Swedish boat builder Yrvind designs low-energy vessel with Divinycell
Friday, Oct 13, 2017
“Dunedin in New Zealand is very close to the antipode of my hometown Västervik in Sweden. If I have calculated everything correctly, and with a bit of luck, I will sail there within a year.”

Boat builder Sven Yrvind

The 78-year-old Swedish boat builder Sven Yrvind has built and sailed small boats for almost 60 years. In 1980, he sat the world record for rounding Cape Horn in the smallest boat. In 2011, he sailed from Madeira to Martinique in 45 days with two square meters of sail. ”Stay small if you want to sail the great oceans. The advantages of a small boat are plenty,” says Yrvind.

Project Exlex

His latest project is called Exlex and started in April 2015. Yrvind had grown tired of his previous project, a rather heavy boat that largely followed current conventions. He decided to scrap the design and start all over. During the many years that Yrvind has considered long trips in small boats, he has pondered on a low-energy vessel and he now thought that the time was right. “I was stuck in a conventional way of thinking. I realized that I needed to break with traditions.”

Restricted racing yachts


Rules and regulations, conventions and traditions can blind you to new ideas, says Yrvind. The result is that good solutions might not find their way to the market. Traditionally, and mainly through the development of racing yachts, length is the measurement by which boats are designed and restricted. This has led to the unsound development of shorter boats, because rules and regulations are considered rather than the nature of the sea.

Follow the ocean

However, a boat builder who intends to sail around the world outside yachting competitions doesn’t have to care about yachting regulations, says Yrvind. Instead, one should focus on the speed that is considered comfortable and suitable. When one has decided that, it is easy to calculate the length needed to bring the required speed with a reasonable amount of energy. “My new boat is not restricted to a fixed length. I have named it “Exlex” for a reason: the EU wants to ban smaller boats from making longer trips. “Exlex” means “outside the law”. Exlex won’t be tied down by any bureaucratic rules and regulations but follow the ocean's ever-changing landscape” says Yrvind.

Combining old craftsmanship with new materials

“The construction methods of deep-sea sailing boats have been developed during centuries. Still I hope that my voyage will show that new designs and innovative materials can improve seaworthiness. There are no storms that a well-designed small boat built using modern sandwich composites cannot handle,” says Yrvind.

Exlex is still being fine-tuned, but is currently 5.76 meters long and a little over 1 meter wide. It was built using 4 cm thick Divinycell sheets and NM epoxy. “Divinycell brings buoyancy, stiffness and insulation. I thought, if I build the boat using Divinycell, it will be warm and nice and unsinkable. The NM epoxy is a fantastic adhesive and absorbs only very limited amounts of water. I think it might even protect me from the Plague,” says Yrvind, jokingly.

A smaller and lighter boat needs less energy to move forward. This allows for a positive spiral of weight-saving. It doesn’t need a lot of sails to keep its speed, and with one third of the sail surface of a regular sailing boat, the masts can be substantially shortened, saving additional weight. Also, since the strain on the masts decreases with the minimal size of the sails, the masts can be made much thinner. The light yet extremely sturdy masts of Exlex were designed using carbon fiber.

From Dingle to Dunedin


The trip is planned to start in Dingle, Ireland, in June 2018. Yrvind will then sail west of Madeira and the Canary Islands and continue past Africa. Then it’s almost a straight shot to New Zealand, south of Australia and Tasmania. With an average speed of 2 knots, Yrvind figures that the non-stop trip of 15,000 nautical miles will take him around 300 days. He will store food for a year, but is not afraid of perishing alone at sea. “There are worse places to die,” he says. “Ending in a hospital with tubes and needles is not for me. But people ask me if this is all about sailing or adventures, and I tell them it’s not. It is about finding out about life.”

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