Sun blows wind away in race to conquer the oceans

20 February 2019 - 06:30 By Bobby Jordan
Voyage Yachts' first hybrid catamaran, Electrified.
Voyage Yachts' first hybrid catamaran, Electrified.
Image: Voyage Yachts

For thousands of years sailors have battled the breeze to cross the seas. Now all you need is sunlight and suntan lotion.

A prominent SA boatbuilder has launched its first hybrid catamaran that can sail for hours on solar-powered batteries.

If you don’t feel like hoisting the sails, you switch on the electric propulsion system and cruise to your destination.

The vessel, dubbed Electrified by her overseas owners, was launched in December by Voyage Yachts of Cape Town, which produces yachts mainly for the Caribbean luxury charter market. The company is building a second bigger hybrid model to be launched later this year.

SA is a global leader in luxury catamarans, and builders report a recent upsurge in demand for green technology – similar to growing interest in electric cars.

"That’s the future – we have a golden opportunity"” said Voyage general manager Kay Oldenburg. "There are a lot of overseas clients who want to go green and don’t mind spending the money"”

Cape Town mayor Dan Plato meets staff at Voyage Yachts.
Cape Town mayor Dan Plato meets staff at Voyage Yachts.
Image: City of Cape Town

The new Voyage 480 design allows clients the choice of sail, diesel drive or electric propulsion. It features 1.6kW of solar panels, 35kWh of lightweight high-capacity lithium ion batteries and regenerating electric drives.

"In addition to daytime power from the solar panels, the batteries are recharged while under sail through hydro generation from the electric motors,” Finnish supplier Oceanvolt says on its website.

"The generation of power from the propellers and the solar panels will provide many hours of silent green power, reducing generator running time to a minimum."

Another SA luxury catamaran builder, Maverick Yachts, has also launched a hybrid electric model, with other builders expected to follow suit.

The City of Cape Town has pledged support for Cape Town’s burgeoning boat-building industry, which already has several high-end producers, among them Robertson & Caine, the world’s second biggest producer in terms of volume.

Mayor Dan Plato, who visited Voyage on Tuesday, said the city council planned to devise incentives for boat builders.

In a statement issued immediately after the visit, Plato said: "Cape Town’s boat-building sector is without question a key contributor to our economy, and plays a significant role in job creation and skills development for our communities."