Old dog, new tricks
Electric dreaming in a Lymington boatyard
Jeremy Rogers’ yard in Lymington: birthplace of the iconic Contessa designs and a veritable temple to long-keeled craft. Less well known is the yard’s interest in electric auxiliary engines, something they have been involved in for more than 10 years.
Their first project, the refit of a Contessa 32 called Calypso, was an experiment to see what was possible. ‘Calypso was a test bed in the technology’s infancy,’ explains Kit Rogers. ‘Inevitably, we didn’t get it all right, but we learned a lot about the dos and don’ts of electric yachting. The end result was a hybrid. The more we did, the more interesting the project became. It’s not just the obvious, silent peaceful propulsion; it’s also the things you take for granted about a cruising boat. For example, no gas; we didn’t need it because we had electric power. In fact, we went further and installed an instant hot water tap – both big safety improvements.’
The yard’s current project is an electric folkboat conversion for a foreign customer. At first glance, she’s as traditional as it gets. A very small throttle leaver and electronic status panel in the cockpit is the first giveaway of something different hiding below the companionway steps, whilst traditional brass rowlocks hint at the kind of customer they are working on the project for. ‘The client, first and foremost, loves to sail. He sees the electric as an auxiliary option, along with the rowing, and is excited to own a boat that’s quietly different. He’s looking for a more connected experience and the electric engine helps him achieve it. When you’ve been motoring in and out of marinas under chugging diesel engines for years, the electric motor is something of a revelation. When we had some teething problems after the initial installation, the client just rowed out of the harbour and went for a weekend’s sailing in the Solent.
‘The end result is a folkboat re-invented, which, for the kind of sailing he does, is perfect. Utilising an Ocean Volt electric motor,connected to a conventional prop shaft, the yacht has enough range for a couple of hours motoring on full charge. For trips further offshore a compact portable Honda generator plugs in to make the boat a simple hybrid,’ adds Kit.
Jeremy and Kit worked together on their first electric yacht experiment 10 years ago
The Ocean Volt installed with wiring