Zen Yachts

The ZEN50 is a game changer. World’s first series production catamaran equipped with a wingsail, it defines a new distinctive class of its own, where genuine zero-emission meets high comfort and performance, limitlessly. 

Designed from scratch for ZEN Yachts by award-winning naval architect Julien Mélot , this full carbon catamaran is the ultimate essence of technology driven, high performance and luxurious, eco-friendly leisure yachting. 

The blue water capable ZEN50 lightweight racing carbon hulls are combined with a huge solar roof for an unrivaled solar power vs. displacement ratio above 1:1 (18 kW / 17 tonnes), making this yacht completely energy self-sufficient. A revolutionary, fully automated, wingsail - by Ayro© - can be added as a range and speed extender. The yacht’s high capacity battery bank powers a powerful silent electric propulsion, allowing the ZEN50 to achieve 14 knots and maintain high continuous speeds in unrivaled safety and comfort, indefinitely… 

The ZEN50 is offered with or without wingsail and comes in 3 main different versions: Racer, Cruiser and Explorer, each dedicated to a different usage and owner profile. We use these versions as a basis to define a final, bespoke specification for each of our valued clients and ZEN Community Members. Scroll down for more details, specifications and prices.

wing mast catamaran

1st WINGSAIL series production yacht in the world!

The OceanWings32 - by Ayro© - was initially developed for Team Oracle, for the America’s Cup 2010 in Valencia. Over years, it has further been developed and automated by VPLP and was installed on Energy Observer in 2019. Two years of field feedback have allowed the Ayro team to fine tune the algorithm commanding the wingsail. The ZEN50 is the first series production leisure craft to be equipped with this fully automated wingsail. It is controlled at the touch of a finger on screens, is automatically adjusted and has several safety modes and features. The two parts of the wingsail can be hoisted and lowered independently and with the simple touch of a button. The wingsail OceanWings32 is the ideal complement for the solar roof for those wishing to cruise long distances off-shore with zero-emissions.

ZEN50 wingsail and solar powered performance zero emission electric catamaran yacht by ZEN Yachts

Greatest ratio SOLAR POWER / weight on the market

At 17 tonnes lightweight and 18,000 W of peak solar power, the ratio of the ZEN50 is at over 1 kW per displaced tonne of water or beyond 1:1 which is far beyond any other blue water CE Cat A yacht in this size range. Lots of solar power for little water to displace is the strong and healthy foundation the energy self-sufficient ZEN50 is built upon.

ZEN50 wingsail and solar powered performance zero emission electric catamaran yacht by ZEN Yachts

Performance CARBON sandwich hulls

The hulls of the ZEN50 have been designed from a blank screen for ultimate efficiency - understand minimum drag or minimal energy consumption for a range of speeds from 6 to 10 knots. Their shape is aggressive, sharp and slender. Their reverse bows cut through water like a sword cuts through butter and their curvature is reminiscent of graceful dolphin bodies. These hulls are undoubtedly of the performance type and are built with the best available composites: Carbon fibre and Corecell™. The combination of high strength, low weight and performance design allow the ZEN50 to reach speeds of up to 14 knots.

ZEN50 wingsail and solar powered performance zero emission electric catamaran yacht by ZEN Yachts

INFINITE range at high CONTINUOUS speeds

With maximized solar and wind power and minimized energy consumption… the ZEN50 can sail continuously at speeds varying between 6 and 10 knots. Thorough simulations in various sea states and weather system have consistently shown the ZEN50 will be able to achieve performance catamaran speeds continuously without using a genset. With the ZEN50, the world is your oyster and the wildest destinations are within your reach with this self-reliant vessel!

ZEN50 wingsail and solar powered performance zero emission electric catamaran yacht by ZEN Yachts

True ZERO-EMISSION operation

The first ZEN50 unit, whose construction started in March 2023, will not be equipped with a genset at all and will not have any fossil fuels onboard. The ZEN50 energy system with its very large capacity 160 kWh battery bank, has been designed to function for days in complete safety with minimal solar energy harvest and no wind. It is perfectly safe with no backup genset and operates 24/7 without any polluting emissions.

ZEN50 wingsail and solar powered performance zero emission electric catamaran yacht by ZEN Yachts

NO FUEL , no costs

Naturally, requiring no fuel to operate day in day out is great news for the environment, it is also fantastic news when sailing into remote areas where fuel bunkering might be near impossible or where the fuel quality might be an issue. Finally, it also makes a massive difference in this yacht’s costs of operation. Imagine the hundreds of liters of diesel saved over just a week, the obsolete engine maintenance schedules, the clogged filters and dirty tanks from another age… Welcome to a new burden-free, energy self-sufficient era, welcome to clean and graceful eco-yachting, welcome to ZEN Yachts.

wing mast catamaran

Highest SAFETY & reliability

At ZEN Yachts, we have made some design choices to attain energy self-reliance with the ZEN50 that reduces the habitable volume in the hulls, similar to performance catamarans. Where we have not and will never compromise is on safety. Our main voltage system is 48V making it perfectly safe to work on. The level of redundancy of the batteries and solar panels is 10! The main electrical architecture is split in 2 so that should anything happen on 1 hull, the entire vessel can still operate normally. There are 2 independent helm stations and the ZEN50 is packed with special safety features, nonsubmersible compartments and we can even offer an in-depth practical course on safety equipment usage and management. Sailing with the ZEN50 is not only exhilarating and clean, it is ultra safe!

wing mast catamaran

Unrivaled space & COMFORT

The ZEN50 offers the speeds of a performance catamaran, the comfort of a large motor yacht and the simplicity of an electric car. No less than 2 large day beds, 3 dining areas for over 10 people, 1 professional galley and 2 wet kitchens, 5 heads, up to 4 double ensuite cabins, 1 bunk double and 1 single together with both saloon and dining areas converting into extra sleeping areas, this is simply unrivaled on a 50 ft. catamaran. Add an electric tender, dive compressor, satellite internet, 2 helm stations (cockpit and flybridge), a solar roof that converts into a gigantic upper deck to enjoy the most epic sunrises and sunsets, welcome onboard the ZEN50!

ZEN50 wingsail and solar powered performance zero emission electric catamaran yacht by ZEN Yachts


Main particulars.

• Length Over All: 15.7m

• Beam: 8.4m

• Depth Molded: 2.7m at midship

• Displacement (light) : 17 T

• Draft (design): 1.3m (4.3ft) incl. keel

• Passenger Capacity: 12

• Berths: 12 (4 x double + 2 x single + saloon)

• Building Material: Carbon Fiber - Corecell™ composite

• Certification: CE Cat A - Unrestricted with 12 persons

Note: Some of the above figures may vary between versions


• Propulsion: 2 x 50 kW brushless DC motors

• Main Battery Pack Capacity: 160 kWh Lithium

• Solar Roof Peak Power: 18 kWp

• Wingsail: Oceanwings® OWS 3.2 by Ayro©

• Backup Battery Pack Capacity (Nav/Com/Wing): 5 kWh Lithium

• Main System Voltage: 48V - Low voltage for total human safety

• Accommodation Voltage: 110V or 220V


• Max. Speed on e-motor only: 10 kn

• Max. Speed on e-motor & Wingsail: 14 kn

• Cruising Speed for continuous operation - solar only: 4.5 - 5 kn

• Cruising Speed for continuous operation - solar and wing: 6 - 10 kn

• Cruising Speed day time: 8 - 10 kn

• Range Over 24 h: 180+ nm

Note: These values may vary between versions and sea / weather conditions


• Integrated power management system

• Solar power & energy storage system

• Electric propulsion system

• By-wire steering system

• Helm stations at cockpit & flybridge

• Galley counters, storage, sink, oven, stove, fridge, freezer

• 4 en suite heads with enclosed shower, toilet, sink & faucet (in each head)

• All cabin furniture (as shown in layouts)

• Aft deck fixed dining table and aft sofa with collapsible back rest (as shown in layouts)

• Fore deck day bed and lateral seats (as shown in layouts)

• Outdoor marine cork decking / indoor saloon natural bamboo decking

• All cushions In/Outdoor upholstered with Sunbrella® fabric

• 6 deck hatches

• 2 x 500 liter (2 x 132 gal) fresh water tanks

• 2 x 100 liter approx. (2 x 26 gal) fresh water tanks + 1 fresh water pump

• 2 x 350+ liter approx. (2 x 92 gal) holding tanks

• Railings, cleats and fore deck trampolines

• Mooring equipment: 33 kg Rocna® stainless steel anchor + 50 m stainless steel chain 10 mm + 150 m nylon rope + e-windlass

• Regulatory navigation equipment including navigation lights & mast

• 2 x chart plotter 16”; 2 x VHF with DSC button

• Regulatory Life Saving Appliances

• Critical spare parts kit

Note: The above equipment is for the Racer version. Cruiser & Explorer versions carry additional equipment

ZEN50 Solar Wingsail Electric Catamaran - Solar Roof Layout

ZEN50 Solar Wingsail Electric Catamaran - Solar Roof Layout

ZEN50 Solar Wingsail Electric Catamaran - Flybridge Layout

ZEN50 Solar Wingsail Electric Catamaran - Flybridge Layout

ZEN50 Solar Wingsail Electric Catamaran - Main Deck Layout - Asymmetric D (subject to changes)

ZEN50 Solar Wingsail Electric Catamaran - Main Deck Layout - Asymmetric D (subject to changes)

ZEN50 Solar Wingsail Electric Catamaran - Cabin Layout - Asymmetric D (subject to changes)

ZEN50 Solar Wingsail Electric Catamaran - Cabin Layout - Asymmetric D (subject to changes)

ZEN50 Solar Wingsail Electric Catamaran - Cabin Layout - Asymmetric E (subject to changes)

ZEN50 Solar Wingsail Electric Catamaran - Cabin Layout - Asymmetric E (subject to changes)



Solar & Wingsail, basic configuration ready to sail, navigation, safety, fridge, etc.

EUR 2 400 000


Solar & Wingsail, well equipped configuration with, among other options, electric tender, AC and water maker

EUR 2 650 000


Solar & Wingsail ultimate configuration with all available options

EUR 2 850 000

Solar only, ready to sail basic configuration with navigation, safety, fridge, etc.

EUR 1 850 000


Solar only, well equipped configuration with, among other options, electric tender, AC and water maker

EUR 2 100 000


Solar only, ultimate configuration with all available options

EUR 2 300 000

Ready to reserve your ZEN50?

Want more information .

wing mast catamaran

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how does a wing mast work

Over the past few seasons it has become quite clear that many people who have been experiencing speed or power problems have had little basic knowledge of what they can do with the mast settings. It is clear what do with the cunningham, simply pull on it to get the pressure out of the sail as you need, but often the mast is left unattended to, as a last priority.

In fact it is one of the most important speed controls on the boat. It is important to understand how to use it, and what you want to have in the sail shape for different conditions. It is not so easy to just come up with numbers and angles that will suit every mast and sail so I will try to make some key points to help understand this correctly.

  • The more pre bend set in the mast the more effect mast rotation has on the sail shape.
  • The effect of the spreaders means that the more the mast is rotated backwards, the more the lower mast section can bend forward (in the direction of the boat) and the stiffer the top section becomes. Leaving the cunningham tension out of the discussion at the moment, the result would be that the sail becomes flatter in the bottom and fuller in the top.
  • Rotating the mast more forward allows the spreader to start to work and the lower mast section becomes stiffer in the forward direction and the top becomes softer backwards. The result is the sail will become deeper in the bottom and flatter in the top.
  • Cunningham pressure flattens the sail and will tend to flatten the top more than the bottom since the top of the mast is unsupported and more free to bend. Understanding the sail shape that works best in the differing conditions is then very important. For example in Flat water you would like to have a very even profile through the sail from top to bottom with good power in the top and the possibility to pull the mainsheet quite hard without stalling the back of the sail. On flat water you can sheet hard and point higher. By wave conditions you would want good power down low in the sail and have the top more open and twisted. This gives you power and the twisted top allows the boat to accelerate easily letting you steer around more and power the boat through the waves easier. Generally you can’t point as high as the boat on flat water but because of the waves you can achieve a much better VMG (velocity made good).

The typical example is that with increasing wind the sailor will pull the Cunningham hard but not adjust the mast rotation to go with it. The effect of the Cunningham is flattening the sail, but more in the top. This allows the leech to open. The boat may feel ok but often the leech is to open and you can’t point high enough. This setup can be good in big waves but on flat water the sailor would like to have the leech standing much straighter so they should rotate the mast further back. If you go back to our original points you can see that the mast becomes stiffer in the top and can bend more in the bottom. This is therefore powering up the top and flattening the bottom of the sail. With the Cunningham pressure you can sheet on hard and point high with good speed.

The other typical mistake which occurs, is that the sailor by strong wind, simply pulls the mast back in line with the boom and pulls full Cunningham pressure. Because the mast rotation is too far back the sail becomes too full in the top and too open in the bottom. The sail will have a lot of twist which some sailors think is good for strong wind, but because of the top of the mast reaching its maximum stiffness in the aft direction of the boat the sail will remain too full in the top. The end result is a sail which is twisted to far and with too much profile for the strong wind. The twist causes you to loose pointing ability and the depth is causing excessive drag, just slowing you down. You are in effect going slower and lower than the correctly trimmed boats.

Spreader rake is also another significant factor in setting up you rig. It also plays a part in how much the rotation angle affects the depth of the sail. That can be a whole subject of its own, so for now I make just a few comments. Try to think of pre-bend as controlling the position the mast takes its bend. The more pre-bend you make in the mast the lower the mast likes to bend. The lower the mast tries to bend the straighter the top section becomes. The flatter the pre-bend the more the top section tries to bend. The normal reaction of sailors is to increase the pre-bend for strong wind to flatten the sail and reduce it in light wind to increase power.

Principally that is correct, but it must be incorporated with the rotation to get the right balance in the sail. Like most things, too much or too little can be harmful. It is a great failure made by many sailors to flatten the spreader angle to far reducing the pre-bend in the mast to almost straight. For light wind this is doing more harm than good. The heavier sailors also often request more luff curve because they are looking for power.

With more luff curve and flatter spreaders light wind speed can quickly come to an end. The sail will become very full down low with a deep entry angle from the mast and a very closed leech section. When you get the first wind in the sail you may get a feeling of power, but you may also experience the boat just wanting to fly a hull but not wanting to go easily forward. The boat will not point and will not accelerate.

In many cases it is actually better to go the other way. By very light wind you can increase the pre-bend to open the lower part of the sail and reduce the entry angle of the sail behind the mast. With the rotation angle set correctly to get the head standing up just the right amount you can be very fast. Just remember flat is fast and deep is slow. It has a lot more to do with entry and exit angles of the sail to achieve height and power.

Amongst sail makers there are many different ideas, and history has proven that there are many ways to build fast sails. The most important thing is that the sailor can understand how the sail should work and manage it well. Also restrictions on materials and designs in the boats themselves change the way the sail has to work to achieve the best results. We design our A class sails to allow the mast to be rotated well back. The reason being, that the mast itself creates a lot of profile over the rig and therefore it is very important to be able to reduce the wind age over the mast by rotating back as the wind increases. At the same time the sail must flatten rather than get fuller. That is the secret to success.

Good sailing.

sail loft Egner

Landenberger OneDesign Neustaedterstr. 75 79822 Titisee-Neustadt Germany

T. + 49 (0) 76 51 93 97 09 F. + 49 (0) 76 51 93 97 11 E. info(at)landenberger-onedesign.com

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Monday – Thursday 8:00 – 16:00 o'clock Friday 8:00 – 14:00 o'clock or by arrangement


Our range of sails covers a wide variety of boat types. Whether regatta or cruising sails for catamarans, dinghies or keelboats - we have the right sail for you! Our years of experience in various international boat classes make it possible to build sails perfectly matched to your requirements. As a sailmaker, we are also the right partner for sun sails, canvas tarps and sail repairs in the Freiburg / Black Forest, Lake Constance and Switzerland area.


© 2023 Segelmacherei Egner | Landenberger OneDesign, Titisee-Neustadt – Germany

  • Yachting World
  • Digital Edition

Yachting World cover

How wingsail technology could revolutionise the shipping industry

Yachting World

  • October 26, 2022

Do superyacht designers have the answers to the future of efficient sailing and shipping? Mark Chisnell reports on why variants of wingsail technology could be coming to an ocean near you

wing mast catamaran

On a summer weekend there’s always a bustle of activity on the foreshore at Hamble-le-Rice, on England’s south coast. The whirr of electric air compressors has been the soundtrack to the rise and rise of the inflatable paddleboard . And it may be about to initiate another transformation, simplifying sailing to the point where it returns to its birthplace; commercial shipping.

Matt Sheahan reviewed the Inflatable Wing Sail (IWS) for Yachting World more than three years ago and was impressed by the invention of Edouard Kessi and Laurent de Kalbermatten. Based on an unstayed, telescopic mast, the IWS inflates via an integrated air compressor to a surprisingly low pressure, just two millibars.

It creates a soft, symmetric wingsail with many of the efficiency advantages of a hard wingsail (amply demonstrated in America’s Cup and SailGP racing) but none of the problems – it’s very simple to raise and lower, and just disappears down to the deck when you don’t need it. Matt predicted that the much-simplified handling could mean a significant future for the IWS in superyachts and commercial shipping.

wing mast catamaran

The simple to handle Inflatable Wing Sail (IWS) we featured in 2019

Simplifying the way that sailboat rigs work is far from a new idea. The IWS follows in the wake of many of these initiatives with its unstayed mast, an idea that has its origins in the Chinese junk rig.

Gary Hoyt’s Freedom Yachts utilised this approach in the mid-1970s. Meanwhile in the 1980s, a building beside the very same River Hamble produced the AeroRig, a free-standing mast with a rotating boom on which both headsail and mainsail were set. The forces were easily balanced and controlled by the mainsheet alone.

A descendant of the AeroRig is the Dynarig, developed by Dykstra Naval Architects and built by Magma Structures in the UK for two spectacular superyachts, the Maltese Falcon and Black Pearl . A recent partnership agreement with Southern Spars means that the Dynarig will now be developed with the support of one of the marine world’s most sophisticated technology providers. The rig is targeted at the people who want to keep it simple, and this can include superyacht owners interested in reducing crew numbers and handling issues.

Dykstra has a Wind Assisted Shipping Project (WASP) in process, a multipurpose cargo ship which uses the Dynarig masts as cranes, and is working with Veer on the world’s first emissions free cargo fleet. The Dutch design house, responsible for some of the most iconic superyacht and J Class projects, also tells us that it is currently working on a couple of new classified Dynarig superyacht projects.

This is where most of the momentum is headed with these new technology rigs in the superyacht world. VPLP is perhaps the world’s most successful yacht design groups since Marc Van Peteghem and Vincent Lauriot Prévost set up their business in 1983.

They’ve won the Vendée Globe , the Jules Verne , the Route du Rhum , and in 2010 the America’s Cup with the huge wingsail on BMW Oracle. “Marc [Van Peteghem] saw the potential of that highly efficient automatable wingsail,” explained Simon Watin, president of their maritime division.

“He’s been at the forefront since that period, really pushing in parallel the maritime transportation and the yachting together,” continued Watin. VPLP started drawing the concept in 2016 and built the first Oceanwing to fit on a small trimaran. It’s an automated wingsail that hoists on an unstayed mast – similar to the IWS but using battens to create the wing’s shape, rather than inflation. It’s a two-element rig though, allowing for a more efficient foil and higher performance. VPLP built two 32m2 Oceanwings for Energy Observer , a former racing catamaran now circumnavigating as a technology platform. They also started to pitch eye-catching concept designs into the superyacht community.

“The people we are looking to convince are people that would normally go for a pure motor yacht,” explained Watin, “and who would not be so much interested in the sailing aspect itself.” Watin pointed to the gains in fuel economy, range, comfort and autonomy. The Seaffinity is a streamlined, concept trimaran from VPLP, “with a large main hull and two smaller floats featuring two Oceanwings, one behind the other,” explained Watin. “And this is really an illustration of a new superyacht that could have been a pure motor yacht, but actually benefits from the Oceanwing.”

wing mast catamaran

Dykstra’s Dynarig projects, made famous by Maltese Falcon and Black Pearl (pictured), are being adapted for shipping

Superyacht concepts

Another VPLP/Ayro collaboration has resulted in the radical Nemesis One superyacht concept, a 101m/332ft foiling catamaran capable of 50-knot speeds. The fully automated, push-button craft uses a modified Oceanwings wingsail which can furl and reef and automatically adjusts its angle of attack. There’s no question that this and the Seaffinity are striking vessels, and that the technology could make a significant dent in the operating carbon footprint of yachts that might otherwise have been engine-only.

The first large scale Oceanwing will be a commercial shipping project. The step came when VPLP and the shipping company Alizé successfully bid for Ariane Espace’s tender for a new concept ship that could carry parts of the Ariane 6 rocket from European ports to French Guiana. Once it had the contract, VPLP created Ayro as a separate business to develop the cargo ship Canopée. She is scheduled to launch in late 2022, at 121m long, and will be powered by four 363m² Oceanwings set on 36m masts. VPLP thinks the wingsails will reduce fuel consumption by 15% without compromising speed.

“The technical concept is aerodynamic efficiency with the solid sail with two elements: so reaching maximum lift coefficient. Automation; so no lines, no unnecessary human intervention for trimming, adjusting, hoisting. And much less impact on the deck plan, which is quite major, especially for a superyacht,” said Watin.

wing mast catamaran

The WASP uses its masts as cranes to unload cargo

The difference in the physical and mechanical realisation of the Oceanwing for superyacht and commercial shipping markets is interesting. The version for merchant ships will stick to industrial suppliers as far as possible – electric actuators that would normally mobilise cranes, for instance. The wing will use a reinforced PVC fabric skin, the type of material that would make a truck tarpaulin.

The masts will remain in place in normal use, and the fabric wings will raise and lower on cables powered by electric rams, so the sail area can easily be reduced. A tilting mechanism will allow the mast height to be reduced for ports and bridges.

Unsurprisingly, the superyacht version will be a lot more sophisticated, but is still based on the same self-standing mast and 360° rotation of the sails. “We would use higher technology material, lighter fabrics as well… and for the yachts, we have to be more cautious about the weight of the installation itself, because the sail area is going to be quite a bit larger in comparison to the boat. And obviously, the design is going to be important so we will package all the actuators in a much nicer way – you don’t want a ram sticking out.”

wing mast catamaran

The 48m VPLP design Evidence uses automated and stowable wing sails

Bold initiatives

Ayro is now responsible for all the design and engineering on the Oceanwing, with its own 35-strong design office, but VPLP remains involved. “Ayro has successfully raised quite a bit of funding to sustain its growth,” Watin told me.

It was 2019 when Matt Sheahan made his prediction for the future of the IWS in his Yachting World review, and three years later it appears that the commercial shipping development is also well ahead of the superyacht market.

The WISAMO system is an initiative from Michelin, with two-time Vendée Globe winner Michel Desjoyeaux associated with the project and testing. It’s the same concept as IWS, an inflated wingsail, set on an unstayed telescopic mast.

“When I discovered that system, I thought it has checked a lot of boxes compared to other systems,” said Desjoyeaux. “It has a plug and play system which is very easy to install and use, whether it is for a refit, meaning an addition to an existing boat, or for a newly built ship; you lower the mast into the boat, plug it in and off you go. Once you are out of the harbour, you push a button and the machine does everything. It unfurls the wingsail and automatically chooses the correct setting for cargo ships. This is crucial because there aren’t many crewmembers on the bridge, and they don’t necessarily know much about sailboats. They need a system that operates autonomously.”

wing mast catamaran

VPLP Oceanwing projects on Energy Observer

At the beginning of 2022 Michelin announced a partnership deal with Compagnie Maritime Nantaise to test the WISAMO. The system will be fitted to one of their roll-on roll off vessels travelling between Bilbao in Spain and Poole in the UK. The plan is to have the ship in service by the end of this year. Meanwhile, tests with Michel Desjoyeaux’s own boat continued through last winter in the Bay of Biscay.

Michelin are claiming the system could save up to 20% on fuel costs. It’s in the same ballpark as the Oceanwing, and while it sounds good – particularly at today’s fuel prices – it’s actually only half of what the shipping industry needs to achieve by the end of the decade.

Reducing emissions

The shipping industry pumps out a lot of carbon dioxide – the most recent (2012) estimates being that shipping is responsible for 2.2% of global emissions. The International Maritime Organisation, an agency of the United Nations, has published a strategy for reducing carbon. Global shipping must achieve an average 40% reduction by 2030, increasing to 50% by 2050. The European Union is acting to give these targets legal force, and the first deadline is just eight years away. The task is immense, and the clock is ticking. That’s why the money and energy pushing these new sailing technologies forward is coming from commercial shipping.

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Radical superyacht concepts such as Seaffinity feature Oceanwing wingsails from VPLP

One thing that’s been learned in the 150 years since sail last dominated the world’s oceans is that changing the world’s merchant shipping fleet takes time. In 1866, the year of the Great Tea Race, an auxiliary steamer left China eight days after the clipper ships and it arrived in London 15 days ahead of them. Steamships already had a significant speed advantage, but it was more than another 80 years before the last sailing ship ceased trading. This is the problem for the shipping industry; ships are built to last. The world once again needs to restock the entire global merchant fleet with a new technology, but this time there’s a deadline.

The same pressure is unlikely to be felt in the superyacht market for a while, and perhaps it never will. Still, once these new technologies have been developed and proven in the highly competitive shipping industry, it seems likely they’ll start to migrate to superyachts.

No easy options

There are many possible technical solutions but the easy changes – more efficient routing through weather systems for instance – will not get the industry to anything like the 40% required by 2030. The developments that will – new propulsion systems, fuel sources or hull designs – are still in development and/or will require massive capital investment. It’s taken a while, but the shipping industry has finally woken up to the scale and the timescale of the challenge it faces.

“They’ve got a massive problem on their hands,” said Simon Schofield, chief operating officer of BAR Technologies, a spin-off from the British America’s Cup team led by four-times Olympic gold medal winner, Ben Ainslie.

wing mast catamaran

Nemesis One is a 101m foiling supercat concept capable of 50 knot speeds thanks to a fully automated Ayro Oceanwing rig

“In the last two years we’ve seen a marked difference in the industry. Two to three years ago when we were talking about this [wingsail] technology, people were like, ‘Yeah, it’s nice. People have been talking about this for years, but no one really wants sails…’ And now it’s, ‘How quickly can we have wings? What else have you got? We’ve got to move, we’ve got to get going.’”

Unsurprisingly, there is no shortage of people trying to solve this problem. The reward for developing any cost-effective way of reducing a significant chunk of those 40% of emissions will be a massive new business. The scale of the shipping industry is enormous, it’s a global business with a total value of more than US$14 trillion. So, there’s no shortage of ideas either, and kites were early leaders in this field.

The SkySail was a stand-out that got tested at full scale, installed in a custom-built ship, the MV Beluga Skysail , and tested on an Atlantic crossing in 2008 after 10 years of development. It fell at that hurdle, with the company turning instead to developing airborne wind energy systems for power production. The fate of the shipping project is sadly recorded on their website: ‘The SkySails propulsion system for vessels is currently not marketed any more.’ There’s no mistaking the significant risk in these ventures.

Fortunately, risks have never stopped people trying to innovate and there are plenty more projects with potential. The Flettner rotor is a tall, smooth cylinder mounted vertically, that rotates in the airflow passing the ship. It uses the Magnus Effect (the same thing that causes a spinning ball to curve in flight) to generate a force that helps to push the ship along. Norsepower have already installed a rotor on one tanker and it provided just over 8% fuel savings – good, but still nowhere near enough.

wing mast catamaran

Oceanwing projects also shown here on cargo ship Canopée due to launch this year

It’s now the wingsail that seems to be grabbing the bulk of the investment. A Swedish group, led by Wallenius Marine, has formed a joint venture with Swedish industrial company Alfa Laval to develop the Oceanbird, a wind-powered car carrier with fixed wingsails that will stretch an extraordinary 100m into the air.

More sailing ships to come

In France, Neoline have developed a more conventional sailing cargo ship and agreed a letter of interest for its construction. They plan to use the Solid Sail being developed by the French shipbuilding and fleet services company Chantiers de l’Atlantique. It’s a freestanding mast with a rotating boom setting a fabric headsail and solid panel mainsail – panels that Multiplast are building.

There are several projects in the UK. British yacht design firm Humphreys Yacht Design and sailing software tools designer, Dr Graeme Winn, are involved with Smart Green Shipping. In late July, they announced a £5m investment from a mix of private industry and Scottish Enterprise for a three-year R&D project to develop and test their FastRigs wingsail and digital routing software. They plan to put a demonstration unit on a commercial ship by 2023.

Also out of the UK is the Windship project, with a board of directors that includes yacht designer Simon Rogers and former Sparcraft director David Barrow. They’re proposing sets of three vertical wings, each 35m high.

wing mast catamaran

Oceanbird is a Swedish programme with a car carrier in development using folding 40m high wingsails. The company estimates each sail will save around 480,000 litres of diesel per year

“We believe,” Simon Schofield told me, “that wind technology has become mainstream in shipping… we’re seeing announcements almost weekly of new technologies being trialled and fitted to ships and we are set up specifically with a supply chain for volume. We’re doing a run now, but we want to be doing hundreds next year.”

Yes, that’s right. Hundreds. If there is such a thing as first-mover advantage, BAR Technologies appear to have it.

BAR started the WindWing project with a computer simulation, but merchant ships presented new problems. “The ships have a yaw balance [weather or lee helm] problem,” explained Schofield. “They’re not designed for wings. So, you’ve got to monitor rudder limits.” This is exactly the kind of problem that’s fundamental to designing well-behaved, fast and comfortable superyachts, and it’s no surprise the same approach was taken by VPLP with a similar background in elite yacht racing design.

wing mast catamaran

BAR Technologies predicts there will be hundreds of ships using its WindWings by next year


The problem is even more complex with commercial ships. The leeway the wings induce has other side effects. The loading on the propeller changes, and that impacts its efficiency. “We also needed to model the engine plant, because we are moving engines away from their optimum efficiency points, so their fuel consumption changes,” said Schofield. Eventually, using these tools, they developed the design parameters for the WindWings.

“They are three-element, rigid wingsails,” said Schofield. “The first ones we’re doing are 37.5m aerodynamic span, about 20m in chord and rising to about 45m off the deck. So big bits of kit… We operate in up to 40 knots of true wind speed, with a 25% gust factor on top. So if it’s 40 gusting 50, that’s fine.” After that the WindWings are feathered, much like a wind turbine.

Despite the advanced state of BAR Technologies’ WindWings project, it’s probably too early to predict who the big winners will be in this race. In fact, given the demand from the world’s merchant shipping fleets, it’s likely there’ll be several.

We can also be sure all this energy, innovation and investment is going to produce significant advances in sailing technology. Perhaps, in a few years’ time, the gentle whirr of electric air compressors will have found their way from the paddleboards on the beaches of the River Hamble, to former motoryachts in the river’s many marinas.

If you enjoyed this….

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Wing Masts, Rotating Rigs, and Solid Wing Sails

Discussion in ' Technology Discussions ' started by Dick Lemke , Aug 12, 2009 .

Dick Lemke Administrator

I agree with Claudio that we were moving off-topic in the AC120 Build thread, so with apologies to Ray for jumping too early, will start this one up witht he illustration I had from an article on sail evolution from soft to "hard wing". While I thought there was more information accompanying the drawings, it appears these just supported the article. I will now have to search further, as I believe this came from an article on solid (hard) "wing" development for the 18 Square Meter, and the C Class catamaran. (And now, also for the A Class catamarans). At one time, we were blessed with a poster who has gone on to be crew on the most currrent C Class cat champion from Toronto, Canada. On " Sailing Anarchy " he can be identifed by his handle of " Blunted " and the skipper posts under the name " Fredo " - but I will give " Blunted " a call to see if he would be willing to return to this forum and provide some technical insight into the Canadian championship boat. If you can't wait, you can visit Sailing Anarchy and search for "C Class" for a lengthy discussion and some great photos. Here is the illustration I was thinking about when I posted my reply to Gary a.k.a. " Dreamwakes ": PS - before posting on this thread, lets agree to terminology? 1. A foil shaped mast - is where the chord is only slightly longer than the width of the mast 2. A wing mast - is a foil shaped mast with a much longer chord, and which still requires/uses a soft sail. 3. A solid (hard) wing - is a complete structure which may be shaped similar to the wing of an aircraft, and while it may use a sof sail material, it is primarily of a lightweight structure covered by some form of covering, material or film. 4. A rotating mast/rig is one that if there is no tension on the mainsheets (or lines) it will weathervane into the direction of the true/apparent wind. 5. A swing rig - usually used on r/c boats, is a self supporting rig that controls the angle of attack of both the jib and main on a rotating structure. (not allowed in many classes) By understanding these basic definitions, I hope to prevent two different visions of topic discussion by a reader.  

Attached Files:

Here are some interesting (and som very technical) article links - the first two being (in my estimation) the best discussion and theory. Enjoy http://www.boatdesign.net/forums/sailboats/rotating-wing-mast-theoretical-discussion-14714.htm http://www.tspeer.com/Wingmasts/airfoils.html http://www.sailingcatamarans.com/rigs.htm http://www.sailmagazine.com/cclasscats/  

claudio Active Member

Caludio - one very popular (and International) monohull class is the International 10 Rater. They are one of the few (maybe only) large monohull classes to use the rotating mast concept, and I would guess that if they are here in the U.S. and in the U.K. - they must also be sailed by a few in your country. Boats are close to the same size as a Marblehead, so it may be worth looking into when you have time. Regards, Dick [/unquote] Hi Dick, I tranfer here your message. Yes I knows the 10R, very few in France. Time ago I was busy with special rudders equiped with adjustable foils and at that time I contacted Mark Gee aswell Mr. Grubisa of ISAF asking permission for the Class M. The answer was "no". 10R are too large for easy transportation and they lost interest for that reason. Some years ago , Mark wrote an article on the rotating mast on Model Yachting magazine n°138. Unfortunately this article do not says very much about the forestay and its attachment to the mast if is a fractional sail plan. I'm not so certain how many ball bearings has been used to compensate the compression load, if any. My actual design deal with these details. I'm expecting to receive soon the bearings, the idea is to use 2 bearing one on top of the other on both ends. Ciao Claudio Click to expand...
Hello Claudio - on my beach catamaran (5.5 meter) with an approximate 10 meter rotating mast (18 feet long hulls, with 30 foot mast) was accomplished very easily, and lasted on my boat from 1982 until I sold it in 2006! Basically it is a vertical stainless steel post with a nylon ball on top. It went through the front cross-beam, and there was a "cup" shape to fit the ball, located on the bottom of the mast base aluminum casting. The multihulls and probably the 10 Raters do NOT use a backstay. Only a forestay, and two side shrouds were used, allowing rotation up to about 75 degrees each side from centerline to windward. Masts "usually" have side bend controlled by diamond wires. As the mast rotates, it is allowed to bend sideways, which pulls the luff in middle of sail forward and effectively does an automatic flattening of the mainsail. A set of loose diamond wires allowed mast bend, and a flat sail depowering in heavy winds and if diamond wires are tight to prevent mast bend, the mainsail stayed full and very powerful for sailing though waves. The skipper only had to have diamonds adjusted to on-water wind conditions, and the mast was also fitted with a rotation limiter, to prevent mast from over rotating - and for keeping it at the proper attack angle for the sail shape. The fullness of the sails were easily adjusted on the water and for different points of sail - mast bend to flatten sails, downhaul to move maximum camber forward, and outhaul to add camber for downwind reaching. The mainsheet tension on the rear of the boom controlled leech tension. Very sophisticated, yet simple. EDIT - ADDED Photo of Mast base "cup" and rotation limiter (color) and drawing of cross-beam with mast post and ball and how mast base fits on top of ball. Pin shown is a retained to keep base on ball as mast is raised or lowered.  

1-Mast Base.jpg

Mast post.jpg, earl boebert administrator.

Here's L. Francis Herreshoff's patent for the wing mast on his masterpiece "Live Yankee." This was an R Class boat (same rule as the J's, but smaller) and it killed the class in Marblehead, being the most expensive and fastest R ever made. It came out in 1927, but he was designing wing masts as early as 1924. It was the national champion as late as 1935, and of course the New York Yacht Club banned "rotating masts, double luff sails, and such contrivances" as soon as they got wind of what it would do. The boat was full of innovations, including a hull built of formers and stringers like an airplane fuselage a rudder that bent like a fish fin rather than rotating on a pivot. Cheers, Earl  


Earl - he was sure the "innovator". Wonder where we would be if the "stuffed shirts" would have left him to his design ideas and let him demo them in a practical manner - rather than just "killing' them? Do you have any links to his many patents? Would be great reading. Dick  

Dreamwakes New Member

Ok, thankyou Dick for taking this thread up. My main area of interest was in the fixed mast and the advantages/ disadvantages in choosing round or foil shaped sections..I am sure there is trade offs in either option and the aerodynamic variances would have alot to do with the method of actually attaching main sail to mast. From the info presented thus far, I read that unless your foil section mast is rotating then you are better off with a round section. . Which brings me to the conclusion that there are gains to be made with a foil section but because of the technical problems with building a rotating mast with fractional rig then the logical step would be a swing rig with foil section mast..the best of all worlds and simple. Unless, you could develop an idea of a semi ( and free)rotating fractional rig with foil section mast. I have owned beach cats with semi rotating masts and understand the simplicity as you described in your own beach cats but in the Rc world where ultra fine tuning does matter as well as weight and engineering complications , then I cannot for the life of me think up a easy method of building a effective semi rotating fractional rig. Claudio, interesting that you are looking at the bearing idea, i had given this method some thought and considered it the only idea that could succeed, but I did feel bearings would create a set of problems..compression, environmental degradation, light wind effectiveness..etc..I look forward to seeing how you progress with this concept. Cheers Gary  
Ahh, the bearing idea. Well, it was some time ago, I think around 2000 or so, I think the second Mystic Seaport RC regatta, there was this guy, I don't remember his name, from Newport RI, at the time he was working there as a sail maker/boat builder (big boats) (he was making 10R/M keel from broken CF mast spreader pieces .... something so stiff it was unbelievable), anyway, that year he brought an IOM and USOM he build, the USOM had a rotating rig, the mast was fixed per rules but he incorporated two bearing, one at the top of the mast and one at the bottom and made it so that the rig was rotating around the the fixed mast. If I remember correctly Jim Linville, the USOM secretary, found nothing illegal with it (the mast was in fact fixed). The rig was technically not fractional, it had a head stay jib, but the whole contraption was working fine, a little top heavy, but functional. We sailed the boat, but the hull had problems, it was a skiff design and when it was healing water was coming in, it had a really strange shape. The next year he brought a wonderfully wooden build 10R with this incredibly stiff keel, no deflection at all, and he said that he did not do much more on the USOM..... unfortunately he did not had internet (or a computer for that matter) and problems with the land line (apparently none), and the year after he did not show up....... This just to say that it has bee done before.  
Hi All, obviously what is done on real boat is no evident that can be done on models. Here where I am : Starting point = developping a rotating mast for the AC33 .................................... my problem is the forestay attachment ! ............. the principle retained : ................ ........ 140g for 180x4x0.75 cm so far.......... Last sketch ...................... This is my contribution to the tread ! Any ideas ? cheers Claudio  
Another source for wing "mast" theory/use is the world of landsailing. While many are wing "masts" there are also a few that are solid wings. It is truly unfortunate that my good friend Bill Korsgard has passed on, as he was an avid big boat sailor, ice boat sailor, and also a landyacht sailor. One might do a search on this site for some of his mast/sail combinations for some of his land sailing creations. In his absence, here is a link: http://www.ircssa.org/ And heck - if it works on wheel or on runners - give it a try...... although keep in mind that most are used on boats that "Create" their own apparent wind.  

smStory Build 1.jpg

P1160008.jpg, nautibuoy new member.

Well, been a bit occupied fixing a computer hardware issue but now that's fixed I guess I should pitch in.... I'm working on plans for both wingmasts and wingsails as experiments but my thinking is further along on the former so I'll stick with that for now. I'm basing my wingmast on the paper by Thomas Speer: http://www.tspeer.com/Wingmasts/teardropPaper.pdf The paper, at least to me, presents an understandable synopsis and suggests a practical approach to designing and building a wingmast. Ray  
To me the key to getting maximum benefit from a wingmast is to treat the mast/sail as an aerofoil, optimised for the air velocities that we operate in, i.e. low speed. So if we treat the mast/sail assembly as a single aerofoil it follows that we should try to keep the flow on the 'top' of the aerofoil as smooth and continuous as possible in order to maximise the 'lift' and not introduce drag. The paper I mention previously has some good info on this. Masts that are aero shaped and fixed fore and aft are, IMO, less effective than a round mast with a pocket luff or ring attachment, where the sail can rotate and to some degree approximate to a smooth aerofoil. rotating aero masts are better but if used with a conventional luff chord will be compromised by the disconinuity at the boundary between the mast and the sail. At the end of the day of course its still likley to be sailing skills that win races and installing a highly efficient wingmast rig will not make you a fleet leader overnight. My interest is simply to experiment and do something a little different. I will be very glad to have anyone point out my misunderstandings or errors if it helps me to learn more. I'll post some thoughts on the rig I'm working on shortly. Ray  

IanHB New Member

Hey Dick, is that Bill in the picture?  
Attached is a conceptual diagram of the wingmast I'm working on; apologies that its neither quite a 2D or a 3D diagram but hiopefully it will be understandable. I'm planning to use a swing rig, the thick green line is the swing rig boom and the sheeting of that is what gives the rig the necessary angle of attack. The blue teardrop shapes are the actual mast and this is allowed to rotate, within adjustable stops, seperately to the swing rig boom. This is to allow the mast to tack and also to allow some adjustment of the fullness of the rig. The soft sail part will be fully battened and the red lihes represent the battens. You will see that these extend into the back two thirds of the mast, the idea is that they 'flop' over from one side to the other as the rig tacks, maintaining the aero section and by resting against the inside of the mast should provide a mechanism for the battens to take on the necessary curve. The purple line is the jib. As you can see, I've included two wing mast sections, one representing the bottom of the rig and the other the top. Both sections use exactly the same aeir section, just scaled to different sizes to allow the rig to taper further up the mast, however, you will also see that the actual mast section retains the same dimensional depth all the way up so at the top it constitutes a much greater percentage of the overall chord of the aerofoil at the top - the reason I've done this is that you will see that it produces a twist in the rig as you go up the mast, I think its around 15deg. I have to get to work now but I'll post some thoughts on the actual approach to construction later. Ray BTW, the black line is the pivot line of the mast  
Hi Ray, interesting, but if it is a fractioned rig (ex. at 80%) you have to solve the forestay attachment problem or not ? Cheers Claudio  
Hi Claudio, the attached diagram will probably help to explain my thinking - essentially I would apply some rake to the mast. By keeping the pivot line vertical and raking the mast it can be arranged that the top of the forestay can be coincidental with the point at which the pivot line cuts the leading edge of the wing. With the addition of some extra local reinforcement it should be possible to use a simple wire hook through a small hole in the leading edge to attach the top of the forestay. Remember that the mast only pivots around 20 or so degrees either side of the pivot line and because this is a swing rig I only need to accomodate a small degree of movement but the principle should hold for a conventional rig. Ray  


IanHB said: ↑ Hey Dick, is that Bill in the picture? Click to expand...
Just looking through the thread and picked up on the comment Dick made when referencing land yachts - he mentioned apparent wind. I guess that if the forward movement of the rig creates apparent wind then that apparent wind doesn't have the same velocity gradient as real wind (affected by drag as you get closer to the ground or water surface on which you're operating) so perhaps the need for twist higher up the rig is reduced? Thoughts? Ray  
Claudio, I've been looking at your swivel arrangements, you appear to be putting a lot of load onto quite a small pivot? I plan to pivot my wing mast on a short (say 20cm ) stub mast of a good diameter (say 15mm) made of a substantial CF tube that will slot into a tube embedded inside the wingmast. I'm planning to use PTFE tubing as bearings. I think using a longer and thicker pivot arrangement will spread the loads effectively. Ray  
Found some more of those "hidden computer photos" I had stored. 1) Good example of mast on cross-beam with rotation control on leading edge of mast. Also note small white nylon ball at end of a "lever". Pulling down on lever tightens diamond wires, which can be adjusted on the water for mast bend control. No turnbuckles, just diamonds and a lever. 2) A photo (old) of friend's 18 Square that shows mast on ball for rotation. 3) An 18 Square "theory" design of a very large chord wing mast with trailing soft sail. Worked OK but had twist off problems assocated with the deep chord. 4) Solid wing 18 Square ( WILD TURKEY ) and if you look close to top photo you can see how side shrouds and forestay connected. Under the "hood" on leading edge was a curved rod on which the shrouds could slide to allow wing rotation. I'll probably unearth even more hotos I didn't realize I had in my "archives" Cheers :zbeer:  


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Sailing coaching, consulting and instruction, crew training, sailing systems & techniques for solving sailing's challenges. call coop at 401-965-6006, tag archives: carbon wing masts, hall spars carbon mast for a gunboat 90.

One of the great aspects of my life is I get to wander around boat yards and so see lots of really interesting and innovative things to do with boats. Very kid in a candy store stuff. A couple of days ago I was at the Hinckley/Hunt marina complex in Portsmouth RI when I came across two Hall technicians prepping a Carbon mast to be returned to its boat, a 90 foot Gunboat catamaran.

Hall Spars has long been a leader in the construction of Carbon fiber masts. Brothers Ben and Eric Hall have been building spars for pushing 40 years and carbon masts, booms, kite poles and other carbon bits for probably 25 plus years. This brief post shows some pictures of parts of the mast and some commentary from me. Enjoy.

This first image, below, is of the bottom of the mast. The rig is a partial wing mast (NOT a wing sail), which means that it is perhaps 700 mm long (fore and aft-Compare with the ladder or my coffee cup on the ladder) and is much more wing shaped, albeit thicker, as wings go, than a conventional spar.

There are a number of reasons for using a wing shaped mast on a fast boat, not the least of which is to reduce drag as the airflow begins to pass over the sail. The drag from conventional shaped, (roughly oval in cross section) adds up when you do the math to sum the cross sectional frontal area exposed to the wind. An additional benefit of wing masts is there is a lot less standing rigging required to hold the mast up-This has long been a benefit of multihulls because of the wide staying base.

A wide staying base reduces the loads on the mast, and also the amount of rigging needed to keep it up. With the elimination of multiple sets of spreaders, and intricate standing rigging, the mast can be this wing shape.

Today, composite standing rigging is certainly lighter and stronger than any metal rigging, but composite standing rigging is thicker in cross section, so having less of it is a big plus. The image below is of the ‘bobstay’ securing the top of the deck spreaders to the hull on No way out, the latest IMOCA 60 from VPLP/Verdier. The acute angle demands stronger, so thicker material, but  you get the idea.

The bobstay, is secured to the hull in some invisible fashion, below. Notice that all of this is so the boat can have its own partial wing mast, or vice versa…

Finally the drag goes up exponentially with the speed, so a cat or tri (Like Spindrift, shown in the featured image) is incorporated into the sail area and sail shape for considerations of sail shape.

The facility of wide shroud base has transitioned into the IMOCA 60 boats, (seen below is ‘No way out’) such as those in the Vendee Globe presently underway.

This latest generation IMOCA 60 has the now common deck spreaders and wing section mast. The spreaders are to get a wide shroud base, to minimize the compression on the spar so it can be a bit lighter. Many, many Excel spreadsheet Cells were sacrificed in figuring out the cost benefit of this arrangement.

The variations in the size of wing masts are as varied as the boats themselves, as this picture below, of Spindrift, shows. (Spindrift Racing was kind enough to let me have some of the Prout Sailing Team visit Spindrift a couple of years ago.) On the forward side of the mast, at the base, you can see the rotating quadrant with tackle attached. See too, the knife in the yellow sheath, just next to Julia’s left calf…..

Back to the Gunboat mast.

Because it is a wing mast, it is deck stepped so it can be rotated. (Or perhaps it is the other way around. It is stepped on deck so it CAN BE a wing mast). To achieve this rotational ability, there are two unique details. The bronze colored circle in the middle is the fitting, slightly concave, which lands on top of its mate on the mast step, on the boat. It is basically a bearing surface for the mast to sit on, so it can rotate.

The half circle looking part is on the forward side of the mast. It is, and so acts like, a quadrant, in a wheel steering system providing a lever arm to move the spar. There are control lines mounted to it and when actuated, these lines can turn the mast thru, what looks like 90 degrees, but is probably only 45 degrees, either side of fore and aft, in practice. You can see these more clearly in the Spindrift images, above.

This closer detail shows a remarkable piece of carbon detailing and finish work. Smooth, shiny and undoubtedly strong. It is as much a work of artisan craftsmanship as an engineering part for a 90-foot high-speed sailboat.

Built into the base of the mast is a detail to accept the halyard turning blocks. This design is necessary because the (aft side of the) mast moves thru, perhaps 12-18 inches when being rotated, so incorporating the blocks mounted onto the mast eliminates the traditional idea of mounting them to the deck with big pad eyes thru bolted.

This traditional method would not be very successful in any event because the halyard’s lead out of the mast would be moving all over the place as the mast rotates. In keeping with the proliferation of using cordage in lieu of metal for securing things to the boat, these Harken blocks are looped onto the mast with large diameter spectra. The Harken Velcro straps stop the loop from separating when there is no load on the block. The little piece of light line is probably to keep the Velcro attached to the boat when working on the block

At the loads the sails on these boats generate the engineers must consider the transfer of this load thru the (main) sail’s leech to the mast track.  In this picture, a section of track is the pewter colored piece on the aft side, the bottom, of the of the mast in the image. The loads on this boat, when sailing full speed, close to the wind, with a fully hoisted main are considerable. Bear in mind that a 90 foot cat, particularly a light fast one, generates the kinds of sail loads roughly equal to a 140-150 foot monohull

And just as much load is generated when reefed. This next image shows the beefy metal (I did not ask what) at the reefs too. The luff track/batten car slider system is suitably large Ronstan ball bearing equipment. This construction detailing on the spar of course requires considerable communications between the Sailmakers and the mast builders as to where the head of the sail will land when the sail is reefed.

Another detail to do with the huge loads on this (these) boat (s) is that they do not use ‘conventional’ jib halyards & furlers but rather the foresails are on ‘free luff’ furlers. These furlers have become pretty commonplace on high test boats from Class 40’s to Ultimate trimarans, like Spindrift, above.The dead weight of the sail and furler combination is lighter than a conventional aluminum section (or Carbon sections on bigger boats) and can offer the option, quite often exercised of removing the sail and stay completely. The benefit to this of course is to, again, reduce drag and weight aloft and, incidentally, improve stability. The concept and equipment for this kind of free luff furler comes from the reaching Genoas used on furlers for the solo offshore race boats for perhaps the past 20 plus years that has now trickled down to all manner of boats. In order for the loads to be accommodated, the sails/stays are secured by halyard locks. The idea of halyard locks has been around for a while–many smaller boats, Finns, Etchells, and so on have halyard locks, for the mainsail at least, and have had for years.

The contemporary high-load halyard lock is a bit more sophisticated though. The rigging of this halyard lock and free luff sail arrangement involves a ‘stay’of a lightweight composite fiber manufactured for the purpose, being captured inside a luff tape on the jib and secured to the head and tack of the sail.This idea is basically like the luff-wire in the jib of a 420-dinghy jib for instance. The rolled up sail is hoisted on a ‘halyard’ that is really just a length of line, robust enough, to hoist the sail and, when hoisted, the top of the stay is introduced into this metal lock and is thus held in place with no load on the ‘halyard’. The lock is held to the suitably reinforced part of the mast with Spectra loops, seen below.

This reduces weight in the mast because the sheave area does not have to be so strong as to resist the halyard tension, rotating over the sheave at about a 160 degree turn and the (hoisting) sheave itself can be much smaller, just big enough to sustain the loads of pulling the sail up. This absence of halyard load reduces the compression on the spar,(cf halyard loads in previous sentence) another element contributing to the weight (savings) in the mast. No (conventional) halyard means fewer blocks at the base of the mast, or winches and clutches on the mast and so on. The lock is probably one of the few metal parts on this mast. The lock hardware thus has a padded jacket around it to protect the (beautiful) carbon work the mast represents.

The above view is up through the tunnel which the part to be locked, the top of the stay, fits.

The stay is tensioned by some combination of tackle, winch or hydraulics as seen on, again, the IMOCA 60, No Way Out.

As noted, wing masts have a lot less standing rigging that a conventional mast, but they are not without some rigging. The picture below shows the additional layers of carbon laminated in  and around where the spreaders pass thru the mast. The technique the Hall folks use is a layup over a mandrel, so the outside of the mast shows all the effort put into the work by the technicians actually laying the fibers onto the  spar. Truly, art meets science. The shiny-ness of the mast is probably due to a clear coat paint job.

The engineering of these masts is pretty complex and must take into account all manner of multi-directional loads, both static AND dynamic and peak loads, as when sailing into the back-side of a wave at 30-35 knots and slowing down rapidly to 20 knots or less. The composite lay up for the boat’s gooseneck must withstand this loading and have a suitable safety factor to boot. This probably accounts for the size of the gooseneck. My thumb is at 21 inches.

A proper seagoing mast ought to have a tunnel inside the spar to run the cabling for all the electronic and electric stuff. An innovative variation on the typical round tube held to the inside of the mast is this sheath fabricated from some light sailcloth. All the cabling is captive inside this sheath. It is held in place and tensioned by, at the bottom, the piece of  lightweight Spectra, the blue colored one. The reddish piece of Spectra is probably mouse line for installing and removing cabling.

Certainly not all of us have the means to own and operate a gunboat 90, but as noted above, hanging around in boat yards is, for many water rats, a fine thing to do.

Feature image Spindrift Racing, 30 meter Trimaran.

Picture courtesy Spindrift racing

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Questions Wishbone - Birig, Rotating, Unstayed Wing Masts - Catamaran

Discussion in ' Multihulls ' started by jorgepease , Feb 23, 2018 .

  • unstayed wing masts - catamaran
  • wishbone - birig


jorgepease Senior Member

I've read every thread on wishbones but I am left more confused. Some people say wishbone rigs suffer upwind, others point at Wyliecats and say not a problem, very simple, inexpensive. - Who is right? - Does a Wishbone boom sound like a good option (compared to a rigid boom) for a bi-rig unstayed rotating wingmast on a 75 foot performance cruising catamaran. - Will a Wishbone boom work well with long aspect ratio sails. - Do you know of any similar boats rigged this way? This is the boat I would consider rigging a wishbone on  

Doug Lord

Doug Lord Flight Ready

Two very modern trimaran foilers--the TF10 and the SuperFoiler use half wishbones-less weight and still very effective........... Stb. tack wishbone half visible: Port tack no wishbone visible:  


Angélique aka Angel (only by name)

Hi Jorge, check out these of Bernd Kohler's K-designs . . . - 4.25 m - DUO 425 - Wishbone boom - Bi-rig - 8.00 m - DUO 800 - Wishbone boom - Bi-rig - = - an option in the plans - 11.50 m - Pelican - Wishbone ( boom or gaff ? ) - Sloop - 10.00 m - DUO 1000 - Rotating masts - Bi-rig - Wishbone gaffs - 12.00 m - KD 122 Voyager - A-frame mast - Wishbone boom - Sloop ​  


PAR Yacht Designer/Builder

The wishbone boom doesn't affect performance, unless it's a straight stick and only then in very light air. It is heavier than a more conventional approuch, though it can save some rigging, as a trade off to a degree. I use and make 1/2 wishbones regularly, which saves some weight, though special attention needs to be made in regard to compression loads, changing the shape of the boom.  
The half-wishbone seems like a good solution for use with a deck sweeping main.  
That's interesting Doug, that answers the high aspect ratio question. So looking at those Trimarans the tack of my sail would connect down at the base of mast like those shown and it would just clear the salon, I like that. The angle of those wishbones looks pretty flat though? Angelique, I have seen these designs, love his innovative approach to so many things. Just spent an hour re-reading all his site. Very interesting A frame mast but I don't want to make anymore changes on things settled lol ) Par do you stow the sail on a half wishbone? I'm thinking to build mine of carbon fiber, don't think weight should be too great and I hear it's nice with the wishbone to let it catch and stow the sail there.  
Angélique said: ↑ Hi Jorge, check out these of Bernd Kohler's K-designs . . . Click to expand...


jorgepease said: ↑ Angelique, I have seen these designs, love his innovative approach to so many things. Just spent an hour re-reading all his site. Very interesting A frame mast but I don't want to make anymore changes on things settled lol ) Click to expand...


Yeah I saw that, very cool. Also cool video, now I see about the asymmetrical hulls.  


hump101 Senior Member

Wishbone booms do affect performance, because they don't allow the sail to twist off in the same way as a regular boom and track arrangement. This is generally a good thing on a high performance boat, as you don't want twist, which is why a track is used with a normal boom as a kicking strap can't easily cope with the forces involved in a big high aspect rig. The wishbone eliminates the need for a track or kicker, and massively reduces the mainsheet loads, but if you are looking to induce twist, e.g. to account for wind shear, you need to do so via tuning the mast stiffness and leach shape, combined with a powerful downhaul. All well understood by a decent sailmaker so you shouldn't have a problem getting a suitable sail made. On high performance boats like yours, the apparent wind dominates at low windspeeds, and hence the need for sail twist is not so marked, hence a wishbone boom is a good solution, particularly with rotating unstayed masts as you don't need twist to dump the sail in extreme conditions.  

Gary Baigent

Gary Baigent Senior Member

I did a half wishbone, metre high mounted boom on Flash Harry back in the 1980s. The mast/boom attachment was a stainless ring epoxied slightly forward and to one side of mast track. Oops, wrong photograph, will search - but this is the boat. Here's the correct image with half boom. No that too is later photograph, will search some more. Finally.  

Attached Files:

Flashharry copy.jpg, flashharrybeat.jpg, lkashharryeasemain.jpg.

That is good to hear hump101  


redreuben redreuben

Jorge; The Robin Chamberlain Cirrostratus 10 Trimaran used the Wishbone rig, not a lot of information out there I'm afraid, here's what I have, Rob Denney at Harryproa uses them a lot on his rotating unstayed masts and would probably be a good person to bounce ideas off.  
Hump 101; Surely you can open the leach by letting the wishbone run up its mast track a bit ? Aah yes but that would also make the bottom fuller. Hmmm just thinking allowed.  
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Thanks, I googled that and found a few more pics of it. Yeah, I emailed Rob and he was the one that suggested it as the most logical option. I just wanted to bounce it off others to gain a little better understanding. I am now thinking it's the right way to go as well and I actually like the look of it once I drew it with the boat.  


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Sail Wildling

Why should we care about a rotating mast.

Outremer offers 3 mast options on the 5X. Fixed aluminum, fixed carbon fiber and rotating carbon fiber. Having no experience with rotating masts, my initial reaction was that it seemed unwise to add the complexity of a rotating mast to a boat being used for long distance cruising. As with all boat decisions there are pros and cons, and so I needed to find out if the benefits of the 5X rotating rig are worth the extra cost and complexity.

Outremer 5X under sail with carbon fiber mast rotated

Outremer 5X under sail with the carbon fiber mast rotated. Note the radar dome installed on the spreader.

The first two fixed mast options are pretty easy to understand, as it’s a simple question of weight. The carbon fiber mast weighs 280 kg (616 lbs) less than the aluminum mast. Taking weight out of the boat is important, and it’s especially important to save weight up high, as this has the biggest impact on the pitching motion of the boat. Less weight aloft = less pitching = more comfort and more speed.

So, we know we want a carbon fiber mast, so the next question is fixed or rotating? To figure that out, we need to look at why Outremer has gone to all the trouble of designing a rotating mast for a cruising boat in the first place!

It turns out the benefits of a rotating mast are not just theoretical, and I discovered that for myself when I did the test sail on the 5X Addiction . We were going upwind in a light breeze of about 7 knots just after completing a tack, with the rotating mast set straight on the center line of the boat. Once we had settled onto the new tack, we rotated the mast into the wind and I could literally feel the boat surge forward! Tests at different wind speeds and angles confirm that there is a 10-15% increase in performance with the mast rotated. This is great, but how does it work?

When a boat is traveling with the wind coming from in front of the beam (<90 degrees) the sails operate as airfoils in much the same way as an airplane wing.


Rigid wing airfoil

When the wind strikes the front edge of this rigid wing, the air is separated and must travel a longer distance in the case of particle A vs particle B. This creates a higher velocity on the top surface and a corresponding area of low pressure. So the wing is pulled upwards due to the lift force developed. This force is called aerodynamic lift.


Flexible sail airfoil

In the case of a sail, there is no rigid bottom surface, so it is less efficient than a rigid wing, but it still forms an airfoil because the two air particles A and B must travel different distances, and so a low pressure region of lift is created in the same fashion as a rigid wing. Around 2/3 of the driving force of the sail comes from aerodynamic lift, with the remaining 1/3 generated by the force of the wind striking the inside (bottom) surface of the sail.

This is the case for an ideal airfoil, but on a sailboat there is a mast in front of the leading edge of the sail. The bigger the boat, the larger the mast cross section has to be to handle the force of the sails, and this becomes a factor influencing the shape of the airfoil we are able to present to the wind.


Fixed mast airfoil

This diagram shows the effect that a fixed mast has on the airfoil. Since the wind must make a tight turn around the mast, a turbulence zone is created which reduces the amount of lift being generated by the forward section of the sail. It also drives the lift force direction slightly aft, reducing the ability of the boat to sail upwind.

Rotating mast airfoil

Rotating mast airfoil

By rotating the mast into the wind, we can clean up the leading edge of the airfoil and eliminate the turbulence. This increases the lift force and moves the lift angle  forward, giving us more speed and better pointing ability (how close we can sail, or point, into the wind direction).

There are other benefits to a rotating mast, regarding reefing the mainsail. Normally when reefing, you turn the boat into the wind to take pressure off the front edge of the sail in order to lower it. This puts the headsail into a luffing mode which is uncomfortable and potentially damaging to the sail. With a rotating mast, you can turn the mast into the wind and lower the mainsail. This allows the headsail to keep drawing during the reefing process and is easier and places less stress on the rig and the crew.

Because the rotating mast is in fact a rigid airfoil, it acts as an additional 12m2 sail, so by rotating the mast to the centerline position as the wind increases, you have the ability to depower the sail, which in effect, becomes an additional reef point.

And for the mathematically inclined:

12m2 mast / (12m2 mast + 125m2 mainsail) + 6% lift improvement  = 15% performance increase from a rotating mast vs a fixed mast of the same size. And conversely, straightening the mast when the wind increases will de-power the mainsail by 15%.

So what’s the catch?

As always, all this goodness comes with a price, and in this case there are three issues that have to be considered:

  • The additional mechanical complexity needed to operate the mast rotation system
  • Compensating for the error in the wind angle reading when the mast is off centerline
  • Dealing with the error in the radar signal when the mast is rotated

For us to be able make the decision to choose the rotating mast option, we needed to find a solution to each of these. Here’s what we came up with:

Mechanical compexity

This one was actually pretty easy. Outremer has done a nice job of designing a simple and robust system for securing the mast, and operating the rotation controls from the cockpit. It does add a little more complexity when sailing, but to me it’s negligible, and since I am a committed sail tweaker anyway, I am looking forward to having another power control on the boat. Our conclusion: Outremer’s system is fine for our needs and has been proven over time on a large number of their other boats. We are happy to install it as designed.

5X Rotating mast

5X Rotating mast

Rotation control lines led back to cockpit

Rotation control lines led back to cockpit

Wind angle error

When the mast is rotated, the wind angle measured by the sensor at the top of the mast will be incorrect. This is because the wind angle instrument measures angle with respect to the mast center-line. So if the mast is rotated 20 degrees, the wind angle will read 20 degrees less than than actual apparent wind. This is a problem, but it can be corrected in software by the instrument system as long as we can provide an accurate reading of the actual angle of the mast.

To read the angle of the mast, we need another sensor:

NKE mast rotation sensor

NKE mast rotation sensor

This rotation sensor from NKE has been used by many offshore racing boats and has proven very reliable. The only concern I had was the cable that connects the mast sheave to the sensor body. If it breaks, there is no way to fix it without taking the mast off. NKE claims a 10 year life for the cable, and Outremer has never had a failure, but they add a second spare cable at the mast base that can be fitted if there is a failure of the original cable. Our conclusion: The benefits outweigh our concerns over the reliability of the sensor. If the sensor did fail, it will only affect the wind angle reading, which is a non critical data point, so we’re OK with this.

Radar image error

Most sailboats install the radar dome on a spreader located at the top section of the mast (see the first photo in this post). A high elevation for the dome provides greater radar range and minimum interference. On a rotating mast, the radar will provide significant errors when the mast is rotated. For example, if you have the mast rotated and a ship is approaching in the dark and headed straight for you, it will appear as through the ship is actually approaching from the side. This is not good.

As I write this, in September 2014, there is no reliable solution to this problem. The radar image angle should be able to be corrected in software in the same way as the wind direction, but in practice, other owners have experienced system failures where the correction angle is lost, so the radar reverts back to a non-corrected image. Although this can be resolved by rebooting the radar software, there is no way to tell if and when the system has stopped processing the angle correction input. I expect this will be resolved in a future version of the software, but it still leaves us vulnerable if there is a fault in the mast angle correction sensor.

We feel that a reliable and accurate radar, is an essential safety element when voyaging offshore, so installing the radar dome on a rotating mast is not acceptable to us. Our solution is to install the radar dome on a carbon fiber pole at the back of the boat, keeping it fixed with the vessel centerline. We will lose some range due to the lower mounting location, but it won’t be enough to compromise our safety at sea.

So all in all, the rotating mast option is a good one. It does add some complexity, but we found ways to deal with that and we are happy to be able to take advantage of the significant benefits that a rotating rig provides.

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12 thoughts on “ why should we care about a rotating mast ”.

I love reading all these details and getting to know Wildling and what will make her tick.

hi – great blog. On radar and rotating masts – two choices: – most B&G systems with a mast angle sensor (same as rudder angle sensor!) will calibrate the wind and radar systems to compensate for rotation; – mount a broadband radar unit on the bowsprit or a carbon pole on the stern quarter. cheers Malcolm

Hi Malcolm, thanks for the input. We are going with B&G instruments, so no problem with the mast angle and wind, but according to the after sales support folks at Outremer, there have been some issues with the B&G radar losing the offset angle input. A reboot fixes it, but we’re going to install the radar on a carbon pole on the stern quarter to be safe.

Is the radar issue still unresolved in 2017?

I think it’s resolved now, the newer rotating mast boats have the radar on the spreaders. Best check with B&G to be sure though.

received this from B&G: “I have verified with our Product experts in England what the issue is and that the solution is in place with the latest software update for the Zeus 2 and Zeus 3 products. This update was released earlier this year so you will not this issue when you get your Outremer boat outfitted with B&G electronics.”

Thanks Kenny, after thinking about this a bit more, I would still want to verify this with owners that are using the B&G radar with a rotating mast just to be sure. B&G said the same thing when I ordered my systems for Wildling, but other 5X owners told me they were using the latest B&G software and it still didn’t work, so I went with the aft radar mast to avoid any issues.

Given the added complexity and expense, are you still happy with the rotating mast or would a fixed carbon be adequate?

It’s more expensive to buy and a bit more difficult to rig, but there is a real performance boost in light wind, reefing is easier in heavy wind, and there is essentially no hassle or effort required when sailing. I would still choose rotating on the 5X if I did it over.

Hi Doug, love your blog, mate! How do the stays / rigging work with a rotating mast?

Hey, thanks for the comment! The surprising thing about the mast and stays (at least for me) is that there isn’t anything to really think about or deal with. The stays allow the mast to rotate easily, and the mast just orients itself into the breeze. Mostly I just leave it to position itself, so there’s no adjusting or anything to do. When it’s light wind, or I’m reefing, I will position the mast with the winches and lock it in place. Super easy to do! I think the only downside with the mast is that the angle sensor uses a captive band at the mast base. If the band breaks, the mast has to be lifted off to replace it.

I am not an engineer, but I am picturing – which I hope I can diagram in words a ‘fix’ for the Radar dome. Would it be possible to have it on the front of the mast, on a post that swivels – then attach a piece of dyneema – or something very stiff and sun resistant – to each shroud fixing the dome in position and allowing it to ‘swivel’ and stay forward facing as the mast rotates?

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RC Wing Sail Catamaran


Introduction: RC Wing Sail Catamaran

RC Wing Sail Catamaran

This is a Wing Sail Catamaran project that I started over 6 years ago after seeing the new AC 45s introduced to the America's Cup races. The model uses PVC sheet, Carbon Fiber tubing and 377 Dupont Mylar to "skin" the wings. The "Cookie Cutter" construction technique allows me to make quick inexspensive changes to the design without having to scrap a model and start over, everything is tweekable. Two Catamaran models are shown here, but I have created a total of four boats during design development, one of which only sailed once,and poorly. But that one sailing taught me alot, and I started another boat the next day. It's not all about finishing one boat, it's about developing a Platform that can evolve as you learn.


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  19. Why should we care about a rotating mast?

    Rotating mast airfoil. By rotating the mast into the wind, we can clean up the leading edge of the airfoil and eliminate the turbulence. This increases the lift force and moves the lift angle forward, giving us more speed and better pointing ability (how close we can sail, or point, into the wind direction).

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