Fountaine Pajot Aura 51, electric is getting smarter

Fountaine Pajot’s catamaran goes full electric thanks to an integrated hydrogeneration system

by Niccolò Volpati

Aura 51 made its appearance just over a year ago, but it is a project in the making. It is a catamaran in transformation, a kind of laboratory to experiment, improve and thus arrive at the goal of zero emissions. The prime mover of this catamaran, of course, is the sails, and so far so good, in the sense that it still remains the best way to sail without polluting. However, the design of the hull does not always ensure excellent sailing performance.

The design of this 15-meter-long multihull by Fountaine Pajot is made for sailing. When you hoist the mainsail and unfurl the genoa, it doesn’t need as much wind to move. The comfort in cruising given by the wide spaces, always made not to give up performance. It sounds trivial, but it is not so trivial.

The more you sail, the more miles you cover without the need to turn on the thruster. And then there is motor sailing and, most importantly, the energy you consume for services when you are moored at anchorage. Fountaine Pajot’s solution is that of an electric engine that also takes advantage of solar panels located around the perimeter of the fly and, most importantly, an innovative hydro-generation system.

Hydrogenerators are not new, but those seen so far represented almost a paliative rather than a solution. These were often small systems that were submerged in the water when one was moored in the roadstead. The current and the undertow, would move the propeller placed at the bottom of the mast thus generating clean energy. They generated little of it and not surprisingly were not a huge success. The French shipyard’s system, however, is different. It allows the same propeller to be used for propulsion and does so when sailing. It is an integrated system; nothing has to be added or submerged. When sailing in the wind, the saildrive propeller recharges the batteries. It takes its time, because a full recharge takes 48 hours, but it is still a much more efficient way of producing a clean amount of energy than what we have seen so far.

To optimize the result, technology must be added to the responsibility of the owner. If you turn on air conditioning for many hours, even when it is not strictly necessary, it is obvious that solar panels and hydrogenerator are not enough. And that is what we often see in the roadsteads. Hybrid boats, which then boast of a less polluting propulsion, but during stops turn on so many generators that it would be enough for the consumption of an entire neighborhood. Reduce consumption, use services responsibly, and increase the amount of energy that comes from renewable sources. This is the route chosen by Fountaine Pajot. A course that seems to me to be consistent with the goal of sustainability, not only in words, but also in deeds.

Aura 51 – The data sheet

Length overall 15.54 m – Maximum beam 8.08 m – Displacement 18,100 kg – Draft 1.32 m – Fuel tank 900 l – Water tank 900 l – Berret-Racoupeau Yacht Design

(Fountaine Pajot Aura 51, electric is getting smarter – Barchemagazine.com – January 2023)