Previous Chapter | Back to Contents| Next Chapter

MILITARY NEEDS

Today, the case for transport sail craft depends mostly on commercial, not military needs, as the nuclear powered aircraft carrier is hard to beat in terms of speed and range. However, there are several scenarios less unlikely than Kevin Costner's "Water World" where military sail craft may play a role. For example, the recent war between the UK and Argentina over the Falkland Islands taxed the payload/range capability of the British Royal Navy. As oil reserves are further depleted in the 21st Century, the logistics of such a conflict may create a need for wind assisted propulsion to extend the range of the smaller ships and to reduce the dependence of the fleet on underway replenishment from the oiler. Even in the US and Russia, the days of unlimited military spending are clearly at an end, and our ability to project global power on a budget may depend on innovative technologies such as wind assisted shipping.

Many critics of wind power found it difficult to believe Costner's 60 ft catamaran could outrun the jetskis, but we have personal experience in the Columbia River Gorge where several types of smaller sailcraft will outrun all of the motorboats. When the significant wave height exceeds about two feet, the jetskis are slowed below 20 kts due to ventilation of the pump inlet between waves. (The same thing happened to the 100 ton Jetfoil when it was briefly in passenger service in Hawaii.) The sail boards and Kiteskis can still operate above 30 kts in these conditions, as the need for lateral resistance is moderate on the broad reaches, and they can stay powered up when only kissing the tops of the waves, jumping over (getting air in) the wave troughs.

Even the larger propeller driven power boats have trouble keeping up with the Windsurfers when it's "nukin" in The Gorge. Although the prop may stay in the water and continue to provide thrust, the boat and driver can't take the beating from pounding on the waves, and they must slow below 20 kts. Interaction between sail force and ship motion can be important on much larger vessels in terms of crew comfort.

Hence the case for military sail craft may depend on the economics of war, and to a lesser extent on the possible speed advantage of wind assisted ships. The possibility of greatly improving the operating radius of small patrol boats may also be attractive, especially for island nations like Polynesia where the land masses are separated by many miles of ocean. Non nuclear powers that run short of oil reserves in the next century may also find wind assistance of some military value.

Previous Chapter | Back to Contents| Next Chapter