Marine racing is a sport that has always looked to the future. New technology, new designs, new ways of producing boats, the sport has never stood still, and that’s still true today. Let’s look at how marine racing is changing.
Given the state of the world, it’s not surprising that every racing league, sporting event, and manufacturer is looking to improve their sustainability credentials. While fans might only be considered with the racing boats, SailGP is thinking about the environmental impact of every vessel, chartering electric rigid inflatable boats (RIBs) as part of its support flotilla. These particular RIBs are 100% electric and completely oil-free, making them about as environmentally friendly as a boat could be.
This group of boats will have to be versatile, well-equipped, and able to move fast, as this remit covers hospitality, media, medical boats, and more. The support flotilla is by no means small, with a number of around 50 boats depending on who is attending.
All of this being powered by green energy is impressive, and points to SailGP taking their environmental responsibilities seriously. They’re aiming for an entirely clean fleet by 2025, which is made more likely thanks to the many marine companies that bring their products and innovations to SailGP to test for their seal of approval. Everything is being designed with sustainability at the very core, something the marine industry as a whole should take notice of.
The America’s Cup is looking to hydrogen as a new fuel for chase boats, one that could have a big impact on marine racing. Not only does hydrogen fuel help sustainability by not leaving pollution, but it’s also a reliable source of power, able to go further and last longer than just pure electric power.
Hydrogen fuel has a much higher energy density than current electric batteries, and is easier to transport than the high amounts of batteries necessary to cover long distances at speed, so is a clear choice for the energy source of the future when it comes to marine racing.
Emirates Team New Zealand has developed a prototype boat, Chase Zero, that was able to travel over 500 nautical miles, with its only emissions being pure water. In the coming years it’s likely that we’ll see more designs built around hydrogen power, and this may soon become more widespread even outside of marine racing.
A large amount of the total greenhouse emissions during a boat build are associated with the use of composite materials, especially carbon fiber. The high consumption rate of materials is also a problem. In some builds, as much as 75% of total starting material is lost by the time the final product is complete.
Recycled carbon fiber produces far less emissions than standard carbon fiber, and is often used for nonstructural parts and molds.
Epoxy resin also has a negative carbon footprint, prompting some manufacturers to swap it for bio-resin. Bio resins have around a 50% lower carbon footprint, and consume around 50% less energy and water than average non-bio-resins.
It’s not surprising that many manufacturers are looking for new materials to use, considering every element of the design, build, and operation of a boat.
Marine racing has always paved the way for cutting-edge new technology and manufacturing techniques in the industry. As the sport continues to grow, hopefully the rest of the industry takes note of how it is changing for the better, and follows its lead.
Read about how racing is changing in Formula One, or learn about how the marine industry is creating a more sustainable workforce.
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