Speed Coatings Compared

Speed Coatings Compared, and Not Just For Speed This comes as the result of a question from Tom Bandoni, who is curious about the best product to use for his Aquarius 22 beach catamaran. He doesn’t want to use anti-fouling bottom paint, and is defin...

20th July 2010.
By Ed Sherman

Speed Coatings Compared, and Not Just For Speed

This comes as the result of a question from Tom Bandoni, who is curious about the best product to use for his Aquarius 22 beach catamaran. He doesn’t want to use anti-fouling bottom paint, and is definitely interested in maximizing boat speed. He’s planning on leaving the boat in the water for a while and is of course concerned about fouling growth on the bottom. He’s perfectly willing to wipe down the boat’s undersides occasionally vs. using a poisonous anti-fouling paint system.

After a bit of research the available choices seem to narrow down to three primary options, each with very different approaches to solving this problem. Let’s begin with the most radical.

HullSpeed performance marine coatings are manufactured by Greenfield Manufacturing here in the US and are an epoxy/silicone blend that can be applied much like paint, providing a super slick coating. This system has been used in commercial, military and performance power and sailboat applications. This is not a system that is going to meet Tom’s requirements as the prep work involved before the coating is applied will be considerable. But, on a new build, or major bottom job, this is an intriguing option. Let’s say you were going to strip your boat’s bottom and apply an epoxy barrier coating anyway………this is the sort of coating that may have appeal to some boaters. The manufacturer claims that if kept clean, that is the occasional wipe down to make sure things like barnacles are not adhering to the bottom, several years of service can be expected from a typical 5 mil coating thickness. This can be further enhanced with the addition of a top coat from their product line called “SuperGlide”, which will reduce drag even further. The SuperGlide gets applied over the HullSpeed base coating simply by rubbing it on with a clean towel, much like applying conventional wax. The difference here is that this product is actually a catalyzed epoxy. Once the coating has been applied, buff it out in a circular motion.

You can find out more about the HullSpeed products by visiting www.hullspeed.us

Keep in mind that with the coatings mentioned here, there are two things to take into consideration, one is creating a surface that will enhance boat speed and reduce fuel consumption (in the case of power boats) but also to create a surface that is so slippery, that marine growth will have a hard time adhering to it.

Next up is a product called “Aqua Speed” made by German company Holmenkol. Unlike the above mentioned HullSpeed system, Aqua Speed is an ablative product that utilizes nanotechnology to fill microscopic voids in the base surface to achieve its extreme slipperiness. But, because it is ablative, service life will not be as long as with Hullspeed. In fact, the manufacturer claims that their base coat, called “Sport Polish” will last up to 12 months and the top coat, or Aqua Speed will last 5-7 days, but can be reapplied as needed over the Spot Polish base coat. As with the HullSpeed product, all old coatings and waxes must be completely removed before application.

 It’s interesting to note that nanotechnology itself has raised many questions among some international groups about the toxicity and environmental impact of nano-materials, something that I’m sure can cause hours of debate among chemists. To find out more go to: www.envere.com (US distributor).

Last but by no means least in this round-up, Team McLube’s HullKote. For the environmentally concerned, this product is perhaps the friendliest of all. Its citrus based and its OSHA status is non-hazardous. The product’s MSDS (material safety data sheet) lists its ingestion impact as “low oral toxicity”, sort of like drinking a Margarita. Don’t try that with any of these products of course, but as a point of comparison the epoxy based Hullspeed could kill you and the Aqua Speed is quite questionable. The Aqua Speed sheet tells you to wear solvent protective gloves when working with the stuff, and not to induce vomiting if swallowed and does describe its ecotoxical effects this way: “Contains water polluting substances/water polluting classification: I/II.” Not sure how severe that is, suffice to say this stuff is not apple juice. All of the MSDS sheets for these products are extremely vague due to the proprietary nature of these products. But McLube claims that their product is considered GRAS (generally recognized as safe) by the FDA.

As for the McLube product, it certainly has received a lot of testimonials from the sailboat racing set as to its effectiveness. When you check out their website (www.mclubemarine.com) it seems like half the US Olympic sailing team and Volvo Ocean Race participants have something great to say about the products.

McLube HullKote is also the easiest to apply of the three products. It both cleans and polishes in one step according to the manufacturer. So, if the bottom surface is just bare gel-coat, you should be good to go. But in fairness, if your boat’s bottom has already had anti-foulant pain on it, just like the other products, you are going to have to get that all off first. But, once down to a relatively smooth surface, the McLube is just wipe on wipe off. Mclube claims it will last 20 days with hard use and certainly some of the Volvo Ocean race participants have confirmed this in their testimonials. With 2-3 coats of the HullKote, McLube claims it will last over 30 days in service.

So, my answer to Tom’s question is this: I am environmentally concerned and based on everything I can compare with these three products and his expectations, it seems like the McLube HullKote, with a service life of 20-30 days and an FDA “endorsement”, might just do the job for him quite nicely.


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Ed Sherman

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Ed Sherman is a regular contributor to boats.com, as well as to Professional Boatbuilder and Cruising World, where he previously was electronics editor. He also is the curriculum director for the American Boat and Yacht Council. Previously, Ed was chairman of the Marine Technology Department at the New England Institute of Technology. Ed’s blog posts appear courtesy of his website, EdsBoatTips.
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