Ponant trials solid sail technology

Malcolm Latarche

Malcolm Latarche · 22 November 2018


French specialist cruise operator Ponant has teamed with shipyard Chantiers de l’Atlantique to test a prototype Solid Sail system.

This is the latest step in a project first begun when the yard was known as STX France before it was taken over by Fincantieri and reverted to its historic title. The sails are being tested on Le Ponant, the cruise line’s 89m three-masted sailing cruise vessel. The prototype, on a 50% scale, will be tested for one year on the company’s sailing vessel.


Introduced as part of the sailing cruise-vessel project Silenseas, launched two years ago by STX France, the revolutionary Solid Sail concept has been tested on Le Ponantsince 31 October. Two patents have been filed—in 2009 and 2017—for the new type of sail, made of fibreglass, carbon and epoxy resin panels in a carbon-slat frame. The new technology will significantly reduce energy consumption tied to propulsion, and thus considerably reduce the environmental impact.

On 25 October of this year, solid sails of more than 300 m2 were installed on Le Ponant during a technical stop in Marseille, France. After, the ship set sail for Cape Verde before embarking on a transatlantic voyage to Cuba

"When Chantiers de l’Atlantique offered to collaborate with us on solid-sail technology, we were immediately interested. Le Ponant, the historic sailing boat behind the company, continues to be the flagship of our fleet, and sail propulsion is without a doubt an energy of the future. Protecting the environment is a key priority for PONANT, so the company is following this technology closely. We will of course be paying very close attention to the outcome of this test”, said Jean-Emmanuel Sauvée, CEO of PONANT.

"We are confident that the Solid Sail propulsion system can be a solution for passenger vessels in the future, allowing for significant operational gains both environmentally and economically speaking. We had already carried out tests with a smaller version of the sail on the monohull of Jean Le Cam, the skipper on the Vendée Globe. Today it involves the largest Solid Sail systems ever tested, and we considered PONANT the partner of choice for these tests”, explained Laurent Castaing, head of Chantiers de l’Atlantique.

Prior to its demise, earlier this year STX France had revealed details of a concept cruise vessel under its Silesea project. This was a four-masted , 190m vessel which as well as the sails included dual-fuel engines and a battery energy storage system. A novel feature of the concept was a boat-shaped platform built around each mast above the main deck level and fitted out to give the impression of sailing on a small private yacht.

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