The first rigid wing was used on C-Class catamarans in 1972. In 1988, the rigid wing entered the world of competition with the America’s Cup, on the winning catamaran Stars & Stripes of Dennis Conner. The rigid wing also had a brief moment of glory on the lake of Geneva with the trimaran Altaïr XII, but failed prematurely.
The breakout took place in 2010 at the 33rd edition of the America’s Cup with a 90 feet American trimaran sailing with a 68 meter rigid wing. Its unfortunate opponent, the Swiss Alinghi 5, made the mistake to come to Valencia with traditional sails.
However, rigid wings have a major handicap: they cannot be left at anchor because they provide too much surface for the wind. While this consideration arises for lightweight boats that are simply parked out of the water, it becomes problematic for heavier boats. The latter cannot be anchored with a hard wing and subsequently the dismantling manoeuvre becomes complicated and costly. In addition, a rigid wing does not enable the reduction / increase of sails during navigation, which is problematic, or simply not realistic in many situations (cruising, long-haul, maritime transport).
That is why we developed a new system called “soft wing”, which provides the same basic performance advantages of a “rigid wing” while delivering the manoeuvrability of a traditional sail.
This new system allows for reefing, or reducing the surface area of a sail, just like a traditional sail: the simplicity of the operation and the high potential for automation, combined with its high performance, represent a major advantage in the field of maritime transport.
The SoftWing system, created by Hugues de Turckheim, is owned by the company SoftWing Sàrl and registered with the patent No. WO 2012/168048. The patent covers the concept of bending arcs developed for the maintenance and the control of internal and external bends. This structure allows an active setting of the wing, which is able to maintain an optimum shape at all times and fully exploit the force of the wind.