Future technology for future sailors?

Published on December 1st, 2022

by Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt Sailing News
I am all for heightening awareness of our impact on the environment. We can’t keep throwing things away as there is no place called Away. But I also have little patience for the phony promotion of sustainable products and packaging

There is a difference between something being recyclable and whether it is being recycled. The plastics industry convinced us of how they are not the bogeyman, yet most plastic that claims to be recyclable goes to waste.

For the marine industry, this is an active topic. The high number of recreational fiberglass boats, largely as a result of the boat building boom beginning in the 1970s, are reaching the end of their service lives. Dragging them to landfills doesn’t make our sport look too green.

So boat builders are exploring how to make recyclable boats, and they are getting there, but does a recyclable boat get recycled? I don’t mean to throw water on what seems to be a great initiative, but I also don’t want to be fooled by fake progress.

Sail GP

When I received information about the ecoOptimist, in which they report to have made the world-first recyclable Optimist, I asked how this boat is to be recycled. I never got an answer, but I encourage these questions to be asked. I am hopeful for real solutions, and maybe this is one of them as they are on a mission to influence the future of our global sailing community.

After launching their recyclable Optimist in Summer 2022, Northern Light Composites and not-for-profit Clean Sailors have opened a competition to give sailing clubs around the world the chance to own one of the first ecoOptimists ever produced. The project’s focus is to get young sailors to think differently about the production of boats.

According to ecoOptimist, their boat is built from sustainable materials and also recyclable with more than 90% of the hull recyclable today with a goal for it to soon be 100%. This has been achieved with Swiss clean-tech company, Bcomp’s technology which provided ampliTex natural fiber reinforcements, Atlas HPE core, and resin which they claim can be reused to produce new components.

Compared to conventional glass fibers, the assertion is how flax fibers reduce the CO2 footprint of the composite in manufacturing and don’t rely on fossil resources for the production of the raw material. Instead, they apparently sequester CO2 from the atmosphere during their growth and act as a natural CO2 sink during their entire lifetime.

Each ecoOptimist also features a sail by OneSails which uses their ISO certified sustainable and recyclable sail fabric.

For more information: https://ecooptisailing.com/

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