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VPLP Design launches Oceanwings® : The Reefable and Furlable Automated Wingsail


Drawing on extensive experience in the field of rigid sail development, VPLP Design is proud to present a two-element wingsail which is furlable, reefable and entirely automated. Oceanwings® is a veritable disruptive innovation to ensure a simpler and more responsible approach to the sea and the elements.

VPLP Design’s interest in rigid sails came early, back in 2010, when we collaborated with BMW Oracle, winner of the 33rd America’s Cup. Subsequently we maintained our focus on this nascent technology by working with Team Hydros on the 2013 Little America’s Cup and, that same year, with Artemis Racing. “It allowed us to acquire real design expertise, and convinced us of the bright future awaiting this type of rig on other vessels,” recalls Marc Van Peteghem.

While hulls and appendages have undergone spectacular changes in recent years (as we saw during the latest Vendée Globe), rigging innovations have been somewhat less radical. Despite their superior aerodynamic efficiency no longer attracting doubt, wingsails possess a fundamental hindrance to their development: their rigidity! This limits their capacity to reduce surface area, in other words, they can’t be reefed or furled like fabric sails. Until now, that is!

Oceanwings® by VPLP Design is a practical solution for overcoming these obstacles and a significant step down the road to increasing the adoption of wingsails. “We’re offering a wind propulsion system that is reliable, simple and automated,” says Marc Van Peteghem. “We have developed a reefable and furlable rigging concept which exploits the aerodynamic qualities of multi-elements profiles.”

Financial aid from ADEME, France’s environment and energy management agency, enabled VPLP Design to produce an 8m working prototype, validate feasibility, prove the systems work and acquire sailing data to fine-tune performance models developed in-house.

Entirely automated, self-supporting and rotating 360°, Oceanwings® adapts its angle of incidence to the vessel’s point of sail to ensure optimal propulsion. Power is managed by trimming camber and twist. “Not only does it provide exceptional control,” explains Nicolas Sdez, the engineer in charge of the project, “it’s also efficient to the point of halving the surface area required to propel a vessel under conventional sail.” VPLP Design is developing several concepts which use this patented technology, such as the Komorebi range, Komorebi 200’ and EMC cargo ships.

VPLP Design wanted to know just how big the fuel savings could be when operating Oceanwings® in conjunction with a traditional combustion-engine propulsion system or, even better, a thermoelectric setup. So we joint-developed an original software solution which allowed us to make statistical predictions about energy consumption on optimized passages. Depending on routes and vessels, we identified reductions of 18% to 42%. “These figures are significant because ships carry 90% of world trade, account for 5% of greenhouse gas emissions and produce vast quantities of fine particles. And volumes are expected to increase twofold by 2050” warns Marc Van Peteghem.

Oceanwings® is all about making shipping more profitable and more environmentally responsible. Even though wind propulsion achieves double-digit fuel savings its use cannot give rise to additional and specialist crew. In other words, automation has to be an essential feature. By integrating manufacturing considerations early in the design stage, VPLP has managed to ensure that costs are on a par with the purchase of a high-performance rig and can be quickly recovered by commercial operators.

“Oceanwings® is not going to be compatible with every kind of vessel or with all the regions of the world,” admits Marc Van Peteghem. “Nevertheless we are convinced that it has a role to play in recreational boating, yachting, shipping (bulk carriers, chemical tankers, oil tankers…) and deep-sea fishing."

Since September 2017, VPLP and CNIM have signed a technological partnership agreement that shall now enable us to move on to the industrialized construction of these wingsails on the basis of a design-to-cost approach to make them an attractive proposition for differents types of craft. With its high-level engineering expertise in business lines such as space, big science and defense, it has extensive experience in the design and manufacture of extremely large items. “The CNIM Group has a lot of industrial expertise and a well-proven capacity for innovation. We are also increasingly focusing on renewable energies and energy efficiency. The Oceanwings® smart wingsail, which can be used in hybrid mode to achieve fuel savings in the range of 18 to 42%, is therefore totally in line with our skills and objectives. We believe it offers a real propulsion solution for the future.” says Philippe Lazare, Chief Executive of CNIM Industrial Systems.

According to a study conducted for DG CLIMA (the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Climate Action), the world market potential for wind propulsion technologies could amount to between 3,700 and 10,700 systems installed on vessels such as bulkers, container ships and tankers by the year 2030. This use of wind propulsion systems could reduce significatively carbon emissions by about 3.7 to 7.5 million metric tons.

The technology is industrialized by the CNIM.

Oceanwings® strengths:

  - Aerodynamic efficiency multiplied by two  > Reduced sail area  
  - Furlable and reefable > Reliable and safe  
  - Entirely automated rigging  > Extremely simple to use  
  - Rotating, self-supporting rig > Easy to install and handle, frees up deck space  
  - Designed with manufacturing in mind  > Optimized operator investment  
  - Suitable for various platforms and applications > Professional or private use  
  - Compatible with existing vessels  > Increased scope for retrofitting  


Nicolas Sdez
+33 142 772400