September 2014

Around the world


Warsaw University celebrates ten years of Physics Under Sails

The Physics Under Sails project has been run by Faculty of Physics, Warsaw University of Technology for a decade now, and has gone from strength to strength teaching physics and sailing in an accessible and enjoyable format. Combining such complex subject matter with the rigourous demands of sail training might sound like a tall order, but demand for places on their voyages has seen no shortage in the ten years since the project began.

The Polish Sail Training Association has written the following letter chronicling the history of this project and how it hopes to continue.

Physics under sail

"It is said that you can learn everything at university except life. But what about sailing? Is there a better way to face all of your weaknesses, test your limitations and overcome them than to stand on the top of the skysail during the storm? How much different is your life after only few weeks on the open sea?  It’s unbelievable how hard it is, to come back to regular life after such an adventure. Because no matter what you do, you will experience a strong passionate feeling from the time to time. A feeling that the sea is calling you to return. 

"It is true that once one makes a step on the board of the ship, his or her heart no longer stays peaceful on the land. We feel honoured to experience such things thanks to Warsaw University of Technology and its Faculty of Physics."


"In the beginning there was an idea. The idea that young people need much more than staring at the computer and studying and that they have this passion and the need to prove themselves. But more importantly, there was the concept to bring such complicated thing like physics closer to people. To show them and educate them about it. It all started in 2005. The first ship that took part in Physics under Sails was STS Pogoria.

"Initially Physics under Sails was just an event during annual Warsaw Science Festival. That year (2005) which was the International Year of Physics, the theme was the physics behind sailing, from wind and sails through waves to GPS and navigation. So if we had to show people how it works, first we had to know it ourselves.

"That theme came a few months earlier when one day in his laboratory Dr Jan Grabski was telling to his student and future first co-organizer of “Physics under Sails” Patryk Bakowski the story about his adventure on the sea when in the storm his yacht broke steer, the wind ripped the main sail and the motor broke. It was a horrifying but also beautiful story about conquering your own weaknesses. “Let’s make sailing the theme of our next Science Festival on WUT. And let’s sail.”

"That’s when our idea was born. That’s when we first sailed under “Physics under Sails” flag on board of STS Pogoria.


"Every year we took part in Tall Ships’ Races and showed crews and visitors in ports that physics can be fun. In 2007, during the Mediterranean Regatta we were awarded for constantly promoting and sharing the laws of physics.

"After a few years the vessel was changed and “Physics under Sails” moved onto Fryderyk Chopin with the associate of Szczecin and responsibilities of the co-organiser took Piotr Karwowski. We did our best to show every port our passion for physics and sailing alike. Moreover, in 2012 STS Fryderyk Chopin won The Tall Ships Races and in 2014 The Friendship Trophy. One may say that it was just hard work but, to be honest, it was also a great adventure. What enriches life more than visiting all of these magnificent cities, stunning vessels and making all these friendships? We are very proud to be not only a part of the project “Physics under Sails” but also first of all to be a part of The Tall Ship Races family."


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  • Poland Is it true that once you step on board a ship your heart no longer stays peaceful on the land? Find out more here.
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