Electric Saffier wins European Yacht of the Year

Saffier Yachts has now taken home the prestigious European Yacht of the Year honours twice in a row, this year for the electric Saffier SE33 Life in the ‘Special Yacht’ category. The SE33 Life is available with electric or diesel propulsion, while the Saffier SE 27 (which won last year) is all-electric. And sail powered, of course 🙂

The awards were presented virtually on January 22 because of COVID restrictions. You can see the presentation here, with Jury Chairman Jochen Rieker talking about the category. You can also check out some of the remarks from the judges:  

  • “a daysailer that is a hymn to the pleasure of sailing”
  • a pleasure to steer, beautiful to look at and impeccably built
  •  “you really can’t ask more form a daysailer

Below the awards video we have excerpted a conversation between Saffier’s Dennis Hennevanger and the people at Torqeedo.

Mr Hannavanger and his brother Dean are the the second-generation of the family-owned business and he talks about the company’s design philosophy, some of the advantages of electric propulsion, and his views on the future of sailing. The full interview can be read on Torqeedo’s blog.

Torqeedo / electric Saffier conversation

TORQEEDO: Is sustainability a big topic for you at Saffier Yachts?
DENNIS HENNEVANGER: Absolutely. We’ve always been at the forefront of new ideas and technology. Thirteen years ago, we started to use artificial teak decks on our boats because we didn’t want to be responsible for cutting down any more big trees. Teak trees need hundreds of years to grow, and ancient forests are the lungs of our planet. In my opinion, our sustainable solution is even better than the old ones in many respects: more durable, tougher, more sustainable.

See the Finalists in the 2021 Gussies ‘Electric Sailboats’ category.

T: When did you start using electric mobility?
DH: We started to experiment with the technology about ten years ago. Too early, as we know now. At that time, most electric sail drives were made by nerdy engineers who didn’t relate to the customer. You really had to understand the technology a bit to be able to use it. But most customers just want to push a button, use the engine for an hour or two, switch it off, get back to the jetty, and recharge the batteries.

We always saw Torqeedo as the main brand and when they came out with the Cruise Fixed Pod, an electric motor attached directly to the hull, that was the moment we’d been waiting for.

T: How does you design process work?
DH: Basically, my brother Dean and I ask ourselves: What would we love? We sail every day, we use our boats and other boats, and so, if we’re feeling we should be going in a certain direction, the market usually feels the same way.

Our next question: What is the use case? Are we building a boat for a lake or an ocean? Right now, for example, we’re designing a new boat that will come with a Torqeedo electric motor just like the SE 27. But since a lot of customers who like to leave their boat on a buoy instead of a jetty asked us about charging solutions, we’ll put solar panels on the boat – with jetty power as an alternative. So our challenge is to design the solar panels so they become one with the boat and that sunlight works from all angles – and everything still looks good. It’s a different way of thinking.

Electric Saffier designed and built by the Hannevaneger family
Dennis Hannevanger and brother Dean with their father Richard, founder of Saffier Yachts

T: Intriguing…when will this new boat be available?
DH: It will be launched in Düsseldorf at the Boot fair in 2023. So stay tuned. We already have 20 or so orders, without having released specifics about length or other final details.

The Electric Boats Book

T: What are the design implications of electric propulsion, from naval architecture to interiors?
DH: The electric motors are so light! I mean, a 1,850 kg boat sheds 150 kg when you get rid of the heavy diesel engine and fuel tanks. The lighter a boat, the faster you can go. That’s a big benefit. And inside the boat you suddenly have much more space because our electric motor is smaller than a diesel and sits underneath the boat, not inside the cabin.

T: What do you do with all the newly available space?
DH: Well, it’s the perfect spot for a fridge to cool a nice Sauvignon Blanc (laughs). Seriously, the diesel engine used to be behind the staircase to the cockpit, so it really was a very good place to put the fridge. And that’s what we did.

T: How do you think sailing will change in the next couple of years?
DH: I think the pandemic really changed the status and image of sailing. During the lockdowns, many people realized that the biggest freedom you can get today is on the water. And because of all the sustainable and user-friendly innovations in recent years – electric motors, new materials, electrical winches – the sport is much more accessible than it used to be. The sailing community is growing at the moment, and that’s a good thing. Because there’s nothing more sustainable than checking the wind and setting sail.

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