Phil Sharp’s OceansLab - Cleantech Accelerator was officially launched at a very personal event in the team’s hometown of La Rochelle, on Friday evening.

Innovative IMOCA launched

“The OceansLab project was born nearly 10 years ago, when I first dreamt of developing a cutting- edge race boat. As an engineer, problem solving is a passion of mine, and I felt it was time to do my part in protecting my working environment - to take action – and protect the ocean. It was at this moment that the key objective of the project was the focus on advancing vital low carbon technologies,” commented Team Principal and Skipper, Phil Sharp.

“Through extensive collaboration and support, we have now arrived at a very exciting and important moment for everyone involved – the launch of this pioneering craft that sets new standards in clean energies and materials. We still have a long way to go, but it is a major first success to have OceansLab on the water and to have completed its first offshore test sail.”

As the newest IMOCA to arrive in the offshore foiling circuit, OceansLab not only pushes the boundaries in performance but specifically in clean energy technologies including green hydrogen to replace diesel.

“We have worked hard to ensure enhanced performance and reduced footprint, through the integration of our clean innovations – both energy and materials. This started from day one with the optimization of the initial design and reuse of existing moulds from the boat’s designer, Sam Manuard.

“This high-quality construction is a result of the tireless commitment from the build teams at Pauger Carbon Composites and Black Pepper Yachts, along with the dedicated input from our Official Cleantech Partners and Hub Members. OceansLab will be the only boat on the starting line of the Retour à La Base, and probably the Vendée Globe, that does not carry any fossil fuels,”states Sharp.

Accelerating Clean Technologies

This ground-breaking project accelerates cleantech in the ocean-going environment by demonstrating the performance and sustainability advantages of renewable energy. Eschewing the easy go-to diesel engine solution, Official Cleantech Partner Genevos has designed an innovative hydrogen-electric system integrating multiple sources of renewable energy capture (sail, solar PV, and hydrogenators), storage (green hydrogen and lithium batteries), and power generation (hydrogen fuel cell). The complete system enables zero emissions for both propulsion and auxiliary power, with a total combined peak power of 20 kW.

The OceansLab clean energy system will allow the IMOCA to motor for an average of 6 knots (10 kW) for up to 24 hrs, achieving a practical motoring range consistent with standard diesel-powered yachts, and considerably more than the IMOCA safety requirement of 5 hours at 5 knots.

Clean Energy System Explained

Green hydrogen, made from renewables, is stored in two tanks at 350 bar, which feed the Genevos Hydrogen Power Module (HPM-15), a fuel cell power unit that converts oxygen and hydrogen into water, producing electricity. This energy conversion is based on a chemical reaction rather than burning fossil fuel to create power. The electricity is used to power the propulsion system and re- charge the li-batteries to supply power to the auxiliary systems.

An array of marinised and impact protected solar PV Maxeon Nc Cells integrated into 16 m2 of the deck captures energy from the sun, with a total power output capability of more than ~ 3.6kW. This, combined with the energy captured from a 600 W hydrogenerator is used to charge the batteries, providing further energy security.

© Andy Le Gresley Photography Ltd

Incorporating Low Carbon Composites

But it is not just the clean energy system that sets OceansLab apart from the rest of the IMOCA fleet. The sustainability of the materials used in the construction have also been at the heart of the project.

“Advancing clean technologies in the marine sector is not just about the energy systems, but also the overarching holistic aspect of the boat itself. We have used a cradle-to-cradle solution of high performance, fully recyclable epoxy resin technology that can be chemically broken down at the end of life, using a non-toxic acetic acid. This separates out the resin from the fibre so that that they can both be used in a new lifecycle. It also has the added benefit in enabling the cleaning and reuse of consumables to reduce waste, which is enormously beneficial for the boat building sector that widely uses resin vacuum infusion processes.”Continued Sharp.

OceansLab has also replaced many of its performance carbon fibre applications with basalt fibre to significantly reduce carbon footprint. Basalt fibre is low-footprint, high performance fibre produced from naturally occurring minerals that can be reprocessed and recycled at end of life without any loss of performance. In addition, OceansLab is applying latest developments in recycled carbon fibre, which has been realigned to benefit from the directional, high mechanical properties offered by carbon fibre.

Patron of OceansLab

The patron of OceansLab, Bertrand Piccard, the Swiss explorer, Clean Energy pioneer and Founder of Solar Impulse, concludes: “OceansLab is a really important flagship. This hydrogen project is not just for ‘coffee’ discussions, it is to implement the project, to show that it works and demonstrate to other people how to use it. Even if I come from the world of aviation, I follow very closely what is happening on the sea and I wish OceansLab and Phil the best of luck and hope that you will carry this spirit of clean technology and clean energy around the world very soon.”