Chasing an America’s Cup yacht in the new De Antonio E23 electric boat

Last November the De Antonio E23 electric boat was named the first Official Electric Boat of the America’s Cup, selected for the 37th edition of the event as it embraces a core value of sustainability. 

The E23 is also the first 100% electric boat from a yard well known and recognized for its ICE powered models. The De Antonio D46 Open won the 2019 European Powerboat Awards in the over 14 meters /45 feet category and in 2023 the D36 Open won for boats below that length.

I was fortunate to be invited to a sea trial of the new E23 in the Mediterranean waters just off Barcelona, the home of De Antonio and of this year’s Cup races, which start August 22.

I was also fortunate to be accompanied on the trial by De Antonio’s Technical Director, Javier Ibañez, and to have a long and detailed conversation with him about the research and thinking that went into the E23.

We were both fortunate to have the unexpected, thrilling and enlightening opportunity to join about a dozen other boats in chasing the Alinghi Red Bull Racing AC75 America’s Cup yacht on a training run.

De Antonio E23 electric boat will set AC course

Before we get to that, a quick overview of the E23. The boat will be serving in the America’s Cup by setting the racecourse and assisting the new autonomous electric racecourse marks throughout the competition.

Beyond that, though, there is a growing commercial market for electric boats and the E23 was designed with that in mind. It is a 7.2 metre (23.5 ft) dayboat with a beam of 2,3 m (7.6 ft) and draft of 0,4m (16 in). De Antonio is known for simple, avant-garde lines, and the E23 maintains that design imperative, giving it a bold, distinctive shape and silhouette.

It boasts a large bow area with banquette seats that can easily accommodate four, optional dining table, central console with individual seats for the pilot and companion, and a bench seat aft with an area for sun lounging and swimming. 

Options include a deck shower and fresh water system, refrigerator, bathroom (neatly concealed in front of the console) a Fusion audio system and underwater LED lights. A bow spray cover that neatly opens and retracts in seconds is another simple, clever and considerate option.

Two outstanding design features

Beyond that, though, there are two aspects of the boat that really stand out.

The first is the configuration of the propulsion system/drive train. One of the hallmarks of De Antonio is that they utilize what might be described as an ‘outboard-inboard’. Rather than go with an inboard system or tack outboards onto the transom (which many people feel takes away from the look of a boat), the De Antonio designs include the outboards within the boat’s length and enclose them in covers that do double service as sunning platforms and daybeds.

This allows for all of the advantages of outboards, including easy access for maintenance and repairs, while also reducing the distraction of the noise from an exposed motor.

Of course, the noise is not an issue with an electric motor, but the covered outboard idea has been so popular with De Antonio owners that it has been carried over onto the E23.

Underneath that cover on the E23 is a standard Torqeedo Deep Blue 50 (50 kw / ≈80 hp) with 40 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. Getting the most out of that system is where the other stand out aspect of the E23 comes into play.

When De Antonio CEO Marc De Antonio came to Javier with the idea of an all-electric model, Javier knew that it would not be enough to take any hull and put in electric propulsion. A hull must be designed to create as little friction and drag as possible in order to maximize the capabilities – in particular the range – of the electric system.

Reduced water friction and drag

One way to reduce friction and drag is to use a catamaran hull. Another is to use hydrofoiling to lift the hull out of the water.

Javier grew up as an avid sailor who was attracted to the engineering side of things and graduated from Solent University with a degree in Yacht and Powercraft Design, Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering. He went on to work in the field of high performance racing yachts and before coming to De Antonio was at hydrofoiling pioneers BAR Technologies.

Armed with this experience, he and his team thought the best way to approach the design of the E23 might be to combine a catamaran with a foil, in large part because of research they had done about the most suitable clients for an electric boat and how they would want to use it.

From the beginning the user was defined as a single owner, couple, or family. They want a fun and relaxing stress-free day on the water – but are not particularly looking for high speeds. The design decisions were based on the best way to deliver that experience.

De Antonio E23 electric boat showing the foils underneath the hull
As the water flows under the E23 hull, the hydrofoil causes it to lift the boat higher in the water

For that reason, active hydrofoiling like the BAR technology — with a computer system that senses and reacts to water conditions and adjusts the foils accordingly — was discarded on a simple affordability basis. The technology is undeniably efficient, but does not come cheap.

Instead, De Antonio developed a passive hydrofoiling design – a foiling assist – that integrates with the boat’s catamaran hull. There is no advanced electronics involved, but a stationary foil situated in the optimal position under the hull, connecting the pontoons.

What happens is that when the E23 hits a speed of about 16 knots, the water flow above and below the foil lifts both pontoons out of the water enough to dramatically reduce drag…and increase both range and speed capabilities.

Designed for fun day on the water

In terms of speed, the E23 can hit a more than respectable 30 knots (35 mph / 56 kmh), but most boaters – particularly the ones the E23 is appealing to – do not need or want that kind of speed for very long. More important is the increased range.

At leisurely speeds the passengers on the E23 can enjoy their time on the water for 5 hours at 6 kts (7 mph / 11 kmh) and cover a distance of 30 Nm (34 mi / 55 km). The optimal cruising speed for taking advantage of the foiling assist is 20 kts (23 mph / 37 kmh) and at that speed the E23 has a time/distance range of one hour and 24 Nm ( 28 mi / 45 km).

De Antonio E23 electric boat - console and bow interior

Javier told me that when they looked at how people use dayboats of this size “they go out from shore far enough to find their own private spot, then maybe go swimming, or get out on a stand up paddleboard, have something to eat for an hour or so, then come back home. Or they might go along the coast to a quiet harbour, or visit another marina to have a meal and visit friends.”

In either situation the E23 gives them everything a fossil fuel boat can, except for the noise and fumes. At cruising speed for 20 minutes you can get out from shore 8 Nm (9 mi / 15 km). That’s about three times past the horizon, which should be enough to get you to your own quiet spot. Stay for an hour or so, (with almost zero energy usage), then head back. You will still have about 1/3 of your battery charge left.

If you are going down the shore to another marina or to see friends, you also have the option of charging when you get there, to further extend your range while you visit.

Most marinas of any size have 208-240-volt AC chargers available, which will take the E23 battery from 10 – 90% in an hour and half. A standard charger will go from 10-90% in about eight hours – approximately 10% per hour.

De Antonio E23 electric boat looking aft of the console

I asked if the E23 has high speed DC charging (which is ‘lightning’ quick) and Javier explained that it would probably be in the next iteration of the E23. “For this first electric boat, we wanted to make it as simple and easy as possible for the buyer” Javier said, “with no reason to start wondering if an electric boat would be right. People are very familiar with the chargers now in marinas, so this makes them comfortable with electric, and also fits in with the way they use their boats.”

In terms of ride and driveability, the E23 has all of the electric propulsion benefits – next-to-zero noise, very quick acceleration – and the catamaran set up and assisted foiling add to the stability and make for very nice handling.

For our sea trial we went out into some mild swells just off the famed beaches of Barcelona – where some of the America’s Cup course will be, and were joined by another E23 helmed by CEO Mark De Antonio. Pulling out of the harbour, entering the open water and speeding up, you can feel the difference when the foiling assist kicks in. While it is more subtle than on an active hydrofoiling system like the Candela C-8, it is definitely noticeable, what I would describe as being on ‘plane-plus.’

Stable ride, excellent handling

We took the E23 through its paces at slow speeds, top speed, at optimal cruising speed and tested the handling and stability in each case with excellent marks all around. After about 40 minutes we all decided to head back in to the Marina Vela, and as we were rounding the breakwater, Javier and Marc noticed some America’s Cup boats coming out for training.

Our hosts asked if we would like to head back into the marina or stick around to see the racing yachts. It was not much of a decision. Both the training yachts (AC40s) and the full AC75s are hydrofoiling sailboats with the most advanced technology on the planet. To see them ‘up close and personal’ was a rare opportunity.

The first boats we saw were the AC40s from the NYCC American Magic and Orient Express teams. Then, the ‘big show’ appeared, the full AC75 of Alinghi Red Bull Racing. It. Is. Magnificent.

L-R: NYCC American Magic AC40 (USA), Orient Express AC40 (France), Alinghi Red Bull Racing AC75 (Switzerland)

The wind on the day was just on the edge of being suitable for training. The AC40s and AC75s would be fine once they got up on their foils, but there was not quite enough wind to achieve ‘lift-off’.

One of the team chase boats attached a line to the Alinghi Red Bull yacht, got it up on it foils…and it flew! We were about 50 metres behind the racing yacht and surrounded by maybe a dozen other boats, each a minimum of 30 feet long, most with twin 250+ hp outboards, that were all racing to get closer to the now speeding Alinghi. Fortunately Javier was at the helm!

He accelerated (I was in the bow seating area, I can attest that you need to be prepared for the instant torque) and we were in among the cross wakes of all these boats. 

Inside the De Antonio E23 following the AC75
Inside the De Antonio E23, following the Alinghi Red Bull AC75

The earlier sea trial was one thing, but this was putting a 23 foot dayboat to a rigorous (and unexpected) test. It is difficult to judge those cross wake waves in the midst of the action, but I would say they were about 1.3 – 1.5 metres, about 4 – 5 feet. There were a few jostles, of course, but the catamaran hull provided a really stable ride as the electric boat kept pace with the others.

I wouldn’t be telling the truth if I said I didn’t wonder about the state of the battery charge. We had been out for about an hour for the sea trial, then motored around the harbour for a good half hour as we watched the yachts hoist their sails and prepare for their training exercises, and now we were going at pretty well top speed for an extended run.

After a few minutes the America’s Cup vessel pulled away from every boat, and we headed back to shore. Javier must have known what was on my mind because he pointed at the Symran screen’s SOC (state of charge) indicator. We were down to about 5%.

Two electric boats out with America’s Cup yachts”

“Plenty of charge to get back to the marina.” said Javier. “We built in a safety feature that alerts you if there is any issue of low charge and governs the energy output to make sure you will always be able to get back to land.” Then he said with a wink “What I didn’t tell you is that there is also a secret switch that can be flipped if absolutely necessary. But we are not even close to that.” Then he said with justifiable pride “I am very pleased with the performance of this boat today.”

When we got back to shore I was chatting with Marc DeAntonio who was also impressed. “We have been building our boats since 2012, so we know just about everything about what each of them can do. But electric is still new for us. Who would have thought when we started this electric journey about a year ago that not just one De Antonio electric boat, but two E23s would be out with an AC75.”

Earlier in the day Javier had said that the company had been looking at the possibilities of ‘going electric’ for some time, but wanted to make sure that they could build and design the right electric boat for the right use case to further enhance the De Antonio reputation.

L-R: Marc De Antonio, CEO De Antonio Yachts; Jeff Butler, Plugboats; Javier Ibańez. Technical Director of De Antonio

Having written about more than a hundred electric boats for Plugboats, I can say that he and his crew have done a great job, with their careful considerations resulting in a boat that delivers the best features of an electric experience without trying to imitate the experience of a fossil fuel boat.

The E23 has plenty of speed for those who need it for short periods, but the more important aspect is that the intended audience doesn’t have to change anything about their usual boating habits to go electric.

De Antonio has made the idea of an electric boat very understandable and taken away many of the perceived barriers of switching away from fossil fuel.

Best features of an electric boat

What was most impressive to me was that the unexpected opportunity to chase the AC75 turned out to give a much more accurate simulation of what a typical day on the water might be than a standard sea trial.

We were out on the E23 boat for more than 2 hours – some of that time at high speed, some at cruising speed, some just idling as we watched the training yachts in the harbour. If we’d had a standup paddleboard, and a picnic the day would have been complete!

At the end of the day (literally), the De Antonio E23 electric boat was put through its paces and came through with flying colours. Congratulations to the entire team.

De Antonio Yachts

De Antonio E23 Specifications

»» click for full information on De Antonio site

Length LOA 7,2 m / 23.5 ft
Waterline Length 6,4 m / 20.9 ft
Beam 2,3 m / 7.6 ft
Draft (w/o engine) 0,4m / 16 in
Displacement 1.450 kG / 3,196 lb
Construction Fiberglass infusion with vinylester resin
Foil 6061 aluminum casting
Motor Power 50 kW / ≈80 hp
Battery Capacity 40 kWh
Max Speed 30 kts / 35 mph / 56 kmh
Range @ 5 kts / 5.8 mph / 9.3 kmh 50 Nm / 56 mi / 93 km
Range @ 20 kts / 23 mph / 37 kmh 24 Nm / 28 mi / 45 km
Charging time Fast charger: 1 h 30′    Standard Charger: 8 h 
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