The misuse of the word sustainability in the boating world

Sustainability and end-of-life boats. Beneteau created a special project team for the first hull of the Beneteau First 44 (pictured), working with French resin manufacturer Arkema to build a prototype with 100 percent recyclable resin.

We came out of the Cannes and Genoa boat shows drunk on sustainability. It seems, this year, the magic word to be included in the communication of every construction site. All right, it is the theme of the moment accomplice to the world situation.

But let’s go easy on flaunting real or supposed innovations on this issue, just because now any company has to champion, in the name of marketing, the environmental protection of our planet.

Those who make sailboats especially. We forget that sailing is the most environmentally friendly (and economical) way to get around. Zero emissions, zero noise and environmental pollution. Besides, let us incurable romantics tell you, it is the most natural and beneficial propulsion there is for human beings. Is a philosophy of living in harmony with nature like no other. Raise your hand if you disagree.

True sustainability: sailing

And so if we are serious about sustainability, we have to say that sailing (really though!) is as sustainable as it gets today. Let’s make it clear with a communication campaign that brings together the whole world of sailing-related production, that Speed at sea is not everything. In fact, it is nothing. To reach a destination by sailing, one must not calculate the hypothetical speed of the boat, but the speed a boat can reach depending on wind and sea conditions.

Weather is not the main variable for those who go sailing. It is first and foremost the enjoyment of sailing, then you estimate how long it takes you to get where you want to be.

And if you go “too slow,” you can change the initial plan. Stopping earlier or calculating that it will take longer.

Except that if you have to attack the engine, you will consume an amount of fuel that is infinitely less than what a boat but also a car consumes.

Full electric? Useless to delude oneself

On the topic of the engine then we have something to say. Needless to delude oneself. Electric propulsion, bare bones, can only be good today for a small boat.

It makes me laugh who thinks of equipping a cabin cruiser boat from eight meters and up (thus also usable for sleeping in and taking at least a weekend vacation) with electric propulsion alone, dreaming of equipping it with “gizmos” that would make it an autonomous power plant. Then maybe these are the same people who dream of equipping themselves with energy-intensive appliances such as megafridges and air conditioning.

If there is one solution that I am in favor of, it is to equip even boats like cars with a hybrid solution with an endothermic engine and an electric motor, to be used only for mooring in harbors or sailing in marine protected areas.

Because it will end up like this, as it already does in some lakes: there will be areas where the use of the traditional engine will be prohibited. In the name of protecting the environment.

Sustainability: the problem of fiberglass disposal

If then, again in the name of sustainability, we address the huge problem of the impossibility of disposing of the fiberglass from which all boats are built today, we will have taken a real step forward.

Today there is a real possibility of building greener boats using recyclable resins and fibers. And if some extra money then has to be shelled out for increased production costs, I am sure the sailor will be willing to spend it.

Luca Oriani




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