Organic boat building in a nutshell

​A dinghy with a core made of balsa wood, flax and a cashew nut based epoxy. That’s what eight students at Chalmers are working with this winter. Formula Sailing is a boat building project where 70 percent of the boat core has to be made of biomaterials. In September they will compete in Italy – and during ‘Båtmässan’ they will display the dinghy.

​Since August last year, the students have been designing and building the unusual race dinghy. All the boat builders are all students at the master’s programme Naval Architecture, after studying mechanical engineering their first three years at Chalmers.In an on-campus workshop, the students are laminating the balsa wood boat core with flax and cashew nut based epoxy. Erik Ericsson, one of the students in the project, has been in charge of choosing materials.
– We have chosen a core that is a softer and weaker material, balsa wood. And on each side of that core you have a laminate with several layers of flax/bioepoxy. That provides structure with stiffness and strength, says Eriksson.
– Epoxy is basically a form a glue that glues together the flax fibers with the core, says Simon Granli who’s also a part of the project group.
Eric Eriksson admits the chosen lamination won’t be as good as carbon fiber or glass fiber would be – but those are materials the rules of the competition won’t allow them to use. Based on the flax/cashew nut epoxy’s stiffness to its weight ratio, it’s one of the best possible choices from the organic world.
– The weight is important! The less the dinghy weighs, the faster is goes, says Granli. 

Competing in Italy this fall
Each year, boats representing universities all over the world compete in a three-day race. Last year, the competition was held in Palermo in September. The two main supervisors at Chalmers then attended the races to see and learn. Most likely the venue will be the same in 2018 and the time will again be late September.
During the summer, the Chalmers students will practice sailing the dinghy, and prepare for the competition. The rules state that the sailor of the boat must be a student from the same university as the design and building team, and the recruitment of this person who will be sailing is under way at the time of writing.

Exhibition at Båtmässan

From the 3rd to 11th of February, Chalmers Formula Sailing will be exhibiting the sail dinghy at the boat fair, Båtmässan, at Svenska Mässan in Gothenburg, in booth number F04:21 (GKSS).

See the video

Read more about the Chalmers Formula Sailing project

Conceive, Design, Implement and Operate are the keywords of the innovative so called CDIO initiative, where the student competition Formula Sailing is included. The goal of the CDIO initiative is to give students a technical fouknowledge base of real-life systems and products, complementing a technical education. Another example of a CDIO project where Chalmers is participating is Formula Student, where students design and build electrical vehicles to race other universities with.

Formula Sailing is a part of the Chalmers sports technology initiative.

Text: Sofia Larsson-Stern
Photo/video: Johan Bodell

Published: Wed 31 Jan 2018. Modified: Thu 08 Feb 2018