Spotlight on Spirit Yachts

'Tesla of the seas...'

Image Credit: Waterline Media

This week we speak to Spirit Yachts managing director, Nigel Stuart about the brand and their sustainable ethos behind the concept and designs.

We often find the ‘green’ alternative for a material or piece of technology has an added advantage attached to it, which helps persuade the owners. It might be the alternative option is not only more sustainable, but it is also more cost effective, efficient or quieter for example.

We love your sustainable ethos at Spirit Yachts, could you tell us a bit about how Spirit yachts came into production?

Spirit Yachts was founded in 1993 by Sean McMillan and Mick Newman, who set out to offer yacht owners a beautiful, sustainable alternative to fibreglass, production boats. One of the first boats Sean ever built as a hobby was in fibreglass. He detested the smell and found it so difficult to work with, that he vowed never to use it again.

From humble beginnings in the Suffolk countryside, Spirit Yachts now operates from a large waterside facility in Ipswich with a highly skilled team of designers, naval architects, boat builders, cabinet makers, electricians and engineers.

What strategies do you have in place to ensure that the materials you are sourcing are sustainable when it comes to custom building?

Timber is our key material and as such has our focus. We have always been meticulous about buying certified stamped timber; there are a number of timber regulators operating In the world such as FSC and PEFC. We use specialist timber suppliers that help us track the timber to source and check all certification.

We have an evironmental officer who pro-actively assesses our materials and processes and then researches sustainable alternatives. We also analyse each project for its carbon footprint across three stages: the build, operation and end of life. We try and make improvements wherever possible.

We are aware that you have been recognised at a number of events for your dedication to environmental innovations, especially for your commitment to lowering your carbon footprint. Could you tell us a bit more about these awards?

Last year, we won the Environment Initiative Award at the IBI Boat Builder Awards held at METSTRADE in Amsterdam. The awards are judged by an independent panel of marine journalists and business leaders, so it was a very proud moment to receive the industry’s approval. The Environment Initiative Award specifically recognised improvement to the sustainability of our manufacturing and design processes.

We also won the the inaugural Environment Award at last year’s Southampton Boat Show. We were chosen for the introduction of sustainable wooden Lignia decking on all our new builds and sharing environmental good practice and insight with other marine businesses.

How do you ensure that your brand doesn’t sacrifice luxury and owner demands for sustainability?

It’s a difficult balance. We try to build all our yachts as sustainably as we can, but we are also working to deliver on an owner’s brief. This means the operation of the yacht is sometimes not as sustainable as it could be. All our yachts are customised and built to order, so every project is guided by the owner’s criteria and itinerary. However, we often find the ‘green’ alternative for a material or piece of technology has an added advantage attached to it, which helps persuade the owners. It might be the alternative option is not only more sustainable, but it is also more cost effective, efficient or quieter for example.

You have recently launched what is known to be ‘one of the most sustainable yachts on the water today’, we would love to know more about Spirit 111 and how exactly it is sustainable?

For a start she is made of sustainable, responsibly sourced timber, so unlike many other superyachts on the water, when the Spirit 111 eventually reaches the end of her life, she can be stripped of her component parts and the wood can be re-used.

We worked with leading marine and automotive suppliers to deliver on the owner’s eco brief of a ‘Tesla of the seas’. A Torqeedo electric propulsion system using a 100kW motor propels the yacht silently for up to 30nm at eight knots from battery power alone. Whilst sailing, the propulsion system will regenerate the four BMW lithium battery banks by rotating the propeller shaft whilst the yacht is under sail. All power-consuming components have been carefully selected to be highly efficient and will use minimal energy without impacting performance or comfort.

It is important to the owner that he can spend the majority of his time away from marinas enjoying sailing and anchoring in bays. Using electric propulsion to regenerate the batteries whilst sailing, the yacht will be able to operate for up to four days at anchor without having to plug into shore power or start the two onboard generators. When the yacht crosses the Atlantic, as long as there is adequate wind, she will not need to consume any fossil fuels.

When looking at the systems on the yacht, we had to make everything work in harmony to ensure minimal power consumption. The air conditioning uses variable speeds with eco options via battery or shore power. The fridge and freezer were built with Cryogel insulation to ensure minimal power consumption whilst holding low temperatures. Water is heated using a Webasto system, which only heats water on demand ensuring no wasted water or energy, and the heated water is stored within high density insulation and high efficiency transfer coils for rapid heat transfer and temperature retention.

On deck, the yacht has energy efficient Lewmar hydraulic deck hardware and OneSails GBR (East) 4T FORTE™ sails, which are the only sails on the market that can be recycled at commercial recycling plants.

We worked with leading marine and automotive suppliers to deliver on the owner’s eco brief of a ‘Tesla of the seas’

Do you have Sustainable initiatives for all your yachts in place throughout the whole build process, from design through to launch?

As mentioned, our yachts are all custom built to order so in some cases it isn’t viable for the project to be what we would consider sustainable. However, we do try and make efficiencies where possible to reduce the environmental impact of every one of our yachts. Examples include using Lignia decking instead of teak (for which you can no longer guarantee the source) and swapping out zinc anodes for less-polluting aluminium alternatives.

We have recently seen the popularity for sailing yachts increase due to the rise in demand for eco-friendly yachts, how do you see the future of yachting?

There is increasing pressure for everyone to act in a more environmentally responsible way as we all have a duty of care to the world we live in. With education and growing awareness, hopefully more people will realise that sailing is a much more sustainable way to enjoy being out on the water, regardless of the size of your boat. It Is important to consider that as sailors we may use less diesel than a motor yacht, but purchasing sails, ropes and other equipment that can be recycled is vital to make sailing sustainable.

Thanks to Nigel, check out Spirit Yachts today.

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