E-Mobility's Winning Formula
Yacht Style|Issue 58
Nico Rosberg moved into the yachting spotlight last year as the ambassador for Sunreef Yachts’ Eco range of solar-powered catamarans. Meanwhile, the 2016 F1 champion turned sustainability entrepreneur also owns a team in the new Extreme E off-road series for electric SUVs, in which the use of hydrogen offers a window into the fuel’s potential use for yachts.
John Higginson

Sunreef Yachts made global headlines in early June last year when tennis legend Rafa Nadal received his 80 Sunreef Power Great White at his home port in Mallorca. Soon after, on World Oceans Day on June 8, the Polish builder announced a tie-up with another sporting icon when it named Nico Rosberg as the ambassador for its new Eco range of luxury solar-powered sailing and power catamarans.

Rosberg is best-known for a high-profile Formula One career that included 23 wins in 11 years, including nine in 2016 when he won a gripping World Championship, pipping Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton after finishing runner-up to the Brit the previous two years. However, just five days after securing the championship at the season-ending race in Abu Dhabi, the Monaco-based German announced his surprise retirement from the sport at the age of 31.

Since then, Rosberg has established himself as a successful e-mobility and green tech entrepreneur and investor, leading to his ongoing partnership with Sunreef. However, despite a globe-trotting sporting career that overlapped with Nadal’s for many years, Rosberg never met the Spaniard until a chance encounters in the Balearic Islands late last year.

“It was funny,” he smiles. “I was in a bay in Formentera, south of Ibiza, and Rafa suddenly arrived on his new yacht, Great White. I had never met him before, but we both had the Sunreef connection, so I swam over to his boat.

“It was really nice. He said, ‘Oh, it’s so cool that you’re also in partnership with Sunreef for their Eco range. Let’s have a chat.’ He was super happy to have his boat, so we just sat on the back and had a nice conversation.”

The son of Keke Rosberg, the 1982 Formula One champion, Rosberg was born into racing and became a global superstar during seven years with Mercedes, partnering compatriot Michael Schumacher and Hamilton – F1’s two most successful drivers – for three and four years respectively.

Yet despite a sporting career based on power and speed, Rosberg prefers to sail when on the water and has enjoyed spending time testing a Sunreef 60 E from his base in Monaco, where he has lived for much of his life.

“I love sailing. The sheer beauty of it is just unbelievable. When I was on the Sunreef, letting the sails out, using the power of the wind and enjoying the silence just gives you this amazing way of enjoying nature,” says Rosberg, whose luxury brand partnerships also include Kempinski Hotels.

“But there’s a responsibility. I’ve been enjoying our oceans so much throughout my life because I’ve been so fortunate to be on boats, and anyone building yachts has a responsibility to take care of the oceans and that’s what Sunreef is doing so well. This is definitely the right path for luxury yachting.”

Rosberg’s partnership with Sunreef stemmed from his father introducing him to Francis Lapp, founder and President of Sunreef, passionate rally car driver and Formula One fanatic.

“Francis is a huge racing fan, so we met in the paddock and got talking. It only really kicked off when I realised how passionate about sustainability Francis and the Sunreef crew were, because that’s my path as an entrepreneur. I was like, wow, we have so many synergies, we should do something with this. The partnership with Sunreef Yachts totally fits into my mobility ecosphere.”

SUNREEF’S ECO PATH

Rosberg is impressed with what he has seen at the builder’s facility in Gdansk on Poland’s north coast, where Lapp’s background as an electrical engineer has ensured that Sunreef has always prioritised the most advanced technology in its luxury catamarans.

“Francis is an engineer at heart, so they have engineering excellence as one of their highest priorities. That’s why it’s fascinating what Sunreef is coming up with, to make luxury yachting sustainable, and why it’s a pleasure to work with them. In the factory, they have a whole innovation space where innovators are trying new technologies and making progress all the time.”

In just a few years, Rosberg has quickly got up to speed on a whole variety of sustainable technologies and was quick to recognise the brand’s cutting-edge work in combining electric propulsion with a remarkable solar-power system and super-light, high-performance batteries.

“It’s all really, really innovative and trailblazing. I love that they’re pushing boundaries. Their solar-powered solution is particularly innovative, how they’re covering the hull of the boats with tiny solar cells. They’re focused on reducing weight, using carbon a lot and introducing more sustainable materials,” he says.

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