Sailing yachts are already zero emission, right? Wrong. True, when sailing under canvas using wind power alone there are no emissions. But when it comes to negotiating a tricky harbour or marina, it’s usually easier under some sort of motor power.
And then there’s the equipment onboard. GPS and other navigation and communication systems require steady power. Sailing trips can take several days so night-time lighting and galley kit need power. Until now, yachts have relied on an onboard internal combustion engine, usually a diesel, for providing propulsion and generating electricity.
But now Spirit Yachts, based in Suffolk, UK, is building a new yacht for a customer that will be at the forefront of sustainable sailing. The Spirit 44E will be fully electric with solar panels and regenerative power. No hydrocarbons will be needed.
The Spirit 44E is under construction now in Suffolk and due to launch in early 2020. It’s is based on previous Spirit yachts, all built to a gorgeous classic design with low freeboards, long overhangs, flush decks and the timeless beauty of quality wooden craftsmanship.
Look closer and you’ll spot two solar panels integrated into the aft deck, colour matching the teak so they blend with the deck both in aesthetics and alignment.
The panels will charge OceanVolt 48VDC 30.4kWh batteries (made up of 48 1.9kWh batteries), which will power the yacht’s Oceanvolt SD15 electric drive. The lightweight electric drive system (weighing 46.5kg) uses hydro generation via the propeller to regenerate the batteries whilst sailing.
Spirit Yachts managing director Nigel Stuart said, “Regeneration will depend on sailing speeds but it is realistic to see 1.5kW whilst sailing at five knots. The equivalent energy generated would be boiling a kettle, which is one of the highest power consuming appliances you would find on a yacht, or in your home for that matter.
“With the 44E, we are taking the learnings from the Spirit 111 and applying the same principles to a smaller yacht. The lack of hydrocarbons and the addition of solar sails will allow us to take a step closer towards creating a completely sustainable yacht.”
Spirit Yachts is working with OneSails GBR (East) to develop a solar solution for the yacht’s sail wardrobe.
John Parker from OneSails GBR (East) explained, “We are exploring the use of the very latest ‘thin cell’ PV panels with the intention of utilising the yacht’s 4T Forte sails and covers as sources of electrical generation. The work is cutting edge, therefore at this stage a number of the details remain confidential.”
The 4T Forte sails are currently the only sails made from a cloth that can be recycled when they eventually wear out.
Manual Lewmar winches will allow more hands-on sailing, whilst a carbon mast and boom from Hall Spars will ensure her rig remains lightweight. A large lazarette under the aft deck will house a tender with an electric motor, and a 40in mahogany and stainless-steel steering wheel will be fitted for easy handling.
Down below, the Spirit 44E’s eco credentials continue. A reversible heating/air-conditioning Webasto pump will heat and cool the yacht using minimal power. All lighting will be LED and a Webasto 4.2 gallon 115v/750W heater will provide hot water. At the owner’s request, there will be no hydrocarbons onboard and any cooking will be done on a spirit stove.
The interior layout will accommodate four guests across two cabins. A forward twin with ensuite will serve as the owner’s cabin and a starboard aft cabin will sleep two guests in twin berths. A fold-down chart table will be built into the forward bulkhead of the guest cabin to maximise space.
A central saloon will have a port-side, u-shaped sofa around a wooden dining table, complemented by a second sofa to starboard. Aft of the saloon, to port, will be the open-plan galley. White bulkheads, mahogany ringframes and exposed yellow cedar planking will give the interior a warm, natural feel.
The 44E was conceived and commissioned by a new Spirit customer, Vincent Argiro, a retired technology entrepreneur living, sailing, racing, and exploring in British Columbia.
Dr Argiro said, “I found Spirit Yachts through a web search that yielded a photo of the Spirit 46 at sail. My jaw dropped, like so many before me.
“Surveying the Spirit portfolio, I enquired whether a design that incorporated much of the performance of the 46 with more of the livability of the 47CR could be produced.
“Sean McMillan graciously responded with interest, and a wonderful month-long design interaction ensued. I am beyond thrilled at the result.
“The stretch goal for the 44E is near total energy self-sufficiency. I envision plugging into shore power to be a rare event. And happily, an energy-efficient design is also a fast design. This light and sleek girl is going to fly!”
Spirit 44E spec
LWL 9.4m/30ft 8in
Beam 3.3m/10ft 1in
Draft 2.3m/7ft 7in
Displacement 5.5 tonnes
Propulsion: 48V DC Motor (Oceanvolt)