The Future of Wingsail Boats

Wingsails in Commercial Application: the Story So Far

An ambitious project to power the commercial ship MV Ashington with wingsails, while not a commercial success, may hold some promise for the future.

The main application in the short term will continue to be recreational craft. An American company, Windrocket, markets a small trailerable wingsail boat, as does the Canadian Wingsails Co.

Executive Summary

The following summary is taken from a study conducted by Cooke Associates in 2001 into the commercial and technical future of wingsailing.

The aim of the study was to identify whether there is a commercial future for the current Walker wingsail boat designs (Blue Nova and Zefyr).

The report summarises a 20-day investigation in the following areas:

  • Intellectual Property Rights (IPR)
  • Future market opportunities
  • Technical reliability and suitability of the Walker wingsail design
  • Manufacturing options

The investigation included discussions with engineering academics, boat designers, builders, manufacturers, owners, an independent marketing consultant, the Wingtek liquidator, an auctioneer, patent experts, John Walker himself and a number of commercial shipping companies. Four programmes of activities in Plymouth were conducted, as well as meetings in London and Felixstowe.

The main conclusions were:

  • There was little or no interest from major shipping and oil companies in Walker wingsails as an alternative source of power for commercial shipping.
  • There were two potential ventures for wingsail leisure craft. As this market had been identified as a predominantly "build to order" market, large-scale manufacturing was not recommended. Firm orders, with commitment cheques should be acquired prior to any build.
SMART Application

Following on from this work, Cooke Associates prepared and submitted a proposal for a SMART feasibility study in 2002 aimed at promoting development of wingsails for leisure applications. The aim of this proposal was to help ensure that the mainly British technology behind the wingsail would be commercially utilised in this country. Unfortunately, owing to lack of IPR clarity and the absence of a current market, a grant was not awarded.

Future Projects

If you have a commercial interest in the development of wingsail technology, please contact Anne Toms at