Sails are clearly the oldest technology for wind powering ships with a history that dates back for many thousands of years. Whilst there are many different types of sailing vessel they all have a buoyant hull, at least one mast and rigging. From about the 1850 to 1870 a transitions from sail to engine power took place where engine driven propulsion became increasingly the dominate form of propulsion. However the view that sail power vessels has survived at sea only in the form of yachting is as Euro-centric perspective. Commercial sailing flourishes in many parts of the world and sail only powered vessels form an essential part of the transport network carrying all manner of bulk cargo’s. A good example of this is would the Indonesian Parhus sailing fleet which is around 10,000 strong. Despite the growing use of engine propulsion during the latter part of the 19th century, the use of commercial sailing ships persisted into the 1930’s in Europe. Surprisingly the last Norwegian owned sailing ship left the Atlantic grain trade as late as 1936.
There are several ways in which the wind can be used. The most obvious is sails, however, other technologies do exist. Specifically there are Flettner Rotors, turbosails and skysails.