Business: Riding the Wind

Back to the sea with sails

The 236-ft. Japanese tanker Shin Aitoku Maru looks like any other ship as it plies the Sea of Japan with a cargo of more than 11,000 bbl. of crude oil. But when the breeze comes up, a microcomputer unfurls a pair of rectangular canvas sails and aligns them to the wind. Stretched tight by rigid metal frames, the 40-ft. by 26-ft. sails resemble windmill paddles more than the billowing canvases of a windjammer. Yet the sails enable this 20th century clipper to move at speeds of up to twelve knots...

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