When I saw Beneteau experimenting with wing sail I thought it would take a long while to have it ready for the market...if ever. I was underestimating Beneteau. Some few months ago they offered to the testers of the main sail magazines a boat equipped with one for testing. The results were positive. Now they offered to the same magazines a comparative with two Sense 43, one equipped with the standard rig, the other with the wing sail. They could not be more serious about it and I was very interested in the results.
I read the test made by voile and voiliers and they have made a superb job. This time they make sure the two boats were in absolutely the same conditions, same tankage, same propeller, same load and organized a true regatta with an Olympic triangle to make sure the boats were sailed on equal distances in the different points of sail. The results were surprising, at least for me: The wing sail won the 4 races even if not for a big difference. Both boats were using sails made with the same material (dracon) and the results were this:
1st race - 8/10K wind, 25m race, the wing sail won by 20s.
2nd race - 10/12K wind, 20m race, the wing won by 30s.
3rd race - 12/14K wind, 18m race, the wing won by 14s.
4th race - 13/15K wind, 17m race, the wing won by 60s.
I bet you did not expect such a clear domination :-), I didn't. But looking things in detail that is not all good for the wing sail. They also tested extensively in what regards the differences in different points of sail:
Upwind: Quite surprisingly the wing is clearly beaten by the conventional rig. The bigger difference happens with light winds. The wing also gives little feedback and they all experimented difficulties finding the better sail trim. To give you an idea of the difference in performances they measure the performance with 13K (where the wing sail works better) on a two tack course for 24m, the wing sail lost 1m 30s.
Beam reach: with 13K for 20m, the same result: ex aequo
Downwind: With the the marconi rig doing butterfly sailing, the wing sail smoke it and by a large margin. About 10% with the boat doing 5K. That's huge and explains the overall better performance of the wing sail.
The main disadvantage of the wingsail is that it cannot take any other sail. They tried downwind with the conventional boat using a (small) asymmetric spinnaker and the difference was big, this time the conventional boat was way faster. But on big boats with a solo or a couple a spinnaker is not always easy to use and most cruisers just don't use it and in that case it is a clear advantage for the wing sail. Again, very smart from Beneteau and right on the spot, starting using the system on a 43ft boat, a size were the use of spy is already not easy solo or duo.
Another difference regards heel. The boat with the wing sail heels less but rolls more. The conventional rig accelerates faster.
Excellent work by the Voile and Voiliers team even if they had a lot of help. Among the test crew was the responsible for the development of the Beneteau First line, the boat NA (Olivier Racopeau) and a guy from the Jeanneau development team. They promised to complete this very extensive comparative rig test by sailing the boats in strong wind conditions to see how easy it is to reef and how they behave reefed. I cannot wait for that one.
A word in what concerns the surprisingly fast development of the new rig on this boat. That was only possible because it was carried by Guy Beaup that developed one for his boat (it took him 20 years) and have circumnavigated with it. Some experience!!!. Beaup had also the help of Mick Kermarec (Oracle team) Marc Guillemot and Michel Desjoyeaux in what regards sail trim and development.
Have a look at Guy Beaup boat, a very interesting one too and to his blog:
And about the First? Would they be using this sail? Remember that I had said (on the old site) that I was impressed with the results with the wing sail that was being developed by One sails and the Seascape 18? It seems I was not the only one because on Beneteau First they will be testing those sails too, a Omer wing sail type, different from this one, more complex but with probably a better performance. They are using First 20 for testing and for taking all doubts out one will be equipped with a wing sail similar to the one used on the Sense 43, other with a Omer type and one with a conventional rig, for comparison purposes. They don't leave much to chance on Beneteau ;-).
The test sail on the Seascape 18 I mentioned above: