Tuesday 20 September 2011

Wings Sails, an innovative design - by Stefano Basso

The following article was written by Stefano Basso of WingsSails. I contacted him after I had seen the innovative approach he uses to sail design. His sails look dramatically different to all others out there and it would be nice to see such a inventive approach succeed, which is why I asked him to write a bit about how he developed his ideas. Being a mathematician myself I have a great belief that nature and evolution already has the greatest ideas and I think Stefano's concept is one of the first true attempts to use nature as inspiration after the primary inventions of the sail and fin.               'The Bus'

Good morning to all friends of Speed and Windsurfing, I am Stefano Basso, sail designer and maker of WingsSails. I started my adventure with windsurfing 25 years ago, I was 15 and I was stunned when I saw this amazing flying machine on the surface of the water!

I quickly developed a great interest in the technical side of our sport, with my first small experiments on the sails, changing the outline in 1987 and designing my own fiberglass and carbon fins in 1988, I also made my first custom board for getting some speed.

Sail design has always been my primary goal, after graduating from high school with art I spent two years at the Naval College of Engineering, and later worked as a technician for a shipyard.

In 2006 the adventure of WingsSails began! Innovation was my goal from the beginning and still is. WingsSails follows a personal and unique design, I do not like compromises or designs that when uncovered are nothing more than marketing, I want to innovate and create something new!

It all started from a project, the Super Compact Sail Design. My 'obsession' is to make the windsurfing rig as light as possible, by reducing the rigid parts that make up the rig. Any mass from the rig should be focussed to create a dynamic response from the 'wing'. To achive this It was necessary to reduce the length of the mast and boom. 

In 2006 I developed the V-Cut Clew, it allows a deep cut out clew! but without sacrificing the sail area under the boom unlike many other styles of cut out clew. Also it has no 'buckles or velcro' to reattach the sail beyond the clew of the boom that are prone to a short life span.

Using a raised area at the top of the sail means I can drastically reduce the length of the mast, in 2006 the 8m WingsSails speed slalom had 475cm luff! and 205cm boom! In 2011, the slalom Potenza 8m has a 472cm luff and 190cm boom which shows how the design has progressed over the 5 years since it was born. My research and development has shown that the V-Cut Clew  can reduce the boom length by over 55cm (up to 25% in some sizes), through the use of modern tubular battens. This allows more rigidity from the boom and finer control.

The Super Compact Sail is concept design that involves sail mast and boom. Therefore the entire RIG, The goal is simple, reduce the rigid parts that make up the rig, this gives you;

  • Reduced boom length
  • Reduced mast length
  • Reduced the number of battens

The Result

  • Reduced overall weight/mass
  • Lighter Sails
  • Lighter Rig
  • Higher top speed
  • Increased acceleration
  • Increased Maneuverability
  • Lower costs

Advantages of a Short Boom

  • The boom, which is the organ of power transmission of the sail is more rigid, making the rig more efficient
  • Achieving greater rigidity of the boom, even with the use of Aluminium or alloy. (and thereby extremely reducing the overall cost of the rig!)
  • Reduced Weight/mass focussed in a better area, with less swing weight.
  • Improved handling
  • The lightest rig.
Powerful profiles, and a long cross batten give high power with a short boom. The new WingsSails speed slalom nocam 7m, is armed with a 170-175 cm boom, and the mast 430 + 8cm extension giving a  Luff  of 438cm!

Advantages of Reduced Mast Length

  • Reduced length makes the rig lighter and more responsive!
  • Obtains a better reflex with a smaller percentage of carbon, compared with longer mast, and thus further reduces the cost of the rig
  • Shorter length means less likely to result in a catastrophic stress fracture.
  • Lighter Rig means more time in the water and then more fun and less hard work

Reducing the Number of Battens;
WingsSails adopts a configuration with 6 battens for slalom and freerace sails, and 4.5 for freestyle and wave sails! 
Due to the high forces applied to the base of windsurf sails you can get a high surface tension which is  needed to obtain a high stability profile. With the support of 6 full battens in the slalom and freerace sail, 
and 4-1 / 2 battens in wave and freestyle sails, 

WingsSails sails adopt a variable frequency distribution of the battens. In other words; in the base of the sail where the profile is accentuated we find a higher frequency of battens, compared to the top of the sail 

This solution makes the sail lighter in feel and moves the center of mass of the wing down.

The Team
I am fortunate to be working with a team of young riders who have helped with the development. These include Jan Wolters from Holland, for the speed and Livio Spadea and Matteo Negro for the acrobatic, freestyle wave disciplines.

Jan Wolters reports about the speed special 5.6:

My plans and targets for 2012
My target is further research and development for 'The Super Compact Sail Design Concept'

In addition, for 2012 WingsSails 2012 follows the theory of Jack Northrop, founder of the theory of the Flying Wing (B-2 BOMBER) Northrop's theory was simple;
"To fly, an airplane needs wings that provide lift, and engines that provide the momentum. Everything else is superflous and can be eliminated for the benefit of weight and performance."

I will put some effort into research and development of NO CAM slalom sails, to further reduce weight. I believe modern material science will aid this development with stronger battens that will hold a stable and powerful profile.

I will continue to use Xply and attempt to develop the material further to enhance the key properties which I find to be both the durablility and the light weight.

"To summarise : The SUPER COMPACT SAIL DESIGN + Northrop’s theory + new x-ply has resulted in a unique design." 
Please forgive my limited English, I hope I have explained things in a way you understand and that you are still awake. Good luck to all you windsurfers out there, and thank you to Lea for this opportunity.
By Stefano Basso
'You are welcome Stefano (I enjoyed the editing, it took a bit of time though, but your English is infinitely better than my Italian ;-), like I said in the introduction I wish you all the best with your ideas - The Bus'

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