August 8/2020: One nice thing about modern computers: you can create really vivid, realistic images of yacht design concepts before the yacht in question is ever built. Or even if the yacht is never built. Take these images of a design concept, ICE Kite, being developed by Red Yachts and Dystra Naval Architects for an unnamed uber-wealthy German entrepreneur. A concept, it seems, that may actually evolve into three dimensions, as last we knew they were shopping around for a builder.
Personally, I find kite-sailing vessels fascinating, and I believe they have much potential. Separating a sailing rig from the hull it is driving does have some distinct advantages. For one, you can stow the rig away entirely when it is not needed. None of this “bare poles” nonsense. More intriguingly, apparent wind angles are much more plastic, as they relate directly only to the kite, and not necessarily to the hull beneath it. For example, you can “tack downwind,” sailing hotter angles when running before the wind, without changing course, but by simply shifting the kite back and forth. Also, yes, you can sail upwind to some extent, to an apparent angle of about 50 degrees. Not tight enough for racing, but certainly good enough for some lazy cruising.
Design-wise the key thing about ICE Kite is that she looks to be very easily driven, as she is quite long (211 feet!) and narrow, with a light hull built of aluminum and carbon fiber. She will carry engines, of course, but it looks like she’ll be able to cover a bunch of ground under kite alone. To maximize her potential, she will carry a daggerboard. Max speed is estimated at 17.4 knots, not super-fast for a boat this size, but the goal is to maximize efficiency through her entire speed range, not just in one sweet spot.
Under power, with sail stowed
The lap of luxury, of course
A fabulous interior, with lots of glass. This area, known as the Kite Lounge, can also be used as a dining space
To keep her deck from getting cluttered up, ICE Kite will have a chase boat, ICE Ghost, to schlep all her toys around
All this superyacht stuff is cool enough, but the most important application for kite sails is in commercial shipping, as kites can be easily retrofitted to existing cargo vessels. We are seeing concepts for large sailing cargo vessels, ships with full standing rigs, but kites seem much more realistic. The first genuine kite-assisted commercial voyage took place 12 years ago, in 2008, and innovations like this are becoming increasingly important as the International Maritime Organization continues to tighten up on emissions from commercial vessels.
Concept for a full-on sailing cargo ship by Dykstra Naval Architects
What we can do now. An actual photo!
Either way, the future is wind. Let’s get on with it.