British skipper Phil Sharp recently unveiled his new Imoca “OceansLab,” the first racing sailboat to integrate a hydrogen-powered electricity system. And with this “green” technology it will participate in the Vendée Globe 2024.
In the future of nautical mobility, that of hydrogen is still an open bet. And as is the case with all new things, it thrives on great momentum, some disappointment and nevertheless interesting projects. The latest of these is the new zero-emission, hydrogen-powered Imoca “OceansLab” recently unveiled by British skipper Phil Sharp. The futuristic boat will be launched next summer and will take part in the Imoca Globe Series, starting with the Transat Jacques Vabre in the fall, followed by a qualifying race ahead of the most anticipated competition: the Vendée Globe 2024.
The goal for Sharp and the new monotype is precisely to demonstrate how applications of new “green” technologies in the nautical sphere can find in ocean racing a laboratory for development and a strategic showcase and then, who knows, be declined in the future also in the cruising world.
Hydrogen fueling, Phil Sharp’s bet
Phil Sharp’s Imoca is designed by French sailboat design firm Manuard and is currently under construction at Black Pepper Yachts in Nantes, France. The site says the construction uses existing molds that have been recycled and reworked. But the boat’s real strength lies entirely in its power supply, which uses only hydrogen fuel cells. This technology works through hydrogen power module created and developed by the Genevos team, of which Sharp himself, who is passionate about innovation in renewable energy, is a co-founder.
“The Imoca-class racing boats,” says the French skipper, “are the most innovative and extreme of ocean-going boats. They are an ideal platform to showcase vital clean technologies, such as hydrogen fuel cells, and to demonstrate their durability in the harshest ocean environments.”
A technology that could also revolutionize cruising
“OceansLab” will thus be the first racing boat to integrate a hydrogen power system, a technology that can be applied to a wide range of commercial and recreational boats. Imoca’s zero-emission energy system will power all onboard energy, as well as propulsion outside of racing. “Replacing fossil fuel energy with renewable energy solutions,” Sharp explains, “is an important step forward not only for our sport, but for the entire maritime industry. Ultimately, I’m sailing to win races while demonstrating that, using the latest clean technologies, it can be done with zero emissions.”
In addition to hydrogen fuel cell technology, OceansLab will demonstrate how other crucial “green” innovations, such as recyclable composite materials and solar photovoltaics, can work together to create a truly eco-efficient yacht. “To meet climate change goals,” concludes the French sailor, “we need to start developing zero-emission vessels throughout the maritime sector today. This campaign will be an important benchmark to show that there are practical hydrogen solutions ready to be adopted on a large scale.”