The method of wave energy conversion utilises an oscillating water column (OWC). The OWC converts wave energy into low-pressure pneumatic energy in the form of bi-directional airflow. Wells turbine with its zero blade pitch setting has been used to convert this pneumatic power into uni-directional mechanical shaft power. Measurements in OWC based wave energy plants in India and Japan show that the airflow velocity is not equal in both directions. The velocity is more when the airflows out to the atmosphere (exhalation) than in the reverse direction. It may be advantageous to set the rotor blade pitch asymmetrically at a positive pitch so as to achieve a higher mean efficiency in a wave cycle. Towards this objective, performance characteristics of a turbine with different blade setting angles in steady flow were found by experimentation. Quasi-steady analysis was then used to predict the mean efficiency for a certain variation of air velocity with time. This variation with time was taken as pseudo-sinusoidal wherein the positive part of the cycle was taken as a half sine-wave whose amplitude is greater than that of the negative half sine-wave. Such a variation is representative of what happens in reality. For exhalation velocity amplitude to inhalation velocity ratios 0.8 and 0.6, a rotor blade setting angle of 2° was found to be optimum. © 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.