Offshore Yachting : Offshore Yachting Feb-Mar 2015
technical 057 Beneteau Group includes Jeanneau and Lagoon) who produces mainly cruising yachts, the possibilities are promising, especially when considering the research and development resources available. The team also includes sailmaker Incidences Sails who is a major supplier to the Beneteau Group. Their special wing sail is a fascinating piece of technology that comprises a double skinned Dacron wing section forward and a single skin aft. The wing is created by a wishbone shaped cage that surrounds the mast, and thus supports the sail, while the aft section articulates. aSymmetric wing This articulation is reminiscent of flaps on an aircraft wing. It does the same job in altering the air flow to create an asymmetric shape that increases pressure on its windward side. The articulation is the clever part of the design as it has a pivoting section on top of the back of the aluminium boom. This pivoting section extends from where the solid vang attaches. “But we may not need this vang at all,” explains Eric. The boom is strongly attached to the mast on a rotating collar – as this is where most of the forces are – so this collar fixes the boom’s horizontal trim. This also reduces the mainsheet loading substantially so allows relatively easy trimming, as I found out. Control lines are fairly simple, comprising the mainsheet which only requires 2:1 purchase while conventional slab reefing is used, with the addition of a tack line as well as a leech line. The main halyard is managed by a winch on the underside of the boom, where a bank of jammers are used for reefing. Lazyjacks gather the sail and this all worked well for us at sea. The tapered mast is unstayed so relies on it’s inherent composite/carbon fibre structure and is keel stepped. Weighing about 120 kilograms less than the conventional rig – which it is slightly shorter than, with about 5 percent less sail area – the wing isn’t cumbersome; even if it’s beefy boom may give that impression. Further strengthening by the addition of a deck beam has been added to the prototype Sense 43 but eventually dedicated hulls will be built. These hulls could be quite different from Beneteau’s best-selling cruising range of Oceanis (that is about 70 percent of its sales) in the absence of stays for the outboard triangulation shape needed to support the mast. “The centre of gravity is lower than on a Bermudan rig so the hull could be narrower and the keel lighter,” explains Eric. So, like the various wishbone yachts and Freedom ketches, new hull shapes may emerge from Beneteau’s Vendee based factories. Sailing on the Bay of BiScay The marina at Croix-de-Vie was an auspicious setting for our sea trial as the shed along the road was where the company’s success story began when Benjamin Beneteau started building sailing trawlers in 1884. The angular lines of Beneteau’s newest range of vessels, the Sense, contrasted strongly with rounded lines of surrounding yachts but very much in keeping with the futurist rig that we were hoisting. Taking the helm as we cleared the marina proved an interesting experience and not one I’ve had before on a sailboat. There’s not telltales and of course with a rotating mast a fixed Windex wouldn’t work, so for the moment Beneteau has put a wind indicator on the pulpit which allowed me to find the best course to windward in the 14-knot breeze. Instrument calibration and usage is complicated by the rotating mast but is the same as the masts on the Orma catamarans so the technology exists already. B&G, for example build special sensors for these kinds of yachts, as do other manufacturers. “Leaving the old thinking behind” as Eric advised took a wee bit of getting used to while I sat out on the gunwale, as we sped off to windward, touching 7.2 knots at an angle of 40 degrees. My hand required little effort on the helm which felt very light but perhaps lacking in feedback. Letting the wheel go showed the sailplan to be balanced as she tracked steadily on. Another advantage of this low effort would be the autopilot’s job being made easier, with less amps needed to hold your course. At the wheel I was enjoying myself, which is what sailing is all about after all. As we glided down the rocky coast towards a headland it required me to change course. Tacking was simply done, just keep an eye on the pulpit windvane to guide you onto the best new course while the single mainsheet controls the entire sailplan. Similarly with gybing: the boom slides over but is cushioned by the pressure against the fore-part of the sail and there’ no standing rigging to crash against. The aesthetics of the wing sail may not appeal to the purists but it works efficiently on all points of sail. When running, the concept again is simple, as there’s no stays to prevent you going square downwind. One downside could be the lack of sail area in lighter airs where a cruising chute would be used on a conventional yacht but this is a small price to pay for what I think is a very viable cruising rig. SUPER STRUCTURE The wing sail is not a new concept but Beneteau’s smart version of it could be the next big thing for cruising yachts. Left: During my sea trial the rig worked well on all points of sail and the performance compared closely to the standard Sense 43 I’ve tested.
Offshore Yachting Dec-Jan 2015
Offshore Yachting Apr May 2015