I´ve met Nils Theurer in person for the first time during Boot Dusseldorf boat show early this year when he was giving an interesting lecture on sailing with children – as a father of two kids this was of particular interest for me personally. I´ve found out that he actually was the author of a book I bought about the same topic and after his lecture I approached him to have a chat. During that diverting talk Nils revealed to me that he was working on a boat building project – and as you may know that I am always interested in people´s yacht projects, I asked a lot of questions about it. And as it turned out, Nils is working on a quite interesting yacht too.<

Lars Reisberg, NO FRILLS SAILING.com: “Nils, please explain in short who you are.”

Nils Theurer: “Hi Lars. Well, basically I do my living on photography and writing. Mostly it´s reports for magazines or newspapers, preferably on maritime stuff. I am a gatherer of facts, a junkie of information as I like to go to the bottom of things.”

A rendering of the Eco750

NFS.com: “You are currently building a sailing yacht on a yard – let´s introduce us to this project.”

Nils: “First of all, the story behind this boat is a bit complex. It began when I was working as a project manager for a forestry company that was cultivating the black locust. Unfortunately this company went insolvent. But despite this economical failure, locust tree timber is still the hell of a product which we wanted to proof by building a yacht. The idea was that we use local home grown black locust as a building material instead of Mahogany or Teak timber …”

NFS.com: “As Teak or other rain forest timber is under constant criticism for the ecological implications of illegal uproating, land grabbing, decimation of natural forests for monocropping plantations …”

Nils: “… exactly, these are the problems! The boat, it´s called the Eco750, is made from sustainable material in terms of the wooden parts. I know that sounds odd and I personally cannot hear the word “sustainable” anymore, but in this case this is reality as the timber really comes from sustainably local forestry. By the way, did you know that the phrase “sustainability” originally derives from the forestry business?”

Isn´t this a nice color of the black locust timber?

NFS.com: “Can you tell us about the Eco750 project a bit more. Why this boat?”

Nils: “It all began with a classic race built dinghy cruiser – of course she featured a very nicely done Teak decking. It was a very beautiful and fast boat for sure. People in the marinas would approach me to tell me just how beautiful my boat was. But anyway, she was a spend-fest of tropical timber. As you know we wanted to proof that sustainable home grown timber could be as good as Teak or any other classic wood, we wanted a yacht that would be just as fast and high performing as our dinghy cruiser. That’s why we chose the Eco750 to be our boat.”

Making the deck-house

Nils: “Another factor was of course that the boat should have be transportable to be shown at fairs and events and of course to be transportable easily to reach different sailing areas. This is why we went for a comparatively small yacht: The Eco 750 has a length over all of just 7.50 meters, her width measures 2.55 meters max and her 1.5 tons of displacement are just right for that purpose. She also features a completely retractable centreboard.”

The hull is finished – starting with the superstructure

Nils: “Due to the fact that the black locust is just a smaller tree, the plywood made out of them would be shorter than ordinary timber. That’s just too short to make a cold molded boat, which was a pity. But anyway, we searched for yacht designers in all over Europe and received three proposals in the end of which we chose the one drawn by Tim Harrold which would become the Eco750 in the end.”

NFS.com: “Tell us more about the technical features of this sailing yacht.”

Nils: “As I mentioned, first of all the design guarantees that the boat could be transported by trailer – although she isn´t really a leightweight boat for sure. She is very chiselled and has a very angled design. The polar diagram promises 6 knots speed in a 10 knot breeze and 45 degrees TWA, which I would consider quite fast. It would be great if the boat´s performance would live up to these calculations. Furthermore, we do have a compost-WC, a box with a small pantry and – if things go the way we want it – oars instead of an engine.”

A distinctive bow shape

NFS.com: “That´s kind of a tweedy hiking-style sailing experience, I would say. The boat is built by …?”

Nils: “… a yard in our region that is specialized in wooden boat building – Yachtwerft Landolt. We chose it for that reason. Tim Harrold, the Australian designer, and the Spanish design bureau Teifido made a wonderful job here, but as with any projects, our yard had and still has to adjust the drawings and plans to reality for fitting small details.

Compost-WC and some of the storage boxes are visible. Also the large centreboard housing

Nils: “There are some tiny, but very interesting details here: The storage boxes in the cockpit are watertight boxes made by Zarges, a company which is market leader in this section. The bow is built to absorb any collision energy and can be exchanged for a new one. Between the vertical frames a Dometic-made cooling unit fits just neatly – the best is, it needs zero energy. The radio unit is a robust appliance originally built into tractors. The boat is more water-hiking than sailing for sure, as I would say: You cannot put your double breasted suit with gold studs anywhere …”

NFS.com: “Can you tell us a bit more about the local timber-approach? Where exactly is the timber grown, where will it be processed to plywood?”

Nils: “Well, that´s a very simple thing in the end: We build a wooden boat of German black locust and larch instead of Teak and Mahogony from the rainforests of plantations of Burma. The processing of the timber into plywood was a real challenge as the existing machinery couldn´t work with locust tree at first – the veneers made from this wood are just too small. So we started to stitch the sliced veneers together to create a zig-zag stripe that can be joined together to create larger plywood sheethings. In the end, the product is a very, very hard – I would say: bullet proof – super-plywood!”

This is the “super plywood” of local grown timber

NFS.com: “What have been the big steps of the project and where is the project now?”

Nils: “The biggest of the all was definitely the production of the plywood sheets. This was accomplished by Jürgen Landolt, the boss of the yard, who literally invented the production process by utilizing such things as a door squeezing machine and the sewing machine for veneers. Together with Von der Linden, a company in the Epoxy business, we invented a process where the properties of the Epoxy glue are accurately tuned to the requirements of the black locust timber. All tests had shown that both did a marvellous job here.”

NFS.com: “What has been very tricky in the process and what have been the biggest problems?”

Nils: “Oh, there are so many, of course. At first, there wasn´t even a concept of how to make plywood out of these comparatively short veneer-stripes. The first trials we worked on proved to produce insufficiently thin plywood veneers so that we had to invent a completely new method of making our own. The CNC-milled parts often wouldn´t fit just nicely. There had been problems with the mechanics that retracts the centreboard and the bowsprit for the gennaker wouldn´t fit as well. The list of challenges is infinite …”

Sewing the veneers

NFS.com: “What´s next?”

Nils: “I am currently out looking for a new partner – the insolvence of the initiator cause a lot of financial trouble, as you can imagine. The budget was 200.000 Euros and I still consider this a realistic amount. We´ve spent just over half of the money. If now a new partner would inject fresh capital he could take the full project for his own – for almost a quarter of the price! The yard has separated the hull from the insolvency estate and we are free to move on. Now it´s about finishing this project and start the full marketing circle.”

NFS.com: “What are your plans with this boat?”

Nils: “Of course our focus is on finishing the project. We plan to show the boat on trade fairs and shows. We envision founding a company that is dedicated in further strengthen our local timber production, especially for making lust tree products, which I consider a great material for many purposes! Also, finding other enthusiasts who are willing to get thei own Eco750, because having sister ships would be great too.”

Thanks Nils for giving this insight into your fascinating project indeed! People who are interested in Tim Harrold´s design and a sustainable black locust sailing boat should contact Nils and feel free to ask any question.


Other interesting articles on this topic:

Making a plywood Mini 650 sailing yacht

Visiting RM Yachts in La Rochelle – wooden performance cruisers

The perfect chart table made from Teak