Fresh Approach
Yachting World|February 2022
"A refreshing new brand building fast and spacious cats out of volcanic rock and plastic bottles? Toby Hodges was intrigued"
By Toby Hodges

This French start-up venture might just have paved a new way forward in production yacht building. Windelo is the brainchild of the Kauffmanns, a father and son team who wanted to create something altogether different from the norm and to build boats that have half the environmental impact of standard glass fibre yachts. The result is an intriguing package – from the clean styling, modular interior and novel layout to the electric propulsion – the Windelo 50 is completely fresh.

Having followed this project for the last three years, I was aware of the R&D the new yard had put into materials and its strive for a greener product. What I wasn’t quite expecting is the sailing rewards. The forward cockpit design combined with the yacht’s performance could surprise many...

BUILD IT AND THEY WILL COME

In an era where the big yards should be leading by example rather than greenwashing, few go to the extent that newcomers Windelo has. Olivier Kauffmann (ex-CEO of Orange Marine) and his son Gautier spent two years researching environmentally-friendly composite materials with Ecole Nationale des Mines d’Alès before establishing a shipyard for their new range of catamarans in Canet-en-Roussillon in 2019.

Their bold move has had a positive reaction – with nine orders for their 50s and 54s, which shows considerable confidence in a new forward-thinking brand.

Windelo developed what it describes as an ecocomposite of basalt fibre and PET foam (see panel, far right). It also has a semi-custom approach, offering its models in three guises: Sport, Yachting (luxury), and Adventure (bluewater), which is the model we tested.

In terms of design and functionality, the target was to create a fun, safe, easy boat. With veteran multihull designers Barreau-Neuman (Catana/Outremer) responsible for the lines, I should perhaps have not been surprised by the yacht’s performance. The Windelo 50 is unarguably a stark, boxy shape – to the extent, it looks like it has been drawn using a set square – but it features slim, fine bows and high bridge deck clearance (90cm) to help reduce slamming.

It weighs 11.2 tonnes lightship (the same as an Outremer 51), but is designed to take almost five tonnes payload while keeping the high clearance. That is a notable facet for those looking to go bluewater cruising while maintaining high average speeds. The nacelle is comparatively far aft to reduce pitching and weight is kept aft to keep the bows high. The straight daggerboards are positioned centrally in the hulls, comparatively far inboard, which makes it more of challenge for the interior layout, but is deemed best for hydrodynamic efficiency and to counteract leeway.

A forward cockpit design and lack of raised helm leaves the coachroof clear, creating maximum flat surface area for a solar field. The 3.2kW of Solbian panels are split, with the aft panels serving a 48V bank (560Ah) and the forward panels topping up the 24V bank.

ROCKS AND PLASTIC BOTTLES?

A constituent of the ocean crust (essentially volcanic rock), basalt is an abundant and recyclable resource. The fibre extracted from molten basalt offers a high strength-to-weight ratio and heat resistance, so has been used for years for wind turbines and in aerospace and car industries. It is said to be a much more sustainable fibre compared to glass and carbon and uses a lot less energy and water than glass to produce.

Traditional foam cores are also harmful products for the environment. So Windelo uses PET foam, which is light and 100% recycled, for over half its structures. The eco-composite the yard created ‘reduces carbon emissions by nearly 50% compared with traditional GRP composite manufacturing methods’. Windelo does not yet use bio-resins as its tests on those were inconclusive.

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