On board with NYYC American Magic: Flying on hydrogen

Kim Hollamby
Wednesday, 19 June 2024

The mandatory use of hydrogen powered chase boats within this year’s America’s Cup rules is driving high profile visibility of the potential for sustainable new technologies in powered boating. American Magic COO, Tyson Lamond, explains the choice of foiling chase boat his team has made as a part of its wider drive to improve the sustainability of its operations.

It often takes imposed change to drive radical technological gains. That was the case in terms of America’s Cup sailing yachts when they first moved to wingsail catamaran designs back in 2013 and then foiling yachts for the most recent two series.

For this year’s 37th edition in Barcelona we will also see an associated development in powered boating that is likely to do much in promoting the cause of hydrogen as a viable energy source for recreational boat propulsion.

American Magic team Chief Operations Officer, Tyson Lamond, explains: “An interesting part of the protocol for the 37th edition of the America’s Cup was that all teams must have hydrogen chase boats. When presented with this challenge, we considered whether to go with the option of using the defender’s design and the manufacturer they were working with. Or take our own path.

“Our own design team were interested in taking the project on. We’re building a new facility in Florida now, and we would have loved to develop a hydrogen chase boat in America, but our main priority at the time we had to decide was development of our racing boats.

“Instead, we met with three or four manufacturers who were looking to build hydrogen chase boats. Ultimately, we chose Bluegame, a subsidiary of major Italian yachting firm Sanlorenzo. The track record of this whole group is very impressive and Bluegame founder Luca Santella had great passion to create a hydrogen powered foiling chase boat happen. By partnering with them we’ve been able to get some of our designers involved in the project and achieve the kind of hands-on approach that we like.

Development of the American Magic chase boat

Development of the Bluegame BGH HSV commenced in 2022 in the hands of a powerful design and technology consortium harnessed by Bluegame and featuring many leading names in their fields. American Magic’s design team had influence over key areas such as foil design and the features needed for the boat to serve its purpose.

The BGH HSV is functional to deal with its core function as a chase boat, but also beautifully styled to hint at the potential for the whole concept to appeal outside of the America’s Cup. Bluegame will be producing a production version for recreational use with orders already taken.

The 10.8m long 4.2m beam foiling cat is designed to cruise around 30 knots and spint to 50 knots. It is powered by two EODev REXH2 80kW fuel cells in combination with three 63kWh batteries. Hydrogen capacity of 33kg is carried at 350bar pressure in four tanks. This should give the BGH HSV a range of around 180nm. Use of advanced carbon composites brings the weight in at 5500kg.

“The boat went in the water earlier this year and sea trials and have been going very well so far,” Lamond states. “It is due to be delivered to our Barcelona base in late July.”

Advantages of hydrogen foilers

“Each time we fuel that boat up, it should last us four days on the water. We’ve been running the numbers with Sanlorenzo and we’re expecting the Bluegame BGH to be about 25 per cent of the running costs of our gas outboard powered chase boats. So, in addition to the environmental benefits there will be a financial upside too.”

Another benefit of the hydrogen foilers is they will be the only chase boats allowed inside of the race circuit. At top speed they will be generating little disturbance out on the water and their capability of staying with the AC75 yachts, will provide crew and cameras with unrivalled close-up views of the action.

“The use of these hydrogen boats is a real benchmark for the 37th edition of the America’s Cup,” Lamond continues. “It’s good the Defender (Emirates Team New Zealand) made them a requirement. The timescales mean we’ve only just started cracking the surface of how they will perform, and all teams will be learning how to manage them in various sea states, because they’re sitting up out of the water on foils. But it’s good to get started on this development now rather than wait four years for the next edition of this event.

“We’re already looking ahead at how these boats can develop in the next decade. Can we get them good enough that owners can be persuaded to make the shift to clean power in major motorboating areas like Miami Beach? Our boat is set up like an Italian-style day boat and even has a nice platform on the back that people can swim off. That’s going to make it good for our use as a day boat here in Barcelona but potentially also great as a superyacht tender.

“One of the tough things right now is fuelling hydrogen boats, because the infrastructure is just not there in most harbours. However, as we often learn in the America’s Cup, anything new is not easy at first.

Drive for sustainability

“Ultimately, we're trying to do everything we can as a team to have less carbon footprint,” Lamond continues. “In addition to adopting hydrogen chase boats we are looking at reducing the number of chase boats through live links with the crew that will enable more of our performance staff to work out of a room in the base.

“Ashore we have several initiatives including our partnership with Bluewater on recycling all the water that we use around the base. We have a desalination pond so the washdown water for our boats and forecourt comes straight out of the harbour.

“We are working towards where we want to be in 10 years’ time. There are a lot of challenges ahead, but we’re committed to the cause of sustainability.

“SailGP is doing an amazing job with tech bases that are fully solar powered, and I think they are the benchmark of clean sailing now. Our Barcelona base runs 70 per cent off solar power from panels on the roof, straight into the grid. The goal for our long-term facility in Pensacola, Florida, is to be able to run 100 per cent from solar with battery storage.

“Our Barcelona facility is recycled from the set-up we had in Auckland. It’s designed to pack into shipping containers to be re-used around the world. We’re also taking a close look at use of consumables and elimination of single-use plastics.

“Whether we’re doing better on the water every day, whether we're doing better as an organisation every day, or whether we're doing better sustainability-wise, it all funnels in together. It’s a bit daunting when you start looking at environmental initiatives because ultimately it costs the team more money up front. But it’s something that will pay for itself in time, because it is how our whole sport has to go.”

Learn about American Magic with METSTRADE

Terry Hutchinson, the highly experienced Skipper and President of Operations for New York Yacht Club American Magic, will provide an inspirational keynote at the METSTRADE ICOMIA Breakfast Briefing on 19 November. Prior to then we’ll be bringing you unique insights through METSTRADE.com on how the team harnesses technology, excellent team dynamics and accessibility to meet its objective of winning the 37th edition of the America’s Cup and wider goals of broadening sailing opportunities, career development and hi-tech yacht manufacturing in the US.