New Case Study and Material Life Cycle Analysis of IMOCA Class

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Reversing the Impact on Boat Building: New Case Study and Material Life Cycle Analysis of the IMOCA Class

by 11th Hour Racing Team Feb 18 21:01 UTC

New Case Study and Material Life Cycle Analysis of an IMOCA Class Racing Yacht © Lou-Kévin Roquais / 11th Hour Racing


A dramatic increase in the carbon footprint of building a high-performance racing boat was revealed in the Sustainable Design and Build Report by US-based offshore sailing outfit 11th Hour Racing Team, prompting a call to action for the shipping industry to follow suit the Paris Agreement.

Data from the construction of the all-new 60-foot racing boat, the Malama, has revealed a 60% increase in the construction’s greenhouse gas emissions from the 340 tonnes previously measured [Kairos 2010 – LCA of an IMOCA 60] up to 550 tons. That footprint is equivalent to 1.4 million miles [2.2 million kilometers] driven by an average passenger car – 55 times around the equator.

The team is sharing these insights with the wider marine industry to bring boat builders, designers, suppliers and partners together to commit to reducing the industry’s footprint by 50% by 2030.

Explaining why the carbon footprint has increased so significantly, Damian Foxall, Sustainability Manager at the 11th Hour Racing Team said: “There have been amazing advances in on-water performance in our class over the past decade, but that has fallen short high price. Since 2010, the footprint of an IMOCA has increased by almost two-thirds and is expected to double in the coming years. This is a common trend we’re seeing in pretty much every performance-driven industry: we’ve been accelerating in the wrong direction too quickly, putting performance ahead of responsibility.

“But this challenge is also our opportunity,” Foxall continued. “Innovation is at the heart of our DNA in this industry. We need a paradigm shift that puts sustainability alongside performance in our class and race rules and allows our designers and engineers to make good decisions.”

Mark Towill, CEO of the team, explained how the build program was structured with the team based in the heart of the offshore sailing world in Brittany, France: “By working from inside the industry, side by side with the suppliers, the rule makers , the designers and builders, we have used our influence and ultimately our dollars to proactively review the way high performance boats are built.

“We have pushed to change the normal way of doing things, to innovate and fund new solutions and to ask ourselves the question: ‘Why does it have to be done this way?’ while openly sharing our insights and recommendations for change,” he concluded.

A critical part of the report’s research was understanding where the emissions originate. That’s often easier said than done, as Amy Munro, Sustainability Officer at the 11th Hour Racing Team, explains: “Building a racing boat is a complex process involving a multitude of stakeholders and components, making every step in the design and construction of ours new boat and performed a full life cycle analysis which helped us uncover underlying issues. We were then able to address some of these during construction and also find ways and solutions to reduce overall consumption impact.”

The 11th Hour Racing Team will participate in a series of workshops organized by the IMOCA class to bring the performance marine industry together to collaborate and learn how strategies can be implemented to reduce the footprint of new builds. With an unprecedented number of IMOCA boats under construction and shipyards booked up years in advance, a growing number of teams are calling for a change in policy regarding performance sailing class rules:

  • To place sustainability as a key criterion within the class and race rules to define how boats are designed and built.
  • Minimum standards for procurement, energy, waste and resource circulation must be set.
  • Use of less polluting alternative materials such as recycled carbon, flax and bioresins.
  • A CO2 emissions threshold based on LCA data.
  • Setting an internal price for CO2 emissions.

The team has also prepared a set of recommendations for future IMOCA class boat designs in the areas of energy management, material resources, supply chain and waste management.

After more than 18 months in the shed, the launch of Malama in September 2021 was a landmark moment for the entire team. CEO Towill stated, “Malama has become a pilot for sustainable innovation and there are many areas of the build where we would have liked to have pushed even further in this area. A key learning from this process, however, has been the time constraints associated with implementing these innovations, such as the use of alternative materials. There are significant lead times associated with researching, developing and testing alternative materials to have proven solutions that share the same structural and structural integrity Safety standards conform to those currently used in new boat building. Our goal is for this report to provide insight into the barriers and opportunities for innovation that can be integrated more broadly in the future,” he concluded.


Download the report here


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