SPIE breathes life into a rigging prototype for future sailing vessels at the Chantiers de l’Atlantique shipyard

Published on 01 February 2022

Nantes, 1 February 2022 – The Industrie division of SPIE Industrie & Tertiaire, a French subsidiary of the SPIE group, the independent European leader in multi-technical services in the areas of energy and communications, has been selected by the Chantiers de l’Atlantique shipyard to provide the electrical installations and automation system for the prototype mast for future wind-powered sailing vessels, which will be more environmentally friendly.

Driven by a desire to reduce the carbon footprint of future vessel generations, the Chantiers de l’Atlantique shipyard has invested in rigid sail technology, installed on a 76 m mast. The electrical installation and control work for this prototype rigging has been awarded to the teams from the Industrie division at SPIE Industrie & Tertiaire. This contract strengthens its presence in the shipbuilding and marine renewable energy (MRE) market.

With an estimated life span of 30 years, these sails will ultimately provide the vessels with a surface area of 1050 m2 thanks to a mast that can pivot through 360 degrees according to weather conditions. They will be combined with innovative energy production and propulsion technologies, such as liquefied natural gas, batteries, automation, etc. The expected reduction in CO2 emissions from future wind-powered sailing vessels is estimated at 40%.[1]

Pivot and tilt tests on the prototype were carried out in July 2021. Installed in September 2021, the mast currently stands at 43 m high (reduced to a scale of 1:2) and bears 550 m2 of sails. The last section of the mast, which will take its height to over 80 m, will be added at the end of a test phase lasting around a year.

Creating and implementing solutions for a brand-new technology

Recognised for its technical expertise and solid experience in the naval sector, the Industrie division of SPIE Industrie & Tertiaire won the contract for the electrical installation and automation of the prototype mast for future sailing vessels.

The recognised local expertise and proximity of the SPIE teams made the difference. We are confident about the next stages of the project,” says Eric Coulon, Project Manager at Chantiers de l’Atlantique.

The Industrie division is responsible for automation across the entire project, from overall supervision of the equipment to controlling and directing the sails. “We are providing intelligence for the propulsion system, setting it in motion and also ensuring it works correctly,” explains Xavier de Noblens, Head of the Industrie Naval and Marine Energy Services Department.

This ground-breaking technology involves numerous technical demands, such as managing the interface between the rigging and the vessel, which has to pass through a revolving joint to enable the electrical cables and all communications to be connected (field bus[2], Ethernet and fibre optics), and tilting the mast to pass under bridges. A great number of obstacles that the teams were able to overcome with rigour to great success,” adds Mickaël Boulic, Electricity and Energy Activities Manager within the Naval and Marine Energy Services Department.

This is an excellent reference project for the Naval and Marine Energy Services Department of the Industrie division, created in 2020, enabling it to consolidate its position as a key player on a booming market.


[1] By 2050, compared to 2008 figures (Saint-Nazaire website)

[2] A system that connects the sensors and actuators to a PLC to exchange information.