There's something so inspiring about this picture. OK, it's a cargo ship. Not very glamorous. But it's being pulled along by a sail, more specifically a SkySail. The implications for travel in general are fantastic, especially for those of us who worry about our carbon footprints.
SkySails take advantage of a simple fact: wind is cheaper than oil and way more abundant. The giant (320m2) sails are a wind propulsion system based on large towing kites. So the ship is basically kite surfing (without the stunts). Or taking a trip back to the time of sailing ships, with a dramatic twist (the kites can reach gustier altitudes than conventional mast-held sails).
SkySails claim they can reduce a ship's average annual fuel costs by up to 35%. Cargo vessels (carrying loads of 8 to 32 tons) started using them earlier this year, and SkySails' Hamburg-based creators aim to increase this load to to 130 tons. It's exciting to think of what this technology might be used for. RM
Images: ©2008 SkySails GmbH & Co. KG