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Power to the Production Proa: Aspen Takes an Efficiency Challenge

Aspen Power Catamarans is putting one of its groundbreaking boats to the test. The builder of the 32-foot Aspen C100, a single-engine multihull notable for its asymmetrical sponsons, is attempting a circumnavigation of Vancouver Island in British Columbia without refueling. The challenge was put to production boatbuilders for their hulls of less than 40 feet by Pacific Yachting magazine, and requires the nearly 700-mile voyage using only the fuel that can be carried onboard.

I caught up with Larry Graf, founder and president of Aspen Power Catamarans on the telephone as his voyage was about to begin. Graf will have his 31-year-old son Nick (shown in the photo with Larry, and who also serves as sales manager for Aspen) along for the excursion.

The Aspen C100 is powered by a single 230-horspower Volvo Penta diesel that sits in a small blister, very low in the hull. The shaft angle to the efficient Acme prop is just 6 degrees. The smaller hull is 35 percent thinner than the large hull, meaning it provides less weight and reduced drag. The only modification to the boat is that is will be equipped with an additional expedition fuel tank that sits in the cockpit and adds 240 gallons of fuel capacity.

“The boat can carry a big load and still move quickly and efficiently,” Graf says. He told me testing indicates a 6 gallon per hour fuel burn with speeds of around 18 knots—including the 1,000 pounds of additional fuel.

The first leg of the voyage will be the Inside Passage, which makes for some very scenic cruising. Graf noted that this long passage will differ from some of his offshore voyaging because there are a lot more weather resources in a coastal area. “In the past I’ve used weather routers when I go offshore,” Graf says. “But for this it’s interesting: We’ve found you can get good information on sea conditions in this area from the surfer reports.”

At the northern tip of Vancouver Island, they’ll be heading through the Graveyard of the Pacific, where currents, wind, and a swell from 5,500 miles of fetch combine to make for interesting conditions that have foundered many ships throughout history. “It seemed like a good way to show the boat’s open-water capability,” Graf said. They depart on June 20, 2014, from Victoria Harbor.

See how the Aspen C100 makes out on this voyage. The boat is named Gateway II and can be tracked on the Gateway Yachts AIS Web site. We’ll provide updates as they become available.

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