Two-element wingsail from VPLP Design

20 Apr 2017
Oceanwings is furlable, reefable and entirely automated

Oceanwings is furlable, reefable and entirely automated

VPLP Design has developed a two-element wingsail, Oceanwings, that is furlable, reefable and entirely automated.

The company’s interest in rigid sails started in 2010, when it collaborated with BMW Oracle, winner of the 33rd America’s Cup; subsequently it worked with Team Hydros on the 2013 Little America’s Cup and with Artemis Racing.

“It allowed us to acquire real design expertise, and convinced us of the bright future awaiting this type of rig on other vessels,” recalls Marc Van Peteghem, co-founder of VPLP.

“While hulls and appendages have undergone spectacular changes in recent years (as we saw during the latest Vendée Globe), rigging innovations have been somewhat less radical. Despite their superior aerodynamic efficiency no longer attracting doubt, wingsails possess a fundamental hindrance to their development: their rigidity.

This limits their capacity to reduce surface area, in other words, they can’t be reefed or furled like fabric sails. Until now, that is.”

The company says Oceanwings overcomes these obstacles and provides a significant step to increasing the adoption of wingsails.

An 8m working prototype has been developed that is automated, self-supporting and can rotate 360°. In addition, VPLP says can adapt its angle of incidence to the vessel’s point of sail to ensure optimal propulsion. Power is managed by trimming camber and twist.

“Not only does it provide exceptional control,” explained Nicolas Sdez, the engineer in charge of the project, “it’s also efficient to the point of halving the surface area required to propel a vessel under conventional sail.”

The make-or-break characteristic of Oceanwings is that it must be suitable for retrofitting to existing craft however, as Mr Van Peteghem admits, it will not be compatible with every kind of vessel or with all the regions of the world.

“Nevertheless we are convinced that it has a role to play in recreational boating, yachting, shipping and deep-sea fishing,” he said. Discussions with customers are at an advanced stage and we’re also in the process of selecting investors and manufacturers to help us on this awesome adventure.”

Photo: Thierry Martinez