It all started when the 2010 America’s Cup showed the sailing world that standard “soft” sail systems could not compete with the wingsail systems. It was an amazing exhibition of power. After watching the videos many times I became jealous of the people that had the capability to spend about a billion dollars to design and build that craft.
The question arose… why couldn’t this same technology be used on a smaller scale? ( Read… something that the average small boat weekend sailor could and would afford) Having been in the product design business for well over 50 years I took this as a challenge.
The X-Wing project started with a few computer-designed sketches of a small wing sail, with no idea at that time how it would be constructed. After almost two years of building and testing four different designs using different construction methods a practical and lightweight design emerged. Although the design is centered around the Sunfish sailboat it is readily adaptable to other freestanding mast sailboats.
Prototype number 5 was the first construction technique that would allow a lightweight and rugged design. Low cost production techniques can produce these wing sails that are affordable. If someone is handy with common tools we can help him (or her) build their own wing from our laser cut parts.
The key to getting a wing sail system that not only affordable but easy to handle, rig and sail, is to keep the weight low. The first wing that I built was about 50#, and had only 32ft2 area. The latest version is about18# with a sail area of 60ft2. Using the standard Sunfish mast will reduce that weight by another 10%. Note that most sailors know that weight in the rigging is bad for sailing. The latest design has similar weight distribution to the standard sail system for the Sunfish.
Notes for comparison…A wing sail is much more efficient than a standard fabric “soft” sail. A Wingsail system @50 ft2 is expected to be faster than the standard sail in winds above 5 knots. Likewise a Wingsail @60 ft2 is expected to be faster in all wind conditions.