Wisamo, Michelin said, can go along way in helping to achieve these goals, because its versatility allows for use on just about any cargo vessel and in any condition.
The mast height, for instance, can be adjusted and the sail can be deflated as needed to adjust to weather conditions, or allow a vessel to come into port or pass under bridges, according to Michelin's Bruno Fragniere, who brought R&D and mechanical engineering expertise to the project.
"It has a small air compressor inside that blows it into shape on a telescopic mast. Once it is pumped with air, it captures wind like an airplane wing, thanks to its design," Fragniere said. "That generates power that propels the boat forward. When you want to capture wind, you inflate it. And when you want to return to port or pass under a bridge, you deflate it."
The Wisamo sail is controlled remotely by the ship's crew and can inflate or deflate with the push of a button. This is a critical component of the wing sail's design, according to Michel Desjoyeaux, a world renown French navigator who has become an ambassador of the Wisamo project.
"It has a plug-and-play system, which is very easy to install and use. Whether it's for a refit—meaning an addition for an existing boat—or for a newly built ship, you lower the mast into the boat, plug it in and off you go," Desjoyeaux said. "Once you're out of the harbor, you push a button and the machine does everything: It unfurls the wing and automatically chooses the correct setting for the cargo ships. This is crucial because there aren't many crew members on the bridge and they don't necessarily know much about sailboats. They need a system that operates automatically."
Desjoyeaux contends that innovation in the wing sail's design isn't limited to its mechanical properties. Wisamo, he said, is resilient and versatile—able to fitted or retrofitted to roll-on, roll-off ships; bulk carriers; and oil and gas tankers.
He also noted that the technology behind Wisamo, gives the sails a dependable quality that more mature sailing solutions just don't have.
"When I discovered that system, I thought it had checked a lot of boxes compared to our other systems with more disadvantages. Wisamo wing sail is already much more advanced than other systems which may be a bit older," Desjoyeaux said.
He also couldn't help but notice that Wisamo sails have signature Michelin look when fully inflated: They look a little like Bibendum.
"It's also aesthetically pleasant, with a shape similar to a little man who usually manufactures tires," Desjoyeaux said with a smile.
The innovative sail not only has won the approval of experts like Desjoyeaux, it has caught the eye of major shipping companies, too.
Francois Cadiou, chairman of BRS Group, a diversified global shipping services copmpany, praised the innovation and design behind the Wisamo sail. In the video that debuted the technology at Movin'On, Cadiou emphasized the need for sustainable solutions that allow the shipping industry to drastically cut into its large carbon footprint.
"Maritime transport is essential, but can be in the public critique spotlights. So we really have to do something. The use of fuel oil has become catastrophic, and we need to cut CO2 emission," Cadiou said. " … We may not be able to fly in the air, but we can certainly sail on the wind."
While it may seem an unlikely project for a world renown tire maker and a pair of Swiss inventors, Patrice Kefalas, Michelin's innovation and partnership director, contends that the project is right in Michelin's wheelhouse. After all, he said, the tire maker's deep experience in material and product development is exactly what makes it the perfect company to raise an innovation like Wisamo.
"Two years ago, our president said, 'at Michelin, everything will be sustainable.' The innovation from Michelin and Wisamo is a great example of this," Kefalas said. "With Wisamo, we are going to contribute to reducing CO2 emissions in maritime transport by drawing on Michelin's engineering know-how.
"For Wisamo, this know-how relates to the materials for the sail, as well as the automations to pilot the sail close to the wind and the engineering to install it on the vessel. Wisamo is the first step toward our dream of a completely decarbonized supply chain."