Wingsail Yachts?

Wingsail Yachts?
VPLP’s Komorebi mega-yacht series is designed around a combination of electric engines and wind power. (Courtesy VPLP/)

French design house VPLP is using its experience penning grand prix-racing sailboats, ­including the America’s Cup winner BMW Oracle Racing 90, to create an expedition-grade trimaran series from 130 to 260 feet. The Komorebi series will have a hybrid propulsion system with electric engines and fully automated wingsails—a first for expedition-level cruising.

Unlike rigid, film-paneled America’s Cup wings, VPLP’s Oceanwings use supporting carbon-fiber spars and (possibly ­photovoltaic) sailcloth that’s ­hoisted to create two-element wingsails.

While VPLP says it has several ­interested customers, to date the Komorebi concept exists only as lines plans and scale models. Marc Van Peteghem, VPLP’s co-founder, points to three main challenges in reaching this point: hoisting and lowering sailcloth, reefing, and wingsail trim, all of which will be tackled by automation.

Komorebi designs have heliports and seaplane-lifting cranes.

Komorebi designs have heliports and seaplane-lifting cranes. (Courtesy VPLP/)

Electric or ­hydraulic actuators raise and lower sailcloth, and reef and trim the wings.

Electric or ­hydraulic actuators raise and lower sailcloth, and reef and trim the wings. (Courtesy VPLP/)

Computer modeling indicates that the Komorebi 130 will cruise at 15 knots under power. VPLP designed the Oceanwings for efficiency at all wind angles and velocities to generate a 12-knot cruising speed using primarily wingsails, not the props.

Computer modeling indicates that the Komorebi 130 will cruise at 15 knots under power. VPLP designed the Oceanwings for efficiency at all wind angles and velocities to generate a 12-knot cruising speed using primarily wingsails, not the props. (Courtesy VPLP/)

The wingsail-powered trimaran platform should deliver less roll ­motion than catamarans and greater comfort and speed than monohull yachts. “A wing can work at every ­apparent wind angle—it’s one of [its] big strengths,” Van Peteghem says. “With no wind, only the engine will be used; up to a certain wind speed, both engine and wing will play together, and above [this wind speed] it could be only wingsail. It’s very flexible.”

Take the next step: vplp.fr

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