Written by Jeni Bone
14 November 2022
Following the success of the Emirates Team New Zealand Chase Zero project, McConaghy Boats redesigned the 10-metre prototype and developed a new 13-metre version of the hydrogen-powered vessel.
When the Protocol for the 37th America’s Cup was announced, one of the key initiatives aside from the re-vamped rules for the AC75 and the initiation of the new AC40s for the Youth & Women’s America’s Cup, was the introduction of hydrogen powered chase boats that all teams must build.
Emirates Team New Zealand, partnered with sponsor Toyota and New Zealand Integration partners Global Bus, to create Chase Zero.
Performance trials clocked a maximum speed of 52.7 knots and an easy, cruising speed of between 30 to 35 knots.
The vessel took flight on its foils at 19 knots and trials have been ongoing ever since down in Auckland out of the Emirates Team New Zealand base through the winter months.
McConaghy Boats, who are building the AC40s in their state-of-the-art facility in Zhuhai, China were asked to refine the design for an event boat for transporting race officials and VIPs during AC37.
They extended the 10-metre length overall (LOA) out to 13 metres to create a hydrogen-powered foiler capable of carrying guests with no change to the centre of gravity and only a marginal 150kg increase in all-up weight distribution.
The VIP version can be customised to include heads facilities, a fridge and air conditioning plus custom-built carbon Recaro seating and detailing as a customisable option. Range is an impressive 180 nautical miles at a cruising speed of 35 knots.
Construction is full carbon, Nomex and structural foam whilst two Toyota Hydrogen fuel cells are housed within each hull delivering some 80kWs of power each. The powertrain cooling system is via a seawater pick-up located at the front of each foil-strut torpedo with two pick-up pumps per hull.
The port and starboard main T-foils are connected via a central wing foil spar and the single rudder features an elevator with adjustable rudder rake.
All the considerable power is harnessed with fly-by-wire joystick controls in the main console and a considerable array of onboard navigational equipment including VHF, AIS and system monitoring equipment. Mercury Bravo 1 propellers have been mounted at the aft end of the foil strut torpedo on the new design and the four 8.4kg powertrain hydrogen tanks take 350 bar of pressure.
McConaghy Director, Mark Evans explained, “Hydrogen boats are part of the America’s Cup protocol. Every team has to have a hydrogen boat, but they can build their own if they elect to.
“We are currently negotiating with teams, but so far, we are building boats for Alinghi Red Bull Racing and Ineos Britannia, and Emirates Team New Zealand is talking about building four of the 13-metre boats as their event boats, so there are six in total so far.
“We are building the tooling now. The boat’s geometry has changed and it’s being re-engineered by Gurit as we speak.”
Unlike the AC40 boats which are the teams’ training and test boats, the hydrogen boats have a longer lead time.
“These are just for the event, so we have time, but we are sourcing components from all over the world and anticipate some supply issues. So, we’re group building three boats at a time, then we’ll sea trial them in Hong Kong and then ship them.
“We use different supply companies all over the world. We will fly the hydrogen supplier here to see the boats. The boats use a Toyota fuel cell and the integration to the tanks is done by New Zealand company, Global Bus, which is responsible for the hydrogen buses in Christchurch.
“The process requires a lot of cooling and heat exchange that we need to monitor. The parts have to run at certain temperatures, and we have to take into account the water temperatures. Barcelona is a lot warmer than New Zealand so we need a temperature management system.
“Boats fly by autopilot, multiple foil and moving flaps, like aeroplane, all custom built, so we’re buying parts from all different suppliers, and manufacturing and modifying our own. The foils and foil struts are all carbon fibre. We have to manually place every piece and remill the gear box.
“The Hydrogen arrives in tubular bottles. We use a small compressor, about 1.2-metres long and half a metre high to fill the carbon fibre hydrogen tanks on the boat. It goes from around 150 bar pressure into 350 bar on the boat. The tank supplies the two 80kW hydrogen fuel cells, one on each side of the boat, which generate electricity.
“That power goes through inverters and charges the battery bank, which draws power directly off the fuel cell to keep the electric motors running the drive shaft. Any spare electricity will top up the batteries.
“There are no moving parts, like pistons. It’s all electric powered.”
This is technology at the cutting edge, and the hydrogen currently being used and that in Barcelona is “green hydrogen”, created by renewable energy such as wind, hydro, geothermal or solar power generation.
“A lot of our bigger boat owners enquire about electric propulsion but, at this stage, we recommend hybrid because you need a certain amount of readily-available, reliable power on larger boats.”
Mark, a boat builder originally from Sydney, joined McConaghy’s in 1995. Within a few years, he was Head Foreman and in 2000, Mark and Jon Morris bought the company from John McConaghy and business partner, Steve Moxham.
The facility in China is an impressive 20,000-square-metres, comprising seven factory sheds, each 25 x 100-metres. The factory employs 380 staff, 25 of those in the drafting office.
McConaghy Boats currently has nine MC multihulls under construction, from 55 to 82-feet, and a steady production line of the AC40s.
“The collaboration with ETNZ has been fantastic,” he said, referring to the design partnership with the Defender.
The AC40 hull shape is based on that of Emirates Team New Zealand’s AC36 winner, Te Rehutai, but the new design is a generational step forward, incorporating several innovations.
Specialised elements are built by marine businesses in New Zealand, including the rigs by Southern Spars, sails from North Sails and the foil arms by the boat building team at Emirates Team New Zealand.
“Communication and collaboration are seamless, like we’re one company. Their level of design is incredible – I’ve never seen anything like it. On the 40s, all the brackets for hydraulics are pre-made and glued in. The systems arrive as a kit and we put them in the boat and put them together.
“They designed every single block, bracket and detail of the boat so accurately, and by doing that we are managing to put out an AC40 every five weeks. Their precision designing is phenomenal. They are very professional, and they’re just all-round good guys.”
As part of the America’s Cup protocol, teams have to buy at least one AC40, and some have bought two. McConaghy’s has already supplied eight AC40s and is anticipating a rush on the fast, foiling multihull.
It’s anticipated that as well as supplying boats for the America’s Cup Women’s Regatta and America’s Cup Youth events, several private owners are poised to sign contracts for AC40s within a matter of days.