Skip to main content

Return of the Crab Claw Rig?

A new take on the age-old Crab Claw rig just may be the perfect sail configuration for today's motorsailers.

Seagate Sailing's Delta Wing Sail just might be the perfect motorsailing rig

In its traditional sense, a motorsailer is an uneasy compromise—a displacement powerboat consigned to carting around a heavy rig and sails; a sailboat doomed to drag along a hefty payload of engine and fuel in a hull shape that’s not designed for fast sailing.

How would it be if that rig could disappear—and reappear—at the touch of a button, thereby eliminating windage and redundancy when under power and leaving you with the spacious accommodations and clean decks of a powerboat? You’d never need worry about air draft on the ICW, or most other waterways for that matter, and you’d eliminate a lot of maintenance worries too.

An innovative new sailing concept

Enter the Winelec 2.0 Motorsailer, a concept boat from Italy that blends sail and power in a most ingenious way. Its “masts” are a pair of arches—one fixed, the other pivoting to lie flat on deck when not in use. The sail itself is nowhere to be seen.

But here’s the fun part. At the press of a button, the forward arch lifts off the deck to stand upright. After that a row of hatches along the deck edge opens, and a long carbon fiber boom appears, which is lifted up the arches on a trio of electric cars until it reaches a preset height. The boom then splits open lengthwise—it’s hinged at its forward end—to unroll a crab-claw sail of the type most commonly associated with Pacific fishing outriggers. As the sail is trimmed to catch the wind, so the Winelec’s electric motors automatically switch off.

This is Seagate Sailing’s view of the future, and it is no pipe dream. Numbered among founder Marcello Segato’s core team is one Andy Claughton, who is the director of the Wolfson Unit at Britain’s Southampton University.

This is where the world’s foremost boat and rig designers come to have their ideas tested, and nearly 30 years ago it tested a variety of modern and traditional rigs for C.A. Marchaj’s groundbreaking book Sailing Theory and Practice. No prizes for guessing which rig proved the most aerodynamically efficient when reaching and running—yes, the crab claw.

Segato’s inspiration was the pedelec—pedal-electric—bicycle, which now accounts for over 35 percent of bike sales in Europe. The name Winelec is a combination of wind and electric, bespeaking the hybrid nature of the boat with its electric motor. Claughton’s involvement lends instant credibility to the project, and a prototype is currently in build.

From a purist’s point of view, the Winelec won’t provide a satisfying sailing experience. To come about, the sail must first be furled into its booms, after which the assembly is shuttled over the arches to the other side of the boat before it can be opened on the new tack. Not only that, the rig won’t point any higher than 50 degrees to the apparent wind—it is most efficient between 80 and 160 degrees— though that won’t bother those who contend that gentlemen don’t sail to weather. Should your destination lie upwind, you just make the rig disappear back under the deck, and the silent motors do the rest.

In fact, the boat could decide that for you. Seagate’s Cruise Control software (under development) will weigh up wind direction, sea state, COG current and boatspeed to decide if power or sail or a combination of both is the most efficient way of getting you to your destination.

Along with Claughton, Segato has assembled a heavyweight cast of designers and engineers—among them Harken’s Giampaolo Spera—who are also adapting the concept to commercial applications. They’re calling it the Delta Wing Sail, though whether it’s a true wing or not is debatable.

Back in the South Pacific, though, it’s still the crab claw, and it’s still helping islanders zip between atolls with the greatest of ease.

Related

m138123_14_00_210609_TORE02_SE_2152_2504-2048x

The Ocean Race to be “Climate Positive”

The 2023 Ocean Race intends to be one of the world’s first climate positive sporting events, offsetting more greenhouse gasses than are produced. The two-fold effort means cutting emissions by 75 percent and investing in ocean projects that sequester carbon and restore ocean ...read more

01-LEAD-Ancients-3-2048x

Cruising Lake Superior

Almost anywhere a sailor drops the hook someone else has been there before. We are hardly ever the first. That remote Maine harbor without a soul in sight: there’s a lobster trap. The south coast of Newfoundland: the crumbling remains of a fisherman’s cabin lie hidden among the ...read more

01-LEAD-Tablet-Holder-4

Fabricating a Tablet Holder

During the pandemic, I was stuck aboard Guiding Light, a Lagoon 410, in St. Lucia for over a month. During that time, as I worked on the boat, I started by doing a spring cleaning in my spares locker and finding some parts and material that I forgot I had. As soon as I saw them, ...read more

00-LEAD-AdobeStock_486335954

A Catamaran for a New Era

Anacortes, Washington, is an unassuming sea-salty town near the San Juan Islands of Puget Sound, and the Betts Boats yard is easy for a passerby to miss. But within Betts’ facilities, the dawn of an era in Pacific Northwest production boatbuilding could be breaking with the ...read more

X5_plus_slide-01

Boat Review: Xquisite X5 Plus

The Xquisite X5 Plus is a major update of the boat that SAIL awarded Best Large Multihull and Best Systems titles in 2017. The changes were not just cosmetic, but genuine improvements to an already fine boat, making it lighter, faster and less dependent on fuel. The builder’s ...read more

01-LEAD-AdobeStock_40632434

Cruising: Offshore Prep Talk

When I began preparing Minx, my 1987 Pearson 39-2, for extended Caribbean cruising, I had to balance my champagne wish list against my beer budget. Every buck spent on the boat before leaving would be one less frosty can of Carib down in the islands. On the other hand, I had to ...read more

m5702_RACE-AREA-6

Barcelona Venue Shaping Up

The decision to host the next America’s Cup in Barcelona ruffled the feathers of some fans, but the Defender is happy with how the venue is shaping up. The process of allocating team bases, spectator zones and the race village is underway. “I cannot speak highly enough of the ...read more

ELAN-GT6---273

Boat Review: Elan GT6

Elan’s first sporty “Grand Turismo” yacht, the 43ft GT5, launched in 2017, and was actually a bit of a mash-up. It combined an existing go-fast hull from Elan’s sexy E5 racer with a new deck and interior optimized for cruising comfort, and a somewhat detuned rig to create a ...read more