Sailing Superyacht Rig could be Used for Commercial Ships


With a rig that strikes more than a passing resemblance to the sailing superyachts Black Pearl and The Maltese Falcon comes the news that ships with dynarigs could carry bulk cargoes.

Yacht Designer Tom Humphreys, said that “transferring knowledge and technologies from offshore yacht racing to improve the performance of commercial merchant ships mirrors the way Formula One drives design development in the automotive industry.”

He and his fellow director Rob Humphreys at Humphreys Yacht Design in Lymington are the ‘innovation leads’ on a project, funded by the UK government-backed Institution of Mechanical Engineers and a small group of private investors.

Their plan is to look into the potential benefits of fitting ships with Fastrigs, which are “automatic, freestanding rigs that capture the most wind at least cost”, according to their promoter, the Smart Green Shipping Alliance (SGSA)

Speaking for the SGSA, Diane Gilpin their chief executive said “We are confident Fastrigs will save more fuel than either rotors or kites,” she said. “This feasibility study allows us to test that assertion to see if we can retrofit a commercial ship to demonstrate the idea.”

Both Rob and his son Tom, Humphreys at HYD have been involved in the best-known kite system, developed by the German company SkySails.

The feasability study will focus on technical topics to establish the mechanical parameters for retrofitting Fastrigs onto ships. Six months will be spent preparing a business case and detailed costings. The project partners’ hope that, depending on the study’s outcome, the 2021 target date for a commercial demonstrator will be met.

The practicalities of a tall sailing rig on a cargo ship, and the need for heavy cranes and grabs used in handling cargo might risk damaging the equipment are just one example of how damage might be caused and need to be evaluated during this process.

Rob Humphries of HYD confirmed that this risk “has been major part of our task to make sure that the potential problems are minimised.”

He said that the designers “have spent time on the dockside watching cargo-handling scenarios and we are reviewing a number of potential design paths.”