Best Boats 2016: Systems

Author:
Updated:
Original:

Systems

Gunboat G4, J/88e, Balance 451

Few are consistently willing to push the technology envelope and accept the (often considerable) risks that this entails. In the mass production marketplace, Groupe Beneteau stands out. In the high-end custom marketplace it is Gunboat, with this year’s G4 as a quintessential example. It’s not just the G4’s foiling capability, which has grabbed the headlines, but also its clever foot-operated hydraulic mainsheet trimmer, creative engineering in terms of foil control, Pontos four-speed winches and a retractable electric saildrive from Oceanvolt, an up-and-coming Finnish company. The Oceanvolt is also found on the all-electric J/88e from J/Boats.

The Achilles heel of electric propulsion in boats is the high levels of energy it takes to power at cruising speeds (as opposed to the relatively low levels necessary to maintain highway speeds in a car) since enormous and impractical battery banks are required for any kind of substantial range. However, the G4 and J/88e are both impervious to this in as much as the propulsion system is needed only to maneuver in and out of slips, after which the boats are sailed.

The batteries in both cases are lightweight lithium-ion. Although Oceanvolt saildrives have folding propellers, Oceanvolt has found a way to trick the propellers into staying open and freewheeling when so desired, with the electric motor now being driven as a generator to recharge the batteries. The J/88e also flies a SolarCloth main from UK Sailmakers, which includes a number of integrated solar panels to further top of its battery banks by generating electricity from the sun.

On another tack altogether, in previous years we have given the technology award to digital “distributed power” systems. These are still gaining almost no traction in the marketplace. However, at this year’s Annapolis show the Balance 451 had a well-executed conventional electrical system using distributed power principles. It does not have all the bells and whistles of a digital system, but achieves many of the same cable reduction and circuit simplification benefits without the risks inherent in a new technology. gunboat.com, jboats.com, balancecatamarans.com

Related

02-'17-Trans-Atlantic_Downwind-Schralpin

At The Helm: Man Overboard!

Imagine this simple scenario: the boat’s powered up, sailing close-hauled in a building breeze under full sail. I come on deck as the skipper during the watch change to make sure the new crew is comfortable and the boat is properly set up for both the current conditions and ...read more

Promo-01-LEAD-MGR00321

Contrasting X-Yachts & Moody Cruisers

One of the most fascinating things about sailboats is the different ways that sailors, naval architects and builders will approach a single design problem. The result has been a bewildering array of rigs and hull forms over the years, and in the case of the two boats we’ll be ...read more

04-Yacht-anchored-in-front-of-one-of-Lastovo's-gunboat-tunnels-(3)

Cruising Charter to Croatia

As is the case with so much of the Mediterranean, to sail in Croatia is to take a journey through time. Centuries before the birth of Christ, Greeks traded amphoras of oil, wine and grain across these waters. During the first millennium, the Romans built lavish palaces and ...read more

m123728_13_01_171012_PMA_02901_9999

Alicante Announced as an Ocean Race Europe Stop

The Ocean Race Europe, a new event in offshore sailing, will include Alicante as one of four stopover cities. This European offshoot of the former Volvo Ocean Race will include the biggest change to the racing rules under the new title—fully crewed IMOCA 60s will join the ...read more

01-LEAD-doublehanded2

Preparing for a Doublehanded Race

A few months ago we took a look at the development and attraction of doublehanded racing (Two to Tango, June/July 2020). Hopefully, that served to whet your appetite. If so, the question becomes: “How do I get started? The good news, as we explained in Part 1, is that if you are ...read more

01-LEAD-Day-three---dolphins.-300-dpi

A Key Approach to Passagemaking

How you approach offshore sailing is key to the success of each passage. In addition, some of the most valuable, even crucial attitudes and skills may not be either learned or valued in everyday life on shore and may even fly in the face of talents that are greatly admired and ...read more

OceanVoyagesInstitute-2048

Point of SAIL: Mary Crowley of the Ocean Voyages Institute

In this episode of Point of SAIL, Principal Editor Adam Cort talks with Mary Crowley, founder and executive director of the Ocean Voyages Institute, a not-for-profit based in California that has been both educating sailors and working to preserve the health of the world’s ocean ...read more

01-Ocean-Voyages-Institute_PHOTO-READY_1_pg

Tracking and Catching Plastic Waste

Plastic waste—in the form of everything from plastic soda bottles to abandoned fishing nets—constitutes a major threat to the health of the world’s oceans. Giving the immense size of an ocean, though, actually finding all the plastic floating around out there in a time-efficient ...read more