Helping achieve that perfect shape is Chomarat’s C-TAPE™, a new unidirectional woven carbon reinforcement developed in response to this project’s unique demands. Each foil is made up of 50 plies of tape, which testing determined was necessary to help the foil resist high levels of stress and achieve the desired performance. The structure of C-TAPE is meant to facilitate the flow of resin infused throughout the multi-ply carbon structure.

In addition to the foils, every GFRP component from the hull to the bulkheads and smaller parts are also vacuum infused. Surun notes that the company first adopted closed mold infusion 15 years ago in response to European pressures to reduce VOCs. But among the other benefits provided by vacuum infusion, the process ensures that every boat in this line is identical to others. This is important in establishing fairness among competing racers who all use the same boat.

The hull and deck of the Figaro Beneteau 3 are fully built using the infusion process. (The company uses the injection process for other boat models.) The hull features multiple layers of fiberglass and a foam sandwich core, topped by thicker foam that forms the stringers that add strength throughout the boat.

Production is underway on the Figaro Beneteau 3, and the boat will ship to buyers in early 2019. Although the foils won’t prove themselves competitively until next spring, they’re expected to bring 15 to 20 percent speed gains downwind, making waves for competing boat builders today.

Figaro-Beneteau-3

The vivid orange CFRP foils extending from the Figaro Beneteau 3 racing yacht are light, retractable replacements for water ballast tanks, which traditionally provide the stability a boat needs as it rocks from side to side in the water. Photo Credit: Gilles Martin-Raget/Beneteau

Epoxy Adds Strength

Carbon fiber is nothing new for Hinckley Yachts, a Portsmouth, R.I.-based boat builder. “We have been building our Picnic Boats of vacuum-infused resin with an inner layer of carbon fiber and an outer layer of Kevlar® from bow to stern since 1994,” says Peter Saladino, chief marketing officer for Hinckley Yachts. “This really is a premium boat building approach with a long heritage of over 1,000 Hinckley jet boats built in that timeframe.” But the company has made a switch, opting to add epoxy into the mix.

The use of VIP seems to be encouraging the switch from unsaturated polyester resin to epoxy, Garoufalis finds. “For the more expensive boats, appealing to a higher-end crowd, epoxy is a good way to go in a closed mold infusion process,” he says. “It provides tremendous strength. The physical [properties] of epoxy over unsaturated polyester resin are significant, and it provides an outstanding finish as well.”