Case Study: Coppercoat withstands the test of the world’s oceans: single antifoul coat going strong after two circumnavigations and 80,000 nautical miles


One of the toughest endurance tests on the planet for both crew and the eleven-strong fleet of Clipper 70 racing yachts, each edition of the Clipper Race covers some 40,000 nautical miles and negotiates some of the most hostile conditions that mother nature can muster.

A well maintained fleet is therefore fundamental to performance and safety, and one key maintenance task for any racing yacht is antifouling - a process of protecting the bottom of the boats from marine growth such as slime, weed and barnacles. Antifouling reduces the impact marine growth has on speed, boat handling and corrosion by applying a protective layer to the hull.

Ahead of its 2017-18 edition, the Clipper Race applied Coppercoat’s world-first water based VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) free antifoul to the hulls of the fleet.

Amongst a host of benefits, Coppercoat is classified as non-leaching and is considerably kinder to the environment than conventional self-eroding antifoul. Coppercoat has been tested and approved by the Health and Safety Executive, in compliance with UK and EU law, is tin-free and fully complies with current International Maritime Organisation (IMO) resolution MEPC.102(48).

Almost six years on since the first applications, the Coppercoat team paid a visit to Clipper Race HQ to look at how the Coppercoat has fared after an incredible two full circumnavigations of the globe and over 80,000 nautical miles of sailing.

“We always love seeing boats coming out of the water, no matter where they’ve been or what they’ve been doing- but with boats that have been around the world twice- it’s very special and interesting!” says Jayson Kenny, Director of Coppercoat.

The moment of truth

Jay Haller, Clipper Race Maintenance Manager, who has worked at Clipper Ventures since 2002 and knows the fleet inside out, had the honour of inspecting the hulls to see how the Coppercoat antifoul has stood the test of time.

Jayson said: “We’re in contact with Jay Haller throughout each race, but it’s fantastic to see when the boats come out of the water, before any cleaning or maintenance, so we can see exactly how the Coppercoat has performed on the various parts of the boat.”

Upon inspection, Jayson adds: “Given that the Coppercoat is over six years old and each yacht has travelled over 80,000 nautical miles, I’m incredibly impressed to see the product doing as well as it is.

“Chatting to Jay, it looks like the boats are going to do another edition of the race with the same coat, which is just unbelievable for an environmentally responsible antifoul.”

Performance, sustainability and race implications

There is no doubt that the partnership with Coppercoat has enabled the Clipper Race to become more sustainable whilst simultaneously saving the Maintenance Team crucial time both on and off the race - and increasing yacht performance.

Image: Coppercoat on the Clipper Race fleet in Cape Town

The unique Coppercoat hard epoxy antifoul can provide a four to five percent performance improvement over traditional antifoul because of its smooth, non-porous surface.

Compared to traditional self-eroding options, using Coppercoat on the fleet has saved over 170 litres of antifoul solvent from wearing away in the world’s oceans.

In addition to preventing aquatic pollution, with no need to lift and remove Coppercoat, there is also the removal of harmful solvents going into the environment for reapplications.

Jay Haller, Chief Engineer at Clipper Ventures said: “The Clipper 70s were sandblasted and anti-fouled with Coppercoat during refit in preparation for the 2017-18 edition of the Clipper Race. Each boat required approximately 36 litres of Coppercoat. We have not had to re-paint the hulls after completing two circumnavigations, and there have only been a few very small patches that have had to be touched up on a couple of the yachts during this refit.

“On the whole, the Coppercoat has done an incredibly good job. Having dived on the boats during the Clipper Race to inspect the hulls, I found only a very light dusting of growth, which came off with a light swipe of my hand, it has saved us as a maintenance team so much time, as using Coppercoat means there is no longer the need to regularly lift, wash and re-antifoul the yachts. In addition, by using the same coat of anti-foul and not adding extra coats during the race, this improves boat speed.”

Image: Chief Engineer Jay Haller inspecting the hull of CV23

Research and development

R&D has played a pivotal role during the two-edition partnership. For the Clipper Race, it has proven to be a fantastic way to showcase the Coppercoat product and really put it through its paces whilst enhancing performance of the Clipper 70 fleet.

It has also been an ideal platform for Coppercoat, as Jayson explains: “As a small paint manufacturer, we sell our product across the whole globe and the Clipper Race partnership is a fantastic opportunity for the product to be trialled in a range of territories and in the harshest conditions - it's the only way we can achieve this with one company and as a business it is exactly what we need.”

He adds: “Our product is now over 30 years old, and was originally designed to be as environmentally responsible as an antifoul can be and because of that we haven't needed to change our formulation.”

Looking ahead

What’s next for Coppercoat? In addition to working with the Clipper Race on the upcoming 2023-24 edition, Jason explains: “Whilst we are constantly looking at ways to improve the product, we have turned our focus toward packaging and that is the next big push. Hopefully we will have 100% plant-based, recyclable packaging.”

For the Clipper Race, the future brings yet another circumnavigation using the existing Coppercoat antifoul, with only some touch ups required rather than completely re-antifouling the fleet. Setting off during summer 2023, and returning to the UK in summer 2024, it will be the third consecutive circumnavigation and over 40,000 extra nautical miles for the Coppercoat antifoul - and another chance to showcase the longevity and performance of the product.