Zoltek carbon fiber bound for around-the-world racing vessel

Carbon fiber manufacturer Zoltek will supply material for a 60-ft racing boat that will be used by Hungarian racing team Team Fahajó as it competes in the IMOCA Ocean Racing World Championship Series beginning in 2013.

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Commercial carbon fiber manufacturer Zoltek Corp. (St. Louis, Mo., USA) reported on April 18 that it has agreed to sponsor Team Fahajó, a Hungarian race sailing team, as it competes in the IMOCA Ocean Racing World Championship Series beginning in 2013.

Led by sailor and boatbuilder Nándor Fa, Team Fahajó will begin building its all carbon fiber, 60-ft/18.3m racing boat this month, and plans to launch the boat by May 2013. Upon completion, Nándor Fa and Team Fahajó will compete in five IMOCA World Champion Series races, the last of which is the Vendée Globe 2016-2017 — a 25,000-mile, single-handed, non-stop race around the world.

In the 1990s, the time record for sailing around the world was 110 days. Today it’s 84. This is due in large part to the advancement and adoption of carbon fiber. The light weight and structural stiffness that can be achieved with carbon fiber gives great advantage to a sailor, especially when sailing downwind. Additionally, the use of carbon fiber allows for a larger sail surface in relation to the size of the boat.

By using carbon fiber, Nándor Fa expects his finished boat to weigh 8.8 tons, which is 30 percent lighter than same sized boats built with traditional materials such as fiber glass. Zoltek will supply the carbon fiber needed to construct the racing boat. The entire hull and the mast will be built with Panex 35, Zoltek’s primary carbon fiber product.

Unidirectional fabrics will be used for the lower hull of the deck, the beams, the keels and the rudders; this will comprise 70 percent of the carbon fiber used. The remaining 30 percent will be used in the interior structure and dividing walls, which will be constructed from unidirectional and multi-directional fabrics via vacuum infusion.

Structurally, many racing boats in the IMOCA Series are built with a honeycomb core, which over time has caused recurring structural problems, according to Nándor Fa. For this reason, Nándor plans to use a closed cell foam sandwich structure that he believes will correct this problem and facilitate a safer and more structurally stable vessel.

The assembly of the mast will take place at Pauger Carbon Composites, a premier and innovative manufactuer of carbon fiber masts. Pauger is most known for building the RC44 fleet, which is said to be widely recognized as among the most technologically advanced fleet designs today.

 

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