From Plastic to Fuel Cells: Winch Design on Green Yachting

By Anna Solomon

In the final instalment of our series on green yachting, we speak to renowned firm Winch Design about the steps that builders and designers can take to make superyachts cleaner and more energy efficient. Jim Dixon, Director of Yachts and Aviation at Winch, sheds light on how a historically problematic industry is working hard to turn its environmentally unfriendly reputation on its head.

Yachting is an industry undergoing a metamorphosis. Whilst once upon a time this was a hedonistic pursuit associated with excess, a new generation of yacht owners coming from  emerging industries such as fin-tech and e-commerce are a little more self-aware. “Many are not only open to sustainable yacht design, but demand that their yachts are kinder to the environment,” begins Jim, “Additionally, there is an understanding that if a superyacht is to retain its value in the next decade, then it should be able to incorporate new technology.”

So what are Winch Design contributing to the conversation? Firstly, the designer has poured resources into the emerging technology of hydrogen fuel cells, increasingly developing their yachts in such a way that they will, at a point in the future, be able to utilise carbon neutral technology. “Yachts fuelled by hydrogen fuel cells can use solar power to convert water to hydrogen energy to power the vessel, which provides 236 times the energy than a lithium battery,” Jim explains, “Hydrogen fuel cell systems are also lighter than combustion systems, meaning they incur less drag, resulting in less power being required to propel a yacht through the ocean.”

Winch Design’s commitment to this technology is such that they are primed to develop the world’s first ever hydrogen powered superyacht, having signed a contract with a leading hydrogen fuel technology company. A common problem with implementing new technologies, however, is that the infrastructure of the yachting world has not had the chance to catch up; Winch Design have faced transition issues with the facilities that would be required at marinas for refueling, for example.

With the development of such advanced technology, we sometimes forget the simple steps that can be taken to combat pollution. Not so at Winch Design. “We encourage our clients to consider sailing yacht designs, when they typically may have approached us for motor yacht designs,” says Jim, “Our team can ensure that all the luxuries available on board a motor yacht can also be available on board a sailing yacht, however with the benefit of generating no carbon emissions when under sail.”

Another easily implementable solution is the use of reusable and biodegradable products onboard yachts. “Everyone should use refillable water bottles rather than plastic ones, as well as bathroom products which are biodegradable and don’t impact the oceans once they leave the yacht,” says Jim. Demonstrating an enduring commitment to the eco-friendly cause that goes beyond PR, Winch Design make sure to practice what they preach in their own offices: “We take many steps in our studios to reduce our own carbon footprint in London, a footprint which indirectly impacts the oceans. We have even been awarded the Planet Mark which recognises our efforts to improve our carbon emissions year on year.”

“It is our collective responsibility to continue to push this conversation forward,” says Jim, “The appeal of yachting will be dramatically reduced if the oceans are dirty, the marine life dead and the coastlines polluted.” These words evoke the new mantra sweeping the industry - that to love yachting is to love the world’s oceans - and to fulfil the objectives set out by this new wisdom the supply chain will have to work together to enhance ecologically viable technologies. With enough ingenuity and innovation, there is no reason to not have a sustainable alternative to yachting as we know it.

By Anna Solomon
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