a suitable compromise between greater efficiency (occurring at lower AOAs) and greater effectiveness (occurring at higher AOAs). At optimum settings (20°, medium camber and twist), a lift-to-drag ratio >3 was achieved, which is ∼3 times more than that of contemporary prawn-trawling otter boards. Such a result implies relative drag reductions of 10–20% for trawling systems, depending on the rig configuration.

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