You’ve decided you want a luxury yacht and you’re going to sail around the world stopping at all the best places and generally, having the best time. The only problem is that you will have to keep stopping for fuel, which is a real irritation. Well it seems like a solution is coming and it’s not sails, although bear with us because using the wind to cross the Atlantic could make a comeback.
No, we’re talking about installing a small nuclear reactor beneath your master suite. You’ll be forgiven for thinking that sounds a little scary — a bit nuclear submarine and frankly not something you really want to do — but then think about it some more. Atomic reactors have become more compact and they are one of the cleanest and most efficient forms of energy available. There’s no external radiation, no waste and here’s the big thing: an atomic reactor could allow a vessel to travel to sail without servicing or refuelling for 40 years. Come to think of it, can you get an atomic reactor small enough to go in our cars?
It’s all the view of Ivan Salas Jefferson, a naval architect who created Iddes Yachts n Mallorca and who has spent years designing and overseeing the build of some of the best luxury yachts. He has always had a passion for propulsion systems too and his biggest project to date is the Earth 300.
This vast 300m scientific research vessel features a 13-storey sphere containing everything from accommodation to scientific labs. There’s an impressive cantilevered observation deck and the elegantly sculpted vessel will accommodate 165 crew, 160 scientists, 20 experts including engineers, explorers, activists and economists, as well as 20 students. In addition there will be 20 VIP suites for super wealthy tourists who will pay more than $1m for the privilege of being onboard. Then there’s the molten salt power atomic reactor, based on a system being developed by Terrapower in the US with funding from Bill Gates.
Could the technology find its way into other luxury vessels? Possibly, and if it can reduce the hundreds of thousands of tonnes of CO2 emitted by cruise ships, then it could well be the perfect solution. It’s unlikely to be suitable for your yacht moored at the V&A Waterfront, but there are other solutions for that.
In the short term that’s likely to be biofuel or the synthetic fuels being developed for the automotive industry. Then there’s electrification with batteries providing the perfect solution when it comes to structural weight in the keel, but the range is nowhere near where it needs to be at the moment. So what about those sails?
Sails have existed since the first boats and been used to circumnavigate the globe, but for many, especially the wealthy, they often seem like hard work. You have to be able to put down your gin and tonic to adjust them, risk the boom whacking you on the head or worse, pushing you overboard and unless you have a real passion for sailing, they often just seem like hard work. That’s why many use them for small sailing boats, to enjoy a regatta or simply to drift around on Hartbeespoort Dam or Theewaterskloof.
However, combine sails with batteries and electric motors and you could have a solution that can not only get you across oceans but allow you to whirr out of the Cape with zero emissions. Technology is also being developed that will automate the sails, allowing owners to relax with their favourite tipple and let computers do all the hard work while autonomous tech navigates the waters to your destination.
It’s all the romance of sailing combined with the latest tech to make it simple, and all in a vessel that can have the same levels of luxury as your motor yacht. While the industry is looking at atomic power, it’s amazing to think that a solution that has existed for hundreds of years is also looking at making a comeback. Progress is fascinating, isn’t it?