Despite all ISAF’s marketing-speak about eco-friendly sailing being the key to the universe, we all know our sport has a dark secret about the chemical nastiness of modern boat and sailmaking materials and the environmental impact of our sport. Folks like Sailors for the Sea and 11th Hour Racing are doing a good job on the impact part of the equation a select few are trying to address with environmentally friendly-ish epoxy (like this stuff) but the older generation of designers and builders are mostly a long way from any real change, and it’s a genuine threat to the ‘eco-appearance’ of the sport – not to mention the health of the planet.
That’s why it’s so cool to see the next generation taking on the challenge with what we’re calling the ‘Eco-Skiff’, using it as a platform to prove that ‘environmentally friendly and sustainable’ composites don’t have to mean unreliable, heavy, weak, or expensive. The Eco-Skiff was designed and built by the sailing team of CUS Brescia, the student sport association of Northern Italy’s University of Brescia under the supervision of several researchers of the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering of the University of Brescia. Our old friend Max checks in with a quick update, and you can find regatta info, pics, vids, and plenty more on their Facebook Page.
The objective of this project was to test the innovative composite material and the racing boat in a real contest the “1001 Velacup challenge regatta”, an annual challenge which involves the participation, with small skiff, of all the Italian Universities. In 2016 event, 1001 Velacup regatta was taken in Venice and this boat got the 3rd position overall.
The participation to this regatta requires the boat to be designed and built by university students, the hull, the deck and racks of the boat to be made of at least 70% in weight of natural materials, the overall length and the beam length not to exceed 4.6 meters and 2.1 meters respectively and the sail area not to exceed 33 m2 including jib, main and gennaker.
The designed boat is a typical skiff sailing boat, which is characterized by a large sail, a minimal draft and stretched water lines that allow the boat to reach high speed on the water (up to 9 knots upwind and 20 knots downwind). The entire hull is made of the innovative composite material made of BIOMID® (fibers coming from cellulose) and balsa wood while racks, mast and boom are made with an extruded aluminum.
This innovative composite material shows a lower environmental impact with respect to conventional materials. for example, considering as alternative glass fiber composites, this is due to the fact that: (1) natural fiber production has lower environmental impacts compared to glass fiber production; (2) natural fiber composites have higher fiber content for equivalent performance, thus reducing the more polluting polymer content; (3) these natural fibers presents a positive economic outlook that show a great potential for use in other sectors.
-Massimo Collotta,(Ph.D, P.Eng.)