sailing innovation anyone?

It’s about time I wrote about sailing again. There is too much going on in our world that could drive the best of us into depression. So back to the good stuff.


One tiny, wincy, incy bit I am missing in sailing is innovation. What I mean is that other than some different sail and hull materials not much has happened in sailing or boatbuilding over the last 20 years really. Yes, some foilers, a bit of carbon here and there but in principal …nope.

Well some. Here we go.

Electric engines When Elon Musk came up with his Tesla Roadster the first thing that came to my mind was: hang on, this would be ideal for a sailing boat. I am talking about the electric engine. It has only taken 12 years (2008 was the year the electric roadster was introduced) to put some (working) electric engines into boats. Why?

I totally get it that people initially get a bit scared when they think of the water/electricity combination. However, an electric engine will even operate underwater if properly insulated. Not to mention the low weight, advantages of maintenance, ease of operation, longevity, power ratio and above all no fossil fuel. It can be charged via solar cells or, what some people do, via generator as a back up (which obviously still uses diesel). But that’s more relevant for long-distance and blue water cruising.

For any weekend sailing boat (which is about 85% of the global market) an electric engine charged via shore power and topped up via solar will do just fine. This is a long topic so I’ll write more about electric engines in a separate blog post but this is one development that falls under the category innovation. By the way, there is still not one sailing boat builder out there that offers an electric engine as an option!

Couple of links for you with regards to electric engines: – Oceanvolt: a Finnish electric boat motor manufacturer – Torqueedo: electric outboards – Belmarine: electric inboard motors – Electric Marine: e-motor boats

Winches The flipper folding winch handle is a masterpiece of engineering. I have had the pleasure of using one these on a recent sailing trip and once we found our boat I will buy these for all winches.

These winch handles stay in the winch at all times and fold to the approximate dimension of a winches diameter – solving two problems at once. First of all, you can easily wrap a jib sheet around the winch without having to remove the handle first, and secondly, you greatly reduce injury from falls or sudden shifts that result in a handle to the rib cage. More importantly in a racing environment, you save heaps of time for not looking for the winch handle and sticking it into the winch.

On top of that, you can fold the whole winch handle flat which gives you greater leverage when trimming the sails.

Clutches and jammers Spinlock’s XTX is a new rope clutch that uses pressure from a fibre sleeve to hold the rope, which is much less abrasive and reduces the damage to lines drastically when compared to metal or ceramic clutch cams. More pressure means more friction and the XTX actually grips better the higher the load.

The sleeve also distributes the load across a longer section of rope to reduce wear.

All clutch adjustment is handled with one pull toggle and a button, located at the back of the jammer. When the button is down, the rope will move freely in one direction, but lock if the direction changes. Pulling the toggle slightly allows for short, controlled bursts of rope to be released. The clutch is easy to maintain without removing it from the deck. Taking off the rear cover allows the whole braid mechanism to be removed in one piece. You can then inspect it, clean it and make sure everything is in order before re-assembling. The whole process takes less than 30 seconds.

Antifouling Well, let’s agree any antifouling paint isn’t the most environmentally friendly paint you can put on a boat. Most antifouling bottom paints contain cupreous oxide which is a neurotoxin. It constantly leaches into the water around your boat, creating a plume. … Other neurotoxins used in the past have been banned worldwide because of their destructive effects on marine life. So not too good at all. On top of that, depending on where you keep your boat you’ll have to renew the paint once a year. Which in turn means hauling your boat ($) and the whole process of reapplication ($$$).

Rik Breur is the inventor of Micanti Antifoul film. The film has millions of tiny fibres or hairs on the foil and are resilient and vibrate constantly by the water movement. This combination of prickliness and swaying of the fibres makes the surface unattractive for organisms to settle. The nylon fibres are similar to the spiky hairs that organisms have to combat fouling. With Micanti Antifouling, it is possible to prevent all sorts of macro-growth (think of mussels, barnacles, algae) from settling. Apparently it lasts up to 10 (!!!) years and is 100% environmentally friendly. It doesn’t contain any toxic ingredients. the film is a nylon fibre, polyester film and two-component water-based adhesive.

Some user feedback (sold under finsulate brand which is the same)

As always would love to hear your views 🙂