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Cashew nut-based Swedish boat wins Italian sailing competition

Press Release   •   Sep 25, 2018 14:33 BST

At the 1001 Velacup sailing competition in Palermo, Italy, the team from Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, raced home to first place. The winning boat, Linnea, was built of balsa wood, flax and a cashew nut-based epoxy, and proved to be considerably faster than the other competitors, thanks in part to a daring design that fared well in the light winds. 

The 1001 Velacup is an annual competition, held this year from 21st -23rd September, that serves as a testing ground for future renewable boat-building materials. Teams from different European universities construct their own boats, which must consist of at least 70% renewable materials. The boats are student-designed and constructed, under supervision from professors.

The students on the Chalmers Formula Sailing team analysed wind statistics from the competition venue from the last 20 years, and, based on this data, they daringly optimised the boat for very weak winds. Linnea is optimised for a wind speed of around 3m/s. In a windspeed greater than 7m/s the very tall mast would be likely to break.

"It's an extreme boat," says Lars Larsson, Professor of Hydrodynamics and Supervisor of Chalmers Formula Sailing. “It has a very large sail plan. Most people who tried to sail it would capsize immediately. The boat would probably be overwhelmed just lying unmanned in the water.”

Luckily, the Chalmers team was able to make use of the skills of Fritiof Hedström and Otto Hamel, students at the University who are both elite sailors in the Olympic 49er class.

The boat was only tested in water for the first time the day before the competition, and the extreme design paid off in the gentle conditions, as the Chalmers team won in four of the six competitions, securing victory overall. The second competition was particularly dramatic, explains Lars Larsson.

"The tiller snapped off, after an impact from above. It didn’t withstand it, due to a construction mistake we had made. Sailing without a tiller is virtually impossible, but Fritiof managed to lie across the stern and steer the rudder – which is extremely heavy to move – with just his hands. They still managed a third place in that race. That really showed just why they belong among the world elite!”

There was also one race with the project leaders of each boat taking part. Chalmers project leader Adam Persson, who had taken Linnea from design to finished boat, was on board, and the team was victorious again in this stage.

Lars Larsson thinks that the most important lesson from the project is that accuracy pays off.

"We paid attention to everything. Wind statistics are one example, but everything was calculated in the smallest detail regarding the boat's design and strength. We also took advantage of the latest technology available. And of course, the skills of our sailors were crucial during the competition!”

For more information contact:

Lars Larsson, Professor and Supervisor, Department of Mechanical and Maritime Sciences, +46 703-08 84 81, lars.larsson@chalmers.se

Project leader Adam Persson, PhD student, SSPA Sweden, 0730-72 91 81, adam.persson@sspa.se

Read more about the Chalmers Formula Sailing project:

Preparations for the competition

The naming ceremony

Coverage in Italian media 

Palermo Today

Giornale di Sicilia

Chalmers University of Technology conducts research and offers education in technology, science, shipping and architecture with a sustainable future as its global vision. Chalmers is well-known for providing an effective environment for innovation and has eight priority areas of international significance – Built Environment, Energy, Information and Communication Technology, Life Science Engineering, Materials Science, Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, Production, and Transport.
Graphene Flagship
, an FET Flagship initiative by the European Commission, is coordinated by Chalmers. Situated in Gothenburg, Sweden, Chalmers has 10,300 full-time students and 3,100 employees.