Arcona Yachts of Sweden, Oceanvolt Electric Engines of Finland, and UK Sailmakers have teamed up to create the first zero-emissions cruising sailboat: the Arcona 380Z, where the “Z” stands for zero emissions. Their combined efforts won Best-In-Show at the 2015 Helsinki Boat Show. The primary source of electrical power generator will be seven square meters of photovoltaic film attached to each side of the Tape-Drive mainsail built by UK Sailmakers Sweden and outfitted with the solar panels and components by UK Sailmakers France. The PowerSails® solar cells developed by Alain Janet, owner of UK Sailmakers France, will generate an average of 1,000 watts (1KW) per hour. According to Janet, “Modern thin-film photovoltaic cells do not need direct sunlight to generate electricity. In fact, the panels on the sail opposite the sun will generate 30-40 per cent of their maximum output with the indirect and reflected light.”
The durability of the system was tested in the singlehanded Route du Rhum race in Nov. 2014, which is over 3,700 nautical miles from France to Guadeloupe. Daniel Ecalard used the PowerSails system on his Open 50 DEFI MARTINIQUE. If the PowerSails system was going to fail from abuse, Ecalard was the perfect test pilot. He sailed through a gale in the Bay of Biscay that knocked out 10% of the fleet in the first two days of racing. Ecalard figures that the main was unreefed for only 7 of the 25 days he was racing. In the reefing process, the sail flogs while the halyard is raised or lowered and as the reef outhaul is trimmed. Along with the flogging and high wind use, the solar panel stood up to 12 hours of a heavy rain squall. Putting sails through abuse like this is the best way to test how rugged the flexible solar panels are and how well the wiring and electrical connections stand-up. The whole system, solar films, electrical connections and wiring all performed flawlessly and kept pouring fresh power into the boat’s batteries. Adding to the system’s utility, when Ecalard got to Martinique and put his main under its cover, he was able to unzip the panels from the sail and zip them onto the sides of his sail cover so that he could keep charging his batteries at the dock.
Janet said, “When I pulled up the steps and looked into the engine compartment of the Arcona 380Z at the Helsinki show, I could not believe how small the electric motor is. The engine room is now a big, bright extra storage area on the boat. There is no smell of diesel or oil and there won’t be a huge hunk of dirty, rusty metal in the space as years go by.” According to Janet, the boat’s lithium batteries take up the same space as the standard Arcona 380’s fuel tank and the batteries weigh the same as a full tank of fuel. For more information on PowerSails, call your nearest UK Sailmakers loft.