Wednesday, 11 June 2014

SAIL magazine examines the current range of soft wingsails

From the following article on the excellent SAIL magazine website:

Has the wingsail finally come of age? After last year’s breathtaking America’s Cup series, and the news from boatbuilding giant Beneteau that it is experimenting with wings as an alternative to the traditional Bermudian sailplan on its production boats, it certainly looks that way. Where one leads, others follow, and if Beneteau’s trials go the way the factory expects, then cruising boats sporting one or two elliptical wings will be a common sight in years to come.

It took the Cup to put the spotlight back on the wingsail, but it has been around for decades in various iterations. Dennis Conner sailed the catamaran Stars & Stripes, sporting a hard wingsail, to victory in the 1988 mismatch against Sir Michael Fay’s Kiwi challenger. Back in the early 1990s Walker Wingsail Systems also designed and built a handful of cruising trimarans equipped with computer-controlled hard wingsails, before technical and legal problems—not mention a distinct lack of enthusiasm from the sailing community—eventually ended  the company’s attempts to make an impact on the market. The execution may have been flawed, but for many designers, engineers and sailors, the Walker Wingsail was at least a brave attempt to answer one question: why do sailboats have rigs and sails that are inherently inefficient?

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