In its 20 years of constructing high-end custom catamarans, Sunreef has built a unique and enviable place in the world of multihulls.
Founded by Frenchman Francis Lapp, the Polish brand has made a global name for itself for its large and luxurious catamarans – and is now combining these assets with eco-friendly technology. So, is the innovative Sunreef 80 Eco trying to solve an impossible equation? We went in search of the answer in the waters of the Gulf.
In the Dubai Marina district, near the artificial islands of Palm Jumeirah, Sunreef’s first Eco sailing cat fits perfectly into its environment. Everything in Dubai is about excess, whether it’s the length of the pontoons or the relentless heat, but we arrive at the 80 Eco in a small car – electric, of course.
Lapp is the owner of the yacht, naming it Marie-Joseph in tribute to his parents, with his family travelling to the UAE from France for this special launch event. The catamaran is worth the trip, exhibiting electric propulsion, intelligent energy management and new solar panel technology.
The shipyard’s green tech is most evident in the photovoltaic cells integrated into the metallic navy-blue hull and superstructure, which shine like a thousand lights under the Gulf sun.
Monitoring All Systems
At either the lower helm or on the flybridge, the large touch screens allow you to control and monitor all on-board functions, from the two 180kW electric motors to the opening and closing of the electric curtains. The ergonomics and reactivity of the interfaces really are a credit to the shipyard.
Lapp initially worked in Poland in electricity for the construction industry and his experience in the field has helped Sunreef pioneer onboard technology. Three years and six months after presenting the electric Sunreef 60 sailing yacht E in Cannes, we can see how successfully the technology has been mastered.
What’s more, operating everything is intuitive. Monitoring of the main battery bank, composed of five lithium units of 183 Ah at 600V each, is the cornerstone of the system. State of charge, discharge, temperature, voltage, consumption – all the information is immediately accessible and easily readable in figures or graphs.
With fingertip control, you can switch to the page for the two electric motors. Like the batteries, whose compartment is air-conditioned, they’re monitored by thermal cameras that detect any abnormal rise in temperature. The interface also allows monitoring of diesel tanks, fresh water, waste water, pumps, lighting, navigation lights and so on.
Delivering a catamaran that’s both innovative and reliable was a major challenge. Many functions incorporate redundancy, with one piece of equipment in use and another on standby, but immediately available. This is the case with the inverter, working off the 24V batteries to power lighting, electronics and blinds.
Somewhat incongruously, the boat also has two generators as a safety backup, although they hadn’t been used so far, according to the skipper. In the event of the batteries’ amperage dropping too low, a generator would start automatically. Manually switched on for a demonstration, it’s inaudible in its double cocoon.
On board the Sunreef 80 Eco, the company’s engineers have managed to install 1,720sqft (160sqm) of solar panels and this is the first yacht featuring the technology across the hull topsides and around the carbon mast, which is conductive. It’s a real technological achievement, described as a revolution by the shipyard.
In addition to covering an exceptional area, these panels have unique characteristics. They’re less than a millimetre thick, as strong as the composite hull, flexible, relatively light at 0.3 lbs per square foot (1.5kg/sqm) and efficient.
As no existing solar technology met such demanding specifications, Sunreef embarked on a new business by designing – and now manufacturing – their own photovoltaic cells. The connections, the installation, and the way to replace any cells in the event of damage are all jealously guarded secrets.
At anchor, when conditions are good during the day, the energy produced by the solar panels on the Sunreef 80 Eco can surpass the consumption of the boat, even with the air-conditioning on. The charging intensity, due only to solar energy, can theoretically reach 20kW.
As we come off the dock, the absolute silence and the total lack of vibration offer a new sensation on board. Instead, we hear the soft notes of a virtuoso pianist playing live in the immense saloon, the live music highlighting the yacht’s noiseless performance. Furthermore, a hydrogeneration system can add to the on-board charging systems.
The 5ft 3in-high windows, the aft bay window opening to a width of more than 10ft and the cameras in the mast offering a bird’s eye view of the platform allow piloting from the lower helm station, which is on starboard side. But it’s from the flybridge that, with his fingertips, the skipper plays with the two motors and the bow thruster.
Heading out to the first anchorage under motor, we reached 10 knots at full power. More reasonably, the cruising speed is around seven knots. The consumption is then 30kW per engine and the electronic displays assure us we have 8hrs of full autonomy without any recharging.
Apart from the aft hydraulic platform, everything on board is electric, from the winches to the furling of the headsails and the cooker hobs.
Given that the most ecological way to travel is under sail, the fully-battened mainsail is traditionally mounted on batten cars and not a furler. The expected performance under sail in light winds is modest, but the waterline length ensures it averages above 10 knots if the wind exceeds 15 knots.
As always with boats from the Gdansk manufacturer, the layout inside is entirely modular, both in the distribution of volumes and in the decor. With thick carpeting, noble materials and careful lighting, we are firmly in the world of luxury that seduces both celebrities – from tennis legend Rafael Nadal to F1 star Fernando Alonso – and more discreet owners.
Invariably, aboard a catamaran with the dimensions of a tennis court, the space and volumes are impressive, starting from the aft cockpit and into the vast saloon, which is flanked by two large C-shaped sofas. There’s enough space between them to set up a large dining table. Heading forward, you pass the helm and the bar on the way to the foredeck or forward terrace.
There are multiple options for the layout of each hull. On this unit, the galley occupies the aft end of the port side, while forward are a guest cabin and the owner’s suite, both accessible via a second companionway.
In the starboard hull, there are three cabins including one for the crew. The night zone offers controlled temperature, absolute silence, high-end bedding, marble in the bathrooms and a sea view through the large windows.
Up on the flybridge, the 360-degree view is impressive, and under way, the apparent wind is quickly noticeable. On the other hand, at anchor it will be particularly solicited.
Under its rigid roof (covered with solar panels), the flybridge hosts a helm, a saloon area for 10 guests, an outdoor galley, a lounge with modernist armchairs and even two treadmills. Too bad these run on electricity instead of producing it!
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