Sustainability is a topic in our lives, from making products last longer to the materials used for new ones, it’s all about being as environmentally friendly as possible and the ongoing search for new and innovative materials.
In the case of yachts, a vessel often will be used for decades before being refitted. Now, for the first time, an Austrian-French business has created a catamaran that is fully recyclable. Innovation Yachts has its shipyard in France and is the owned by renowned sailor Norbert Sedlacek Koch and his wife Marion, who is the technical director of the business. Founded in 2009, sustainability in materials and propulsion are essential to the vessels that they design and build.
The latest, the LBV35, is a catamaran that epitomises the philosophy of sustainable yachting. It recently received the prestigious Ocean Tribute Award 2023 from the Prince Albert II Foundation, the German Ocean Foundation and a judging panel of the Boot Düsseldorf boat show.
The vessel also ticks the innovation box. The most intriguing is volcanic fibre, a material created by grinding up volcanic rock, melting it and then stretching the molten mass into fibres. The company says that besides being fully recyclable, it also ensures a high-tensile structure which can be moulded to create a hull that is strong, waterproof, and UV and heat resistant.
The team also use balsa wood, also recyclable and obtained from certified forests. It is lightweight but still has all the stiffness and strength needed in a yacht. The same is true of a bio-sourced epoxy matrix that the company uses: solvent free, biologically safe and also fully recyclable.
Beyond the materials, the LBV35 relies on its sails as its main form of propulsion, though it has two 6.0kW hydro-generators to create electric power, a 1.6kW solar energy system and two 9.6kWh battery packs. That makes it about as clean and green as any vessel can be.
It doesn’t end with the materials or the propulsion systems; the vessel has a clever trick up its sleeve to help remove rubbish from the oceans. The Ocean Cleaning System is essentially the trampoline net that fits between the two hulls, but the company has altered this traditional piece of design so that it can be lowered into the water to collect flotsam. It’s such a simple and obvious solution and, not surprisingly, picked up the Ocean Tribute Award.
“After 13 years of intensive development work, this award is an important and highly motivating confirmation and appreciation for us, which will also drive us forward in the future to work uncompromisingly on the development of clean yachts and their technology for the protection of the oceans,” the couple said on receiving the award.
Sedlacek Koch’s passion for sailing means he gets to put the team’s vision and creations to the test and later this year he will embark on the ultimate trial — sailing single-handedly around the world — though it won’t be in the catamaran; that’s very much a day boat. Departing the shipyard in France in August, he will sail the 60-foot Innovation Yachts Open 60AAL (Around Alone and Laboratory). It is constructed from the same materials as the catamaran and will also rely predominantly on its sails, but features electric motors and solar panels to ensure it is completely self-sufficient as it takes on the 32,000 nautical-mile challenge.
The main aim is to prove the technology and the resilience of the materials, and by the end of it, the team are hoping they will be able to add a new sailing world record to their recent award.