HELLEVOETSLUIS – In yacht building, sustainability is a huge Holy Grail that is talked about an awful lot. Few take green boating more seriously than Igor Kluin. His Vaan Yachts yard makes aluminum, luxury catamarans of 12 to 18m (40 to 60ft) on the southern rim of the ever-sprawling Port of Rotterdam.
Kluin has never been far from green initiatives. He once founded a green energy company. And co-founded a sustainable economy lobby. An avid sailor, he and his partner, Nienke van ’t Klooster, looked for a family cruiser but ended up making very green, very high-end sailing cats from reusable materials.
Theirs is an unusual story. “Sustainability was our starting point,” Kluin recalls. “We opted for aluminum boats because it is reusable. We use 50 to 75% recycled aluminum that we get from Norway’s Hydro company which operates Europe’s largest primary aluminum plant. “The aluminum we use comes from things like window frames, car tags, traffic signs etc. and has been processed into a new building material.”
The yachting sector, says Kluin, could be a sustainability leader if only different choices were made. “By looking at materials and design differently, you can make a boat in a circular way. We choose not to use composites which have limited reusability.”
Kluin and Van ‘t Klooster go for bio-based materials. The deck of their catamarans is made not of teak or a synthetic cover, but of cork. For interior panels, they use FSC-certified European poplar. “And for interior cushions we opted for Sunbrella’s Heritage collection, fabrics containing recycled Sunbrella materials.”
Their R4, R5 and R6 cats come with electric propulsion from OceanVolt or Torqeedo and, on long voyages, possibly by a generator.
The hull of the first R4 was launched in May, as construction began of the first R5 and engineering work was launched for the R6. Rookie builders, Kluin and his partner are still climbing that learning curve.
“We are looking at how we can make production as efficient as possible. It was our plan from the beginning to build bigger models,” says Kluin. “The R4 is around 40ft, the R5 around 50 and the R6 is 60ft long.”
The maiden R4 will be a demo boat and the first R5 has a buyer. The latter is a bit wider than the R4 providing more living space. The R5 ‘live aboard’ version, has a larger part of the cockpit enclosed, providing even more interior space. The R6 will serve a different market, that of exclusive travel, permanent residence or charter.
After two or three years, “we are now building and selling,” says Kluin. The post-COVID period is marked by scarcity of raw materials, including aluminum. Thanks to good agreements with Hydro, sufficient material is available for building the R5.
Kluin has a boat reservation button on his website. He is keen to serial-build his cats but is fuzzy on the numbers. “Once the R4 is on the water, it’ll be a yardstick for us on the basis of which we can start estimating volumes.”