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Eco-Sailboat of the future - Catherine Chabaud at work

by Nancy Knudsen on 8 Jul 2014
Sustainable yacht of the future - what will it be like? .. .
You might already say that sailing boats, with their low power requirement, their solar and wind powered electricity, their self-contained watermakers and their generally environmentally aware owners, are already way ahead of the game in sustainability, but that's not good enough for one group, who are creating the 'Eco-Sailboat':

It's true that the innovations allowing recreational crafts to be energy self-sufficient, made out of recyclable materials and to treat wastewater on board, to explore the sea and the coastline, to take part in the knowledge of the oceans…are well under way to becoming a reality. Promising projects certainly already exist.

But there's a very big problem that has not been satisfactorily addressed as yet - the problem of fibreglass - polyester resin. It is a composite used to make 80% of recreational crafts and for which no satisfactory end-of-life solutions exist.

However, a laboratory bringing together fifteen businesses and five research centres along the French Atlantic coast, called Eco-Sailboat, carry a message: the solutions which will allow us to live in harmony with the planet are also generators of employment and the key to ecological transition. One of the key movers and shakers in the project is Catherine Chabaud, the first female to sail solo around the world, finishing her circumnavigation in 1997.

The History:
In 2010, a team bringing together researchers, industrialists, an architect and a navigator, developed the first craft made out of fully-biosourced composite materials. The NavEcoMat project resulting from the work of Université de Bretagne Sud gave birth to a canoe made of flax fibre and corn resin or potato resin.

And so the dream began. The dream is to create this eco-designed, eco-navigating, eco-exploring laboratory-boat, and to one day see it sail on the sea, proud to boost the dynamics of the nautical sector in developing eco-innovations.

When they imagined the project Eco-Sailboat, Catherine Chabaud (involved in the NavEcoMat project, in the Oceans Initiative/Grenelle de la Mer, and today a member of the Economic, Social and Environmental Council) and Julian Stone ( co-founder of the EcoNav network, expert in nautical sustainable development), they combined a dream and an industrial approach.

The realisation of the dream:

For six years, Eco-Sailboat will bring together a consortium of 17 SMEs and 5 research centres, working to develop innovations belonging to seven groups of eco-technologies:

1. An eco-designed sailboat
- end-of-life is planned from the inception,
- end-of-life analysis of each innovation, but also of the boat as a whole
- developing an eco-design tool for recreational crafts
- intuitive and ergonomic design to facilitate and make sailing and walking around the boat safer, especially for persons with reduced mobility.

2. Renewable energies
- a hydrogenerator integrated to the hull to increase the production of energy under sail,
- intelligent system of management and control of onboard energy to maximize consumption depending on the real needs, and to encourage responsible choices,
- cruise- specific battery system to increase storage capacity,
- routing software to maximize sail performance and the energy dedicated to propulsion,
- low-consumption autopilot.

3. Sailboat propulsion
- high-efficiency electric propulsion system,
- innovative wing sail derived from the wings in the America’s Cup, to increase sail efficiency,
- a traction kite adapted to recreational crafts to increase sail performance.

4. Materials
- materials are selected depending on their recyclability (biocomposites, aluminium),
- development of high-performance biocomposites adapted to a sea environment for the deck and interior design, and bio-compostable at end-of-life,
- biocomposite fittings (furlers, pulleys),
- biosourced riggings, recyclable at end-of-life

5. Waste and effluents
- 100% biodegradable antifouling paint,
- onboard package compactor,
- onboard wastewater treatment system.

6. Onboard safety
- man over board detection and geolocation system,
- life jacket of the future, maximising user survival

7. Oceanographic sensor
- autonomous oceanographic data sensor, which allows the collection of quality data without constraints, directly transferred to and exploited by Ifremer (French Institute for Research and Exploitation of the Sea).

Can they do it? We shall see. But to give it the best chance possible they need funding and you can find out more about the project and the funding they need by going to their website.

About Catherine Chabaud:
Catherine Chabaud: She was the first woman to complete a solo round-the-world race, non-stop and without assistance (Vendée Globe); she is involved in the Sea Initiatives/Grenelle de la Mer and today, she is an advisor for the Economic, Social and Environmental Council. She is recognised for her commitment to raise awareness about oceans and to promote a sustainable management of economic activities. To implement her projects, Catherine Chabaud has founded the association Innovations Bleues, for a sustainable development of maritime activities.
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