Etchells racers go electric

After hard fought seasons of campaigning, when their racing career ends, many Etchells owners are reluctant to part with their 30-foot racing machines. But what to do with them? Etchells aren’t really comfortable as daysailers. Enter Anders Langendal and his two sons, Erik and Christian, shipwrights in Greenport, Long Island, N.Y. They have, since 2008, been converting Etchells into what they refer to as “gentlemen’s daysailers.”

Undertaking a complete makeover, the Langendals transform the bare-bones Etchells into more comfortable traditional-looking craft, complete with new wood decks and teak seating. In order to preserve the boat’s sleek lines, they have gone so far as to install the roller furler drum below deck.

The big surprise, though, is what they are doing about providing auxiliary power. The Langendals have chosen to install an electrical propulsion system. Erik, who was educated as a civil engineer, said electric power for these conversions is the best choice for any of number of reasons. “The price of a new electric installation including the necessary batteries and wiring and chargers is comparable to the installation of a diesel engine of a similar size,” Langendal said. “But electric power is much more efficient. There is no comparison between diesel and electric motors when it comes to efficiency. There is no torque curve on an electric motor, and there is no loss of power. And, of course, there is the environmental concern. Peconic Bay is an important spawning area and we need to think about the health of the bay.” Peconic Bay is listed by the Nature Conservancy as one of the 10 most beautiful bays in the world.

The Langendals first began installing small electrical propulsion systems on cat boats about eight years ago and have decided they liked Mastervolt products. When adding power to the Etchells — they have done three to date — they use a 2-kW system. This is equivalent to about 3 hp (1 kW=1.3 hp). Power is provided by four, six-volt side mounted absorbed glass mat batteries. They are hooked up in series. To charge the batteries, a 30-amp charger is installed.

The batteries weigh about 70 pounds each. They have a 260 amp-hour capacity. Erik said, “The nice thing about these electric propulsion systems is that the weight can be distributed where we want it. The pod is aft and the batteries and the chargers are placed along the centerline of the boat above the keel where you want the weight.”

The motor itself is a futuristic-looking enclosed pod about eight inches long attached to a folding 10-inch prop. The whole assembly is neatly fastened aft of the keel and forward of the rudder with two bolts and weighs only 40 pounds. The installation costs roughly $5,000. Cruising range is about two and a half hours at five knots.

The conversion time for each boat is about six months and the Langendals are on a schedule to do two a year. The complete cost of converting an Etchells with motor is about $70,000.

By Ocean Navigator