Michel Desjoyeaux tests his “wind engine”

His 13-meter sailboat, a habitable Bénéteau monohull, everything that is most standard on paper, has been the onboard demonstrator that “the Professor” has been testing for over a year…

His 13-meter sailboat, a habitable Bénéteau monohull, the most standard on paper, was the demonstrator on board which “the Professor” has been testing for Michelin a sail designed for fuel economy. This Wisamo mainsail (1), named after the start-up that is developing it in its laboratories in Switzerland and Nantes, will reduce the high fuel consumption of the cargo ships that will receive it.

Its driving qualities are such that Michel Desjoyeaux recently convinced Michelin directors to also prospect the nautical market, which reinforces the interest of sailors in the La Rochelle exhibition.

3% of greenhouse gas emissions are attributed to shipping, which handles 90% of world trade. The International Maritime Organization and its 174 Member States have decided that by 2050 the fleet must have reduced its CO2 emissions by 70% compared to the reference year 2008, with a mandatory transition point of 40% by 2030 At the crossroads of important environmental issues, many projects are emerging to reduce discharges. Michelin didn’t come out first. But, at the same time that it distances itself from its core business to diversify, the group counts on the know-how developed in tires to take the lead in this race. Thus began the investigation into the fabric of the sail.

Inspired by the paragliding wing

“A year ago, we started from the patent of two Swiss inventors of the inflatable bladder wing we bought. It is the paraglider wing and the Swiss challenge of the Copa América”, explains Gildas Quéméneur, manager of Wisamo. This “wind engine” as he calls it, Michel Desjoyeaux tested it for the first time on Lake Neufchâtel, before sailing in Royan.

In a next step, next month, these 100 m² will be hoisted aboard the “MN Pélican”, a freighter belonging to the Maritime Nantaise maritime line. “We want to test the sail in very high seas and in winter conditions to go for certification. This will simplify subsequent procedures for larger models,” adds Gildas Quéméneur. The experiment will be carried out on the Pool Santander line with engineers hoping to test the device in winds of up to 100 km/h.


The system incorporates a patented carbon telescopic mast.

J.-C. Sounalet/SOUTHWEST

Each ship has its own size and number of sails. Up to three 500 m² for the largest freighters, with an expected fuel economy of 20-25%. Diesel-powered ships already on the market are a way out, but freighters to be built in the future, which will be able to adopt hull profiles adapted to this new technology, will be able to reduce their consumption by up to 50%.

Michel Desjoyeaux spent hours testing the simplicity of the technology. “The system is operated with a simple button”, explains the sailor. Precious for cargo ships with reduced crews unfamiliar with navigational maneuvers. “We can do it more efficiently, but it will be more complex, more expensive to manufacture and maintain. The question is: how far do we go in this quest? he asks, worried about the complexity/efficiency equation.

Inflated at low pressure

The automatic system is also a safety feature when the sail must be lowered quickly in a gust of wind or to cross a bridge. For example, the Americas that spans Panama, a canal used by 13,000 cargo ships each year.

In the event of a change in the ship's direction with respect to the wind axis, the sail rotates from the front of the mast, like a funboard sail.


In the event of a change in the ship’s direction with respect to the wind axis, the sail rotates from the front of the mast, like a funboard sail.

J.-C. Sounalet/SOUTHWEST

Designed in light and resistant canvas, the sail is composed of two symmetrical membranes, a profile more propelling than a simple “skin”. The low pressure pushed air inflates and unrolls your sausages at the same time as the telescopic mast and pivot (also patented) unfold. It sends energy back to the ship: a 17 meter high mast for a 100 m² sail, 45 meters for a 500 m² sail.

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