Professor Richard George James Flay

BE(Hons), PhD (MechEng)

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Professor (Personal Chair)


Professor Flay joined the Mechanical Engineering Department in 1984 as a senior lecturer, and he has been professor of Mechanical Engineering since 2000. His main teaching areas are fluid mechanics, thermodynamics, aerodynamics, design, wind engineering and yacht engineering.

His research interests are focused on the wind, and he has consulted and researched in the areas of wind engineering, wind energy, wind tunnel design, wind tunnel testing. A highlight was his design of the world’s first wind tunnel capable of producing twisted flow for testing yacht sails. This wind tunnel was used by Team New Zealand, and helped them win the America’s Cup in 1995. More recently he has advised on the design of wind tunnels in Hong Kong, Australia, India and New Zealand.

Professor Flay is Director of the Yacht Research Unit, which has a superb international reputation, and carries out a large proportion of the world’s wind tunnel testing of yacht sails. In 2014 the Yacht Research Unit moved to the University's Newmarket Campus, where it is co-located with the Aerodynamics Laboratory in the Wind Tunnel Hall, Building 901, Level 5. A closed circuit wind tunnel suitable for a wide range of aerodynamic investigations, with a test section 3.6 m wide and 2.5 m high has been designed and built, and was completed in June 2015. It has expanded the capability of the Yacht Research Unit and the Wind Engineering Group, and we are undertaking exciting research on wind excitation of buildings, roofs, and other structures and we have developed new instrumentation to measure the wind environment around buildings for human comfort information. A special sensitive balance in the new wind tunnel is available to measure the drag of cyclists and skiers, and we also carried out wind tunnel tests on the Cyclors on the Emirates Team New Zealand catamaran that won the America's Cup in 2017.


Research | Current

  • Sail Aerodynamics
  • Wind Engineering
  • Wind Energy
  • Wind Tunnel Testing

Research groups

Teaching | Current

  • MECHENG 211 - Thermofluids
  • MECHENG 712 - Aerohydrodynamics
  • MECHENG 731 - Engineering Design 4M
  • MECHENG 714 - Wind Engineering
  • MECHENG 771 - Aerodynamics and Hydrodynamics
  • MECHENG 773 - Small Craft Design and Manufacturing
  • MECHENG 774 - Small Craft Naval Architecture

Postgraduate supervision

Alexander Blakeley, PhD

Dario Motta, PhD

Simon Corkery, ME

Neil Hawkes, ME

Nicolas Aubin, PhD (Ecole Navale, Brittany, France)

Lei Yan, PhD (CSC Scholarship from China)


  • Angus Award, Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand (twice)
  • Medal of Exceptional Merit, Royal Institution of Naval Architects (2011)
  • Medal of Distinction, Royal Institution of Naval Architects (2012)
  • Tokyo Polytechnic University Global Centre of Excellence Guest Professor (2008 - 2012)
  • Invited New Zealand representative at the Workshops on Regional Harmonization of Wind Loading and Wind Environmental Specifications in Asia-Pacific Economies (APEC-WW) (2004 - 2012)



  • Director, Yacht Research Unit
  • Academic in charge, Aerodynamics Laboratory

Areas of expertise

  • Wind Engineering
  • Yacht Engineering
  • Wind Tunnel Testing
  • Pedestrian Level Wind Investigations
  • Aerodynamics
  • Fluid Mechanics

Committees/Professional groups/Services

Professional affiliations

  • FIMechE
  • President RINA(NZ)
  • Chair, 9th Asia-Pacific Conference on Wind Engineering, Auckland 2017

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

  • Milne, I. A., Sharma, R. N., & Flay, R. G. J. (2017). The structure of turbulence in a rapid tidal flow. Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Science, 473 (2204), 20170295-20170295. 10.1098/rspa.2017.0295
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Rajnish Sharma
  • Yan, L., Zhu, L.-D., & Flay, R. G. J. (2017). Identification of aerodynamic admittance functions of a flat closed-box deck in different grid-generated turbulent wind fields. Advances in Structural Engineering, 136943321771898-136943321771898. 10.1177/1369433217718985
  • Yan, L., Zhu, L. D., & Flay, R. G. J. (2017). Comparison of force-balance and pressure measurements on deck strips on a stationary bridge model. Journal of Wind Engineering and Industrial Aerodynamics, 164, 96-107. 10.1016/j.jweia.2017.02.010
  • Flay, R., & Lindley, D. (2017). Field measurements of the characteristics of a rural boundarylayer near the ground: !Part II, Data processing.
  • Pirooz, A. A. S., & Flay, R. G. J. (2017). A comparison of wind tunnel, AS/NZS1170.2, and CFD wind speed-ups over a rounded hill. 2017 Americas Conference on Wind Engineering, ACWE 2017.
  • Irwin, G., Johns, D. A., Flay, R. G. J., Munaro, F., Yung, Y., & Mackrell, T. A. (2017). A review of archaeological Maori canoes (waka) reveals changes in sailing technology and maritime communications in Aotearoa/New Zealand, AD 1300-1800. Journal of Pacific Archaeology, 8 (2), 31-43. Related URL.
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Dilys Johns, Geoffrey Irwin, Tim Mackrell
  • Pilate, J. P., Gerhardt, F. C., Norris, S. E., & Flay, R. G. J. (2016). A three-dimensional inverse method for the design of sails. Transactions of the Royal Institution of Naval Architects Part B International Journal of Small Craft Technology, 158 (B2), 73-87. 10.3940/rina.ijsct.2016.b2.156
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Stuart Norris
  • Yan, L., Guo, Z. S., Zhu, L. D., & Flay, R. G. J. (2016). Wind tunnel study of wind structure at a mountainous bridge location. Wind and Structures, 23 (3), 191-209. 10.12989/was.2016.23.3.191

Contact details

Primary location

BUILDING 902 - Bldg 902
Level 4, Room 409
New Zealand