Wingsail History - A brief history of wingsail technology and its commercial applications.


Walker Wingsail


Walker Wingsail Systems plc built and sold an 8 tonne wingsail for use on MV Ashington in 1986. Collapse of world oil prices destroyed the economic case for use of wingsails in commercial shipping and the company turned to the luxury yacht markets and launched the trimaran design Blue Nova in 1990 and a smaller 43ft Zefyr trimaran design of which four were produced between 1997-2001.


These wingsail boats attract attention wherever they are seen. Inventure has been extensively modified to enable sailing by a paraplegic, with a heavily publicised story. The first three Zefyrs left the UK very soon after being sold. The fourth, Larinka, spent last winter in a very prominent berth at Portsmouth (Gun Wharf Quays) where she was a real eye-catcher.



Walker Wingsail trimaran


Both of the companies managed by the designer John Walker (Walker Wingsail Systems plc, 1982-98 and Wingtek plc, 1998-2000) failed and he remains subject to legal proceedings, though no charges have yet been upheld against him. An objective viewpoint, and the evidence supporting this, is thus not yet available to non-litigants. This account is based, with benefit of hindsight, upon the present knowledge of Anne Toms, an enthusiast for this technology and long-term supporter of both companies.


Public and Commercial Reaction


During the 1980s and 90s, the UK media seemed hostile to wingsails, with a infamous libel case against the publication iYachting World-i. Venture capital funding appeared inaccessible and no UK boat-builders came in with Walker as partners. Investment was provided by 6,500 individual shareholders, with £12.5M invested before voluntary liquidation of WWS. One outside view was that the project needed £15-20M to succeed; another that the management and hull design were inappropriate.


Wingtek plc, the successor company to WWS plc, also tried to rely upon individual shareholders. It purchased from the liquidator of WWS the three partially built boats and moulds along with a licence for the IPR, but was compulsorily wound up (May-Nov 1999) to prevent publication of a prospectus for public subscription. Unusually, a Company Voluntary Arrangement was established (Spring 2000) to enable the company to trade its way back to solvency. This CVA relied upon an up-front loan from the customer for the next boat whose money failed to materialise.


No other customers were forthcoming, and so the CVA failed in August 2000, just as Zefyr_004 had been launched. This boat was purchased from the liquidator by James Wright and finished by Ian Page, to the best of his ability, but technical expertise was by then not available to him for some aspects of the software and control systems.



Omer wing sail mast inside view Maya sailing boat Israel


Omer wing sail mast inside view



Why Wingsails Haven't Caught On So Far


No substantive technical criticisms of any sort are known of the wingsail designs. The reasons for failure include lack of firm customers, pursuit of the wrong market when oil prices and interest rates moved against wingsails, management mistakes, manufacturing processes being too long and forecasts being always far more optimistic than realities ever were.


The companies did not fail for lack of interest in the emerging technology, but for inability to bring it successfully to market.


The English Board of Trade provided £207,500 in financial assistance to Walker Wingsail Systems Ltd. of Hamble, Hampshire under the support for innovation scheme before 1988, prior to the company's move to Plymouth.  Grants made to Walker Wingsail Systems Ltd. under the support for innovation scheme were monitored at each payment stage.  The financial assistance was forthcoming under the enterprise initiative consultancy scheme.



Cooke Associates


Cooke Associates aims to achieve the technical characterisation of the existing wingsail and to solve the technical challenges of fitting it to a catamaran hull with full integration, control and manufacturing feasibility.


In 2001 a preliminary review and further study of wingsails was commissioned by Anne Toms. This was conducted by Alison Cooke, who managed the staff resources, using ex-employees of Walker Wingsail Systems plc (wingsail designers), Boatek (small wingsail designer), Plymouth Composite Construction (boat-builders), Ecocats Ltd (boat-builders), The Patent Office, academics and students at Cambridge University Engineering Department, and consultants.



Wingsails Today

Like most visionary technologies, wingsails have struggled to gain acceptance despite their superior performance. But there are now a number of firms working with the technology.



Windrocket US wingsailer



Why a Wing?  |  What's it made of?  |  Is it trailerable?  |  Drawings and Specs


Construction photos  |  Contact Us  |  FAQ's  |  Ordering info  |  Boat Shows  |  Zero Tech



The makers of the Windrocket above claim:  she is probably faster than any other production sailboat! In a good breeze, as fast as the fastest personal watercraft (i.e., Jet Skis, etc.). In other words, about a mile-a-minute.


Our calculations indicate that the boat, in its standard configuration, should sail at about 2.5 times wind speed in winds from about 8 to 16 mph. Yellow Pages Endeavour (the current speed record boat) has sailed at slightly higher boatspeed/windspeed ratios. The speed potential of any sailboat depends on two ratios (the higher the better for both): Fh/R (maximum tolerable heeling force / resistance) and L/D (aerodynamic lift/drag). 


These ratios are quite similar for the two boats. On one of YPE's record runs, their top speed was 52 knots or 60 miles per hour. (The actual record is an average, rather than top, speed.) So we believe we are justified in calling the Windrocket 16 the "Mile-a-Minute Sailboat". But of course, only more time in the water will tell for sure.






Aeroskimmer Wingsail

The team from Holland have put three years of hard work into developing the Aeroskimmer catamaran which they brought to Weymouth, England behind a huge camper van that doubled as a mobile work shop.



Aeroskimmer under sail


The craft is a carefully detailed and well made having an asymmetric 20m2 wing sail which tilts over the top of an 'A' frame mast so as to present the correct camber to the wind and perhaps also to gain a little aerodynamic lift.  The ability to move the wing quickly into a horizontal position had also proved useful for braking and for coping with gusts. The wing is controlled by various lines leading to blocks on aluminium frames which extend from stem to stern outboard of each hull.




Wing in horizontal position = no drive


The hulls are fairly conventional but with flattish bottoms to enable planing.  She carries up to three crew. The overall beam to length ratio is about that one would expect of a trimaran rather than a cat. The wing sail has the main structure and the surface of the leading edge  moulded in an aramid epoxy and foam sandwich. Similar construction is used for the hulls. The rest of the wing surfaces are reinforced flexible film stretched on composite battens. Spars, crossbeams, rudders and dagger boards are carbon fibre and epoxy.




Aeroskimmer reaching

Sponsorship from 3M and other companies enabled the boat to be built.  The eventual aim is to make the project self supporting by selling production versions of this and other craft. 





Aerodynamics of Wingsails 


The following is extracted from a report prepared as part of the work done by Cooke Associates on establishing the commercial viability of the wingsail. The bulk of this report necessarily remains confidential. If, however, you should have a commercial interest in the commercial development of wingsail technology, please contact Dr Jani Macari Pallis.



The Walker wingsail is a novel form of marine propulsion, expected to provide significant advantages over traditional, "soft" rigs. To do so, it needs a higher maximum lift coefficient and lift-to-drag ratio than such rigs. Current sailing knowledge suggests that wingsails do fulfil these requirements but that, at low wind speeds, their associated weight penalty can nullify their benefits.



Comparisons between available data for the Walker wingsail and soft rigs have been made, confirming the aerodynamic superiority of the wingsail; however, the specific extent of the weight penalty remains unknown. The Walker wingsail has also been compared with another design, by Boatek, via numerical simulation of two-dimensional section aerodynamic characteristics. The Boatek design is predicted to exhibit better aerodynamic characteristics, probably due to the use of cambered, as opposed to symmetrical wing elements. Cambered designs, however, must be rotated each time the boat changes tack.



This report describes a brief aerodynamic assessment of the Walker wingsail.


(Summary of Principal Conclusions)


This report has assessed the aerodynamic characteristics of the Walker wingsail via a general study of the literature (section 2), a comparison of Walker experimental data with soft rig results (section 3) and a numerical study of the Walker and Boatek wingsail sections. The main conclusions are:

  • a sailing rig needs to be able to produce a high maximum lift coefficient, and to operate at high efficiency (lift-to-drag ratio);


  • the need for high maximum lift coefficient implies the use of multi-element sails;

  • multi-element wingsails can (and the Walker wingsail does) surpass soft rigs in both maximum lift coefficient and efficiency, but the weight penalty that they impose can result in a net detriment to boat performance at low wind speeds;


  • the Boatek wingsail is likely to be slightly (around 10%) more efficient than the Walker design; it probably also has an advantage (around 20%?) in maximum lift coefficient. These benefits are most likely due to the use of cambered sections, which is made possible by providing a mechanism for the sail to rotate through 180° each time the boat changes tack.

It is clear that the performance of any given rig is strongly dependent on its detailed design. However, for the purposes of comparison between different types, a summary of the 'typical' aerodynamic performance characteristics quoted in this report is given in the table below, which assesses sail performance in terms of the maximum lift coefficient, CLmax, and the maximum value of the lift-to-drag ratio, max. L/D. The less reliable values are followed by a question mark.





max. L/D

soft, jib/sail



Walker wingsail



Boatek wingsail



rigid, plain flap



rigid, split flap







The dinghy below is a Chinese Junk rig, but instead of one sail surface there are two on the same mast with the leading edges joined together.  Technically, she is a wingsail with several variations of the design having been used all over the world.  What is unique about this rig is that all of the running and standing rigging plus the mast is between the two sail surfaces so they don't interfere with air flow and you don't see the mess of rigging that is a nightmare to view.


News  |  How It Works Materials & Costs  |  Construction  Sailing

References  | Links  | Other Designs  | Graphics  | Message Board  | Background Info


The rig was designed by a Chinese fisherman over 100 years ago.  The major modifications the owner made to the rig were the following: increased the aspect ratio, changed the taper ratio.  Some aspects of the construction and size of the parts were determined through trial and error since not every detail was available.  The materials used are different too.  Please use the links above to read the owners construction details.







Рекорд под парусом: крылатые лодки обгоняют ветер  - 21 июля 2004



Xождение под парусом — увлекательная наука. Непосвящённые с трудом представляют себе, как можно двигаться на паруснике против ветра. Изобретатели же придумали очередное чудо — аппараты, способные только за счёт ветра разгоняться намного быстрее, чем бежит толкающий их же поток воздуха.

Математик Стивен Боерн (Stephen Bourn) из организации оборонной науки и технологий (Defence Science and Technology Organisation — DSTO) — подразделения министерства обороны Австралии — спроектировал лодку, с которой намерен побить мировой рекорд скорости для парусных судов.


В качестве паруса автор машины использовал поворачиваемое в разных плоскостях и наклоняемое крыло, которое должно обеспечить сразу два действия.


Когда поток ветра будет набегать на это крыло под строго рассчитанным углом, подъёмная сила разложится на составляющие, одна из которых будет вытаскивать лодку из воды, а вторая — тянуть вперёд.


Наклоном крыла в разные стороны можно изменять направление движения судна.




Лодка Боерна на полном ходу. Пока в компьютере (исллюстрация с сайта



Kак и у обычных парусников, способных ходить под углом к ветру и даже против него (пусть не прямо, а по косой), важную роль здесь играет киль, а в случае с лодкой австралийца — маленькое вертикальное подводное крыло или, скорее, нож.


Их, к слову, у лодки несколько — они не столько помогают поднять корпус из воды (этим занято крыло-парус), а удерживают лодку на курсе. В идеале — почти всё судно Боерна должно лететь над водой.


Взаимное расположение крыла, корпуса и подводных элементов выбрано так, что ни при каких условиях лодка не будет опрокидываться, в отличие от обычных парусников.


Aвстралийский математик рассчитал, что его машина будет иметь наилучшее соотношение веса и тяговых возможностей. Она будет легко ускоряться против ветра (под некоторым углом, конечно).


Более того, при попутном дуновении бога Эола — разгоняться до скорости 30-50 узлов при скорости самого ветра в 15 узлов. То есть — двигаться вдвое или даже втрое быстрее толкающего её потока воздуха!


Автор проекта уверен в правильности расчётов, а работоспособность схемы проверил на маленькой радиоуправляемой модели. Видеозапись испытаний можно найти на этой странице.




Схема сил, действующих на крылатую лодку (фото с сайта



Tеперь Боерн мечтает построить полноразмерный вариант своей лодки с размахом крыла 8 метров и побить на нём мировой рекорд скорости для парусных судов на воде (есть ещё сухопутные парусные машины).





Yellow Pages Endeavor — мировой рекордсмен (фотографии с сайтов и



Oн составляет 46,52 узла (примерно 86 километров в час) на 500-метровом отрезке. Австралиец же намерен показать не менее 90 километров в час, а возможно — и более 100 (54 узла).


Интересно, что рекорд скорости на воде под парусом был установлен (ещё в 1993 году) на аппарате Yellow Pages Endeavor, который также был оснащён парусом-крылом (только вертикальным), и который построил опять-таки австралиец — Линдсэй Каннингем (Lindsay Cunningham).


Его иногда именуют волшебником — известно немало его скоростных парусных машин, которые доказали способность Каннингема выжимать из ветра всё возможное.


И Линдсэй остаётся самым опасным соперником Боерна, ведь Каннингем уже построил Macquarie Innovation — судно с парусом-крылом, которое пытается превзойти достижение своего предшественника.


Увы, в последнее время команде Каннингема не везёт с погодой. А тут ещё на пятки именитому инженеру наступает ещё одна команда, и снова — австралийская.


Конструкторы Билл Рэйнер (Bill Rayner) и Клиф Беркер (Clif Barker) создали свой крылатый DingBat ещё в 1999 году.




Прогулочные катамараны с крыльями-парусами пока экзотика, но уже не единичная (фотографии с сайтов и


Что интересно, концепция этой машины напоминает конструкцию Боерна — с горизонтальным наклоняемым в стороны крылом. Но и "летучей мыши" высоты скорости пока не покорились. А значит, у Боерна есть время, чтобы догнать соперников.


Любопытно, что пока энтузиасты парусов строят экзотические аппараты для побития рекордов, другие инженеры выпускают на просторы морей вполне практичные яхты и катамараны с крыльями вместо традиционных парусов.


Необычные свойства крыла и сравнительно лёгкое управление придают таким яхтам массу привлекательных свойств.


Пусть они развивают не такие большие скорости, как спортивные машины, может быть, когда-нибудь появятся комфортные прогулочные катамараны, с лёгкостью обгоняющие сам ветер без использования двигателя?





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Omer wing sail on Maya port side


Omer wing sail on Maya port side



Wingsail Science on the Web

There are several resources on the internet that give info about the science of wingsails: LUSAS, an engineering software firm, have an analysis of the wingsail; the US Windsurfing Newsletter has an introduction to marine aerofoils; this link is a detailed discussion of aerofoils; and Dynawing offer a comparison of wingsails and conventional sails, as does Wingsail Co


Boatek of Felixstowe market a small wingsail boat for single-handed racing. The Cornish firm Ecocats Ltd build environmentally friendly catamarans, which can be fitted with wingsails. Wingsail Charters offer wingsail boats for hire in Portsmouth. Wingsails also offer advantages to disabled sailors





Omer Wing Sails


Wings are aerodynamically more efficient than sails. They provide the boat with more lift (Driving Force) while inducing much less drag (Heeling Force), and at the same time, the wing's small Angle of Attack gives Excellent Upwind Performance.

"OMER" Wing-Sail is a Soft and Variable Geometry wing-sail, that:

  • Drives the boat to much better  performance (boats speed as well as upwind sailing)

  • Can be hoisted, reefed, and twisted like a conventional main sail (soft wing sail)

  • Has simple control on wing's camber (variable geometry wing sail)

  • Is simple and easy for short and single handed sailing

  • Uses only marine accessories that are in common use. 


Maya sailing boat equipped with Omer wing sail upwind


Maya sailing boat equipped with Omer wing sail upwind



OMER Wing Sail LTD.
23 Hohit St. Ramat Hasharon.
Israel, 47226.

Tel: +972-3-5401675
Mobile: +972-54-4277617 (Israel)
Mobile: +90-506-4228404 (Turkey)






Walker wing sails  - Youtube


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Model rotary sail boat - Youtube


Eloxel rotary sail cruiser - Youtube






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