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Setting new environmental standards in the superyacht sector

Rush Yachts is a company based in Truro, Cornwall. Their MD, Michael Rusbridge, has significant experience in the superyacht industry, including building and refitting some of the best known superyachts around the world. 

When the company was founded in January 2020, the goal was to create the most eco-friendly boat on the market utilising the latest in green technologies, materials and processes whilst providing an outstanding level of comfort and styling.

Traditional powered yachts have an enormous environmental footprint, being made primarily from Glass Reinforced Plastic (GRP), with exotic hard woods for decks, and biologically harmful surface treatments, all manufactured in a wasteful and energy intensive manner. In addition, once produced, diesel engines are often used that release pollutants into the marine environment, along with producing CO2 and running on non-renewable fossil fuels.

Rush Yachts is looking to overcome these issues with the development of their 39 foot luxury powered tender (a ‘day boat’ that would be used by a superyacht.)  By considering all aspects of the boat with regard to improving environmental impact, they are aiming to achieve a holistic solution that offers significantly reduced environmental impact, whilst not compromising style or functionality. 

Michael Rusbridge says: “As awareness of the environmental impact of products is growing, an increasing number of consumers are looking for sustainable alternatives. However, within the yachting industry there are little options for eco conscious customers. Rush Yachts are looking to fill this gap as well as champion the idea that yachts too can be sustainable.”

In Spring 2021, Rush Yachts turned to Marine-i for research support regarding the selection of materials and manufacturing methods for the new design.

Initial research by Marine-i partner University of Plymouth examined all the state of the art available technologies, assessing these against the environmental and functional requirements. 

Ruadan Geraghty, Lead Researcher on this project at University of Plymouth says: “As this is such a ground-breaking project, at this stage some possible solutions are still in their infancy, with little viability for commercial application yet. However, these solutions have still been fully considered and incorporated into a technological roadmap that ensures the company has a long-term strategy for implementation of new technologies as they become viable. 

“As these technologies will be completely innovative, it is vital that rigorous research and testing is undertaken to ensure confidence to both customers and the company that these are both safe and reliable in their use.  To achieve a sustainable product, environmental impact data is being used to ensure that design decisions are informed and align with the full range of requirements”.

Following on from this initial assessment, the next stage is material testing, starting with producing the samples in the Advanced Composites Manufacturing Centre at University of Plymouth. From there the samples will be tested in the Structural Integrity Laboratory, with tests undertaken using industry and classification methods. Subsequent analysis is undertaken to process the data verifying the laminates and providing data for further design work.

Ruadan continues: “Alongside the material testing, we have built an environmental impact model of the yacht using different technologies. This model uses Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), allowing a ‘cradle to grave’ approach to be taken. The model enables data driven decisions to be made, ensuring that unintended environmental consequences do not occur. Life cycle assessment is done iteratively, with material testing data feeding into the process, ensuring environmental design decisions are continuously informed by evolving knowledge.”

Michael Rusbridge adds: “This is cutting edge research that is generating robust data that verifies the environmental improvements. As well as helping us develop the best possible product, we expect that this data will also help inspire trust within our customer base, once we are at the stage of marketing the new day boat. We are delighted to have been able to work with the expert team at University of Plymouth through the Marine-i project. This collaboration is making a huge difference and allowing us to fulfil our ambition.”

The research and modelling will be completed by Autumn 2021, with commercialisation following soon thereafter.

Prof Lars Johanning, Programme Director for Marine-i, says: “This is an incredibly exciting project where Marine-i is helping an entrepreneurial Cornish company lead the way and set new environmental standards for high end yacht design. We are pleased to help Rush Yachts accelerate the development of their innovation, which is likely to make waves in the fast-growing global superyacht market.”

[Image: Rush Yachts]