This New Electric Racing Boat Is Already Making Waves

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May. 31 2019, Updated 11:32 a.m. ET

Sailboat racing has been a global sport for decades and continues to push the envelope with cutting-edge vessel design and technology. The latest boat to make a splash is the Rán VII with its sleek black look and electric motor. This new design was unleashed in April and has already been making headlines as an eco-friendly model for the boating community.

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The Swedish couple behind this radical design is Niklas and Catherine Zennstrom. The duo first got into the competitive sport back in 2008 when they started the Rán Racing team and successfully won a slew of competitions including the Rolex Fastnet Race, the RORC Caribbean 600, and the TP52 and Maxi72 World Championships.

Niklas, the founder Skype who became a tech billionaire, brought his entrepreneurial background to the table and blended his love of sailing with tech. Specifically, the team has turned their attention to perfecting electric propulsion systems for racing yachts. 

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While they already have a line of racing boats called “Rán” after the Viking sea goddess, the Rán VII is latest one to hit the water. It stands apart from its predecessors since it is the greenest and lightest in the group.

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To bring their dream of a sustainable sailboat into reality, the Zennstroms teamed up with Carkeek Design Partners, the leaders in yacht design for decades. Carkeek has a successful track record of high-performance yacht designs and the group was also tinkering with electric propulsion for boats, so it was a perfect match. While Carkeek designed the boat, the carbon mold was made in Milan by Persico and shipped to the UK to be built. 

The Rán VII boasts a minimalist look and is the smallest vessel in the Rán racing fleet at 40 feet. Niklas explained, “We believe the new Rán VII, while being the smallest Rán yacht yet, is the most radical one. I’m particularly pleased with the new EEL electric propulsion we have developed together with Carkeek Design Partners. Having gone through the design, build and initial test cycle there is no doubt to me that the future for racing yachts is electric propulsion. It’s lighter, less drag, quieter, and most importantly it is environmentally friendly.” 

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While these types of boats are designed to move by harnessing the wind, racing sailboats still need a motor for things like maneuvering out of marinas and getting to the starting line at races. For the Rán VII, the team explored hybrid systems with diesel and electric options. 

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In the end, they decided on a lightweight lithium-ion battery for its combination of range, safety and speed. Although electric propulsion is nothing new in the maritime and boating community, the team is confident that they are leading the way for high-performance racing vessels.

While the goal is to eventually allow electric yachts to recharge off-grid, Niklas told CNN he looks forward to how this will change the design of these vessels going forward, "Having gone through the design, build and initial test cycle there is no doubt to me that the future for racing yachts is electric propulsion. It's lighter, less drag, quieter, and most importantly it is environmentally friendly.”

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Carkeek is already working on developing new types of motors and looking for ways to make them on a large scale. As for the Rán VII, while it may draw attention because of its eco-friendly design, the true test for this yacht lies in how well it will compete in upcoming races. 

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So far, the Rán VII already smoked the competition during its first race and won the Henri Lloyd Trophy. The team hopes to continue beating out other sailboats during the FAST40+ Race Circuit.

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