Onboard energy – and more precisely electricity – is a critical issue in view of a solo transatlantic regatta such as the Route du Rhum; an issue that the IBSA team addressed by thinking first of all of performance, in compliance with the Class40 regulation and with an eye to sustainability, as skipper Alberto Bona tells us:
“Regulations are quite open. The only limitation concerns the budget dedicated to the autopilot and all its components, for which a set amount (€ 30,000) cannot be exceeded. This limits the possibility of mounting compasses and other high-performance components, such as fibre-optic systems.
The autopilot is therefore the main consumer of electricity on board and, together with the instrumentation and the computer, it must be powered by the electrical circuit. For storage, regulations prohibit lithium batteries: we have classic gel batteries. For energy production, we mounted four very performing, latest generation solar panels on the deckhouse. Then we can also produce energy with the hydro-generator and, finally, with the inboard engine alternator. For safety reasons, regulations require to have at least 40 litres of diesel on board; we will therefore start with this minimum diesel reserve to use as a backup, but we are counting on other production sources to charge the batteries.
In recent years, much progress has been made in terms of energy aboard racing boats, and solar panels – which are more and more efficient – are becoming an increasingly viable alternative as a primary production source. While not yet optimal, storage systems and batteries are also more efficient, so much so that, these being racing boats, the weight of the battery pack becomes an important variable in the equation. Hydro-generators produce super green energy, although their operation causes a 0.1/0.2-knot slowing down. It’s not that dramatic, since we use them only for the time needed to recharge the battery pack (an hour, maybe two). Instead, on the Class40 IBSA we discarded the fuel cell backup alternative, because it’s a less green source than the others, and is also redundant with the inboard engine alternator.
The world of courses au large is increasingly attentive to sustainability and the environment. What pollutes the most in our sport is logistics, rather than the boats or the regattas themselves. The La Vague collective, for example, is very active in pushing ocean sailing towards an increasingly green and sustainable path, and several skippers and professionals have shared the results of studies conducted on the environmental impact that ocean regattas have on the environment, in order to raise awareness on the subject. That’s why we decided, after the Route du Rhum, to return to Europe from Guadeloupe by sea and in another regatta, instead of loading the Class40 IBSA on a cargo ship”.