Wingsail Technology

A wingsail is a novel form of marine propulsion, and provides significant advantages over traditional "soft" sailing rigs. Most modern sailing uses the "aerofoil" effect to create "lift" in the direction you want to sail. The wingsail, for a variety of technical reasons, does this more efficiently. Wingsail boats can also be set up so that sailing them is much simpler than a normal sailing boat.

Wingsails could in the future be used to drive large commercial ships. At present the main application is in recreational sailing. The wingsail is an exciting piece of technology, combining modern methods with the most ancient and traditional of power sources.

For obvious reasons, we are not able to make public all the work that we have done in this area. But for those with an interest in the technical aspects of wingsail design, we are providing a summary of our research into the relative aerodynamic efficiencies of wingsails and conventional sailing rigs, which demonstrates the superiority of the wingsail.

Our involvement with wingsails

Cooke Associates is an engineering consultancy based in Cambridge, England. We have worked with wingsail developers to determine the commercial feasibility of wingsails and to collate technical data which can be used for further development. The work was carried out for the most part by Alison Cooke, Anne Toms and a senior aerodynamics researcher at the Cambridge University Engineering Department. This site includes some general and technical information about wingsail craft and their history, and some images of wingsails in action.

Our work has included:

  • A study and report on the commercial potential of current Walker wingsail designs
  • Preparation of a proposal for a SMART (Small Firms Merit Award for Research and Technology) feasibility study in 2002, aimed at promoting the development of wingsails for leisure applications. (This was not accepted in this version owing to complexity of the intellectual property rights (IPR) situation and lack of evidence of a current market.)
Strange But True

A wingsail is in some ways not a sail at all; it is more like the wing of an aeroplane. Wingsail-powered craft have a unique profile and are instantly recognisable.

More important, the aerodynamic characteristics of wingsails mean that they have the potential to go faster and farther than conventional craft. It may even be possible to use wingsails to power commercial freighters.