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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello Hopefully very Helpful sailers!

As part of my MBA in Switzerland I am helping out a sailing start up company called soft-wing. (soft-wing.ch) It is a collapsable wing for sail boats. I must admit that I have no idea about how big the potential market is for this type of product or how keen sailers would be to try it?

Any comments or advice would be very much appreciated!

Thanks
Jack
 

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Hello Hopefully very Helpful sailers!

As part of my MBA in Switzerland I am helping out a sailing start up company called soft-wing. (soft-wing.ch) It is a collapsable wing for sail boats. I must admit that I have no idea about how big the potential market is for this type of product or how keen sailers would be to try it?

Any comments or advice would be very much appreciated!

Thanks
Jack
You might get some useful responses if you gave us some information/photos.

I actually prefer my wings crispy with hot sauce on the side ;)
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Hi Boatpoker - I would love to post photos and the website but as a junior member I am not allowed! In my previous message I mentioned soft-wing.ch - if you put www before this then you can get to the website where there are lots of photos and videos of the wing in action.

Thanks
Jack
 

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Kind of odd: You are going to work with them and don't know nothing about wing sails:confused:

I posted several times about them on the "interesting sailboat thread".

Here is the last post:

http://www.sailnet.com/forums/1404586-post6121.html

It is obvious that wing sails, particularly soft ones that can be reefed have a large future ahead otherwise Beneteau would not be developing them neither would have projects to put in 2 years on the market the first mass market production cruiser with one.

Regarding this particular sail:


and the line of development followed by soft-wing.ch I don't know. The success will have to do with performance, production price, easiness of use (including reffing) and reliability that to my view is a weak point on the sail on the movie. A wing sail like that one is much more complex than a traditional sail. Much more things can break. But it will be a question of time and development till the problems are sorted out. I believe simplicity will be essential for price and reliability.

Regarding increasing performance for a cruising boat or cruiser racer (that is not the main objective of Beneteau , but easiness) it seems to me that the ones that go ahead are these guys:


As you can see here they have already better results than on the same sailboat equipped with high quality performance sails:

Aile souple : la voile du futur ?

....
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Obrigado Paulo - I enjoyed reading your interesting thread.

To make it clear I do not work for Soft-Wing, I am doing an MBA at IMD business school in Switzerland and as part of the entrepreneurship class you get put with a start up company and try and help the start up (from a business angle). I do indeed have very little knowledge of wings but I am finding it very interesting!

There are 5 very passionate sailers who work at soft-wing - including one who used to hold the wind speed record for a boat under 30ft. They are confident that they have designed a wing that is faster and simpler to use than a regular sail - however they are crazy about sailing and not about business and are keen to know a potential go-to-market strategy.

Beneteau obviously would have been great partnership and I hope you can forgive the pun but they missed the boat. I am looking for other means in which they can utilised this intellectual property:

i.e. what other large boat builders (like Beneteau) would potentially be interested in this technology? (I have done some research on the industry but it appears very fragmented and most boat builders don't have an R&D dept etc.). how can I contact them?

Should I be going to sail makers instead?

What kind of sailers would be interested in using this type of soft wing? My hunch is that it would be people that like speed and thus racing but I am not sure what kind of competition this type of boat could race in as there is no such class!

I have lots of other questions but I don't want to bombard you ;)

Boa noite
Joaquim
 

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Thanks Paulo- very interesting. Next evolution of the junk rig. Main problem I see is friction when reefing. Think it will be quite some time it's ready for prime time on cruisers doing long hop near shore or any sort of blue water.
 

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What kind of sailers would be interested in using this type of soft wing? My hunch is that it would be people that like speed and thus racing but I am not sure what kind of competition this type of boat could race in as there is no such class!
It's always interesting with new ideas, I can try to give my answers

I don't think a radical sail design will fit well into existing sail racing.
Basically there are two types of racing
  1. One design, where boats are similar
  2. Different types of rating systems where the boat have a calculated speed potential and the result is corrected to reflect this.
If you can create a new one design, boats would compete on equal terms.
Within a rating system this sail would change the boats rating - so not necessarily creating a winner.

A Norwegian sailmaker did some tests of a similar concept some years ago - but it never became a success.
 

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....
Beneteau obviously would have been great partnership and I hope you can forgive the pun but they missed the boat. I am looking for other means in which they can utilised this intellectual property:

i.e. what other large boat builders (like Beneteau) would potentially be interested in this technology? (I have done some research on the industry but it appears very fragmented and most boat builders don't have an R&D dept etc.). how can I contact them?

Should I be going to sail makers instead?

What kind of sailers would be interested in using this type of soft wing? My hunch is that it would be people that like speed and thus racing but I am not sure what kind of competition this type of boat could race in as there is no such class!

I have lots of other questions but I don't want to bombard you ;)

Boa noite
Joaquim
Boa noite:)

You can look at it by two perspectives: As a way to improve performance or as a way to simplify and make easier sailing. Beneteau is doing the last and the choice of boat is a smart one. It is a Sense, a top of the range boat but also a very modern one. Because the boat is expensive (for a Beneteau) the extra price of the system will not make the boat much more expensive and that's the kind of boat that a rich sailor can buy to say to his friends: look, I have a wing sail, how cool is that? Even if he sails rarely:D That is a good way to start and I have no doubt that with time that sail will not only be cool but effective.

Beneteau rarely makes mistakes in what regards commercial options and you can bet they have chose the right boat.

Regarding boat brands there are very few that can pay for the development of the system for several years before eventually using it on their boats. Bavaria is too conservative (I mean their market) maybe Hanse...all the others are just too small for being interested.

Sailmakers are an option and the other wing sail that I posted a video is being developed with the help (or by) Onesails, an Italian sail company. You can try to sell the project to a main sailmaker but before that you need more home work, like equipping a sailboat with "your" sail and a similar sailboat with a good but normal set of sail and "prove" that yours is faster and better.

Lake Garda and the many small shipyards that make fast boats that are used on the lake is the way to go. Maybe you can convince one of them to be a partner on the project for the development of the sail for their sailboat. That you will have a small boat builder and a sail-maker involved on the development of the project. Neither of them will invest much but if the project is successful both will have a lot to win.

I mean there are very interesting and fast boats on that lake and making them faster and more interesting can only increase sales. The sailmaker will be interested mostly in the know-how regarding something that they know will be the future.

By the way there is one wing sail already on the market but it looks expensive and complicated to me and I don't think it will make the boat faster. They are already on the IV version regarding development, this one:

Omer wing sail


Saudações

Paulo
 

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i.e. what other large boat builders (like Beneteau) would potentially be interested in this technology? (I have done some research on the industry but it appears very fragmented and most boat builders don't have an R&D dept etc.). how can I contact them?

Should I be going to sail makers instead?

What kind of sailers would be interested in using this type of soft wing? My hunch is that it would be people that like speed and thus racing but I am not sure what kind of competition this type of boat could race in as there is no such class!
Joaqim,

As Paolo mentioned, big manufacturers like Beneteau are very conservative and price-sensitive. Most of their customers want to get out on the water and have fun, not necessarily spend every dollar they can to find the best/fastest solution.

A business metaphor: Tesla's electric cars are arguably better technology, and might be price competitive (when factoring gas savings) if they can get much bigger economies of scale. But in the meantime their costs are much higher. So they have to ramp up slowly, and instead focus on the relatively cost-insensitive luxury segment, while marketing on the cachet and "wow" factor of their brand. They're doing an amazing job of it.

The approach is similar here, but sailing is a niche market. Soft-Wing's first goal is to inform sailors about their product and its superiority; their second is to start to crack the market, from the high end. They should go campaign their boats in major inshore and offshore races, which will bring high visibility to the technology. Then high-end racers with big pocketbooks who will be happy to shell out for and edge, a thrill, or a few extra knots, will start to adopt. First custom boats, then small-production racing and performance-cruising designs.

The day when that technology filters down to Beneteau and Catalina is decades away, but it's a process.
 

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Good luck with your project.

Warning: I know of hardly anyone who is making money in sailing or related products, most people are in this for love, not money.

That said, if I was going to try to take on the sail makers of the world, I'd try to figure out a way to build something that is backwards compatible with existing boats and rigs with a minimum of changes. I'd probably focus on smaller racing oriented boats first...volume is inversely related to boat size. That would probably also help control tooling costs as everything is smaller. The AC has caused some excitement around foiling above and below the waterline, maybe you can leverage that trend.

And do a google search on total world wide sailboat volume. Take a tiny fraction of that and you've got your total available market. Make sure the numbers work, or you love it so much you don't care.
 

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The day when that technology filters down to Beneteau and Catalina is decades away, but it's a process.
I agree with the rest except with Beneteau being conservative: they have been responsible for the introduction on the main cruiser market of a big number if design innovations coming from the racing field. Like it or not you have just to look to their last boat, the Oceanis 38 (Family European boat of the year) to see that they are not conservative.

Regarding the use of a wing sail being decades away, Beneteau has their development team working on wing sails and they are already on the point of being so sure about what they are doing that they have not only scheduled the launch of the first Beneteau with a wing sail in two years time as they have made available to the nautical press the test boat (a sense 46) equipped with a wing sail. The boat have been tested by several sailboat magazine testers and the results were very positive.

I posted about it already, including a short movie of one of those tests.

Regards

Paulo
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Thank you all very much for your feedback! I have contacted a few sail makers to see if they might be interested (e.g. North Sails).

I saw Omer before as well but the soft-wing design is slightly different - as you know I am not an expert but it is down to the design of the wing and the fact that it can sail closer to the wind.

Again many thanks for your help - if you have any other thoughts then of course I would be delighted to receive them.
 
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