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Tradition Meets Technology

England’s Norfolk Broads is a popular destination where you can rent traditional wooden sailboats, which were historically pushed along with long poles called quants when the winds were not cooperative.

But after seeing a falloff in business as older customers found the rigors of quanting to be increasingly difficult, Hunter’s Yard, which operates a large fleet of 80-year-old wooden sleep-aboard sailboats, installed Torqeedo electric propulsion systems.

At first, the installation of any kind of propulsion system was met with skepticism. When the idea was first made public at the annual general meeting of the Friends of the Hunter Fleet in April 2016, the traditionalists were concerned that it would affect the boats’ sailing characteristics or destroy their historical allure. “There was a great drawing of breath that nearly sucked the roof down,” Philip Bray, secretary of the Hunter’s Trust, which owns and operates the sailboat fleet, recalls.

But the first electrified boat was an instant hit among renters, and additional boats have been fitted with the same package. Now there are five “electric quants” and plans continue to outfit all but one boat in each class, so the traditionalists can still have their quanting experience.

The propulsion systems consist of a Torqeedo Cruise 2.0 electric pod motor with a folding propeller, two Power 24-3500 batteries, fast charger, shore power box and control/display unit.

The installation process presented challenges. “The boats were built to the unique Norfolk Broads pattern with flattish bottoms, a very shallow bilge, a long keel and a large oval rudder that swings through 360 degrees,” Bray says.

Customers approved of the changes. Bookings increased and the boats with engines became the first to be rented.

Bray believes once the benefits are realized resistance will fade away, and all the boats will likely be motorized. “After all, just because an engine is fitted it doesn’t have to be used,” he says.

Currently, Hunter’s Yard is closed due to the Covid-19 crisis and the operators are asking for donations to keep the fleet intact as the shutdown is threatening the viability of the business. You can donate here and see more photos of the fleet.

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