Wingsails: Introduction

Seeing is Believing

It's hard to appreciate what a wingsail looks like without seeing it... A wingsail is more like a wing than a sail, as you can see from our image gallery.

Other companies involved with wingsails include Wingsail Charters, who operated Larinka, featured on this page; Boatek, who offerd single-handed wingsails, and the Inventure Trust, who owned a wingsail boat adapted by Trevor Jones for people with disabilities.

What Wingsails Have to Offer

A wingsail is a novel form of marine propulsion, and provides significant advantages over traditional, "soft" sailing rigs. To do so, it exploits higher maximum lift coefficients than such rigs. Wingsail craft can be built so that they are controlled by a single driver via a steering wheel and a forward/stop/reverse lever, such as is typical of large motor-powered boats.

This simplicity also makes sailing accessible to those who are inexperienced or disabled, who would not be able to sail under conventional rigs.

Wingsails have an eco-friendly potential, offering manoeuvrability and flexibility for wind-powered propulsion where motors would normally be used. However, to date, they have not been brought successfully to market. A few vessels exist, like the Zefyr vessel pictured right, a monoplane wingsail on a 14.3m trimaran.

History/Possible Future Applications

The commercial history of wingsail development has been similar to that of many other radical design ideas: whilst the technology is clearly exciting, commercial up-take has been cautious. Click here for more historical info.

Wingsails, as currently in use, are large vessels, expensive to manufacture and sometimes difficult to berth. But work done by Cooke Associates indicates that possibilities exist for the design of a less expensive wingsail, suitable for smaller craft (less than 10m), e.g. 7m to 8.5m catamarans as designed and built by Ecocats Ltd. These craft are very easily driven due to light construction and low wash hull design and are ideally suited to wind power.

There may also be a possibility to exploit this technology in the future for commercial transportation; but attempts to do this so far have been unsuccessful.