A pair of eco-warrior French twins have built a transatlantic cargo sailboat – and are set to dock in Brooklyn next week with a smorgasbord of wine and chocolate.
From a distance, the “Grain de Sail” – which is 80ft long, low-slung, with two towering masts – looks fit to compete in a classy regatta this summer. Looking closer, however, the ship’s hull is built for capacity.
The boat can hold 18,000 bottles of wine – its cargo of choice – and will arrive at Brooklyn Bridge Park Marina One15 on Monday, just under half full with 8,000 bottles. It will also carry 450 chocolate bars.
“When you taste the products, you also taste adventure and sustainable development,” said Jacques Barreau, 54, who built the boat with his twin brother, Olivier.
The boat, whose only engine is a 6-horsepower motor required by law to dock in US ports, cost about $1.5 million to build. It features modern sailing technology and is made from aluminum for speed and durability. It also includes mini wind turbines, solar panels and hydroelectric generators.
To develop the activity, Grain de Sail plans to develop a fleet of three cargo sailboats that can carry 350 tons of freight each, making three transatlanticloops a year, said wine director Matthieu Riou.
“We operate dedicated, direct routes for high value products with relatively small vessels that can operate entirely under sail,” Riou said. “Thinking holistically, we seek to provide sustainable shipping for sustainably produced products from afar in an eco-responsible manner, reducing the carbon footprint of transportation.”
Indeed, the main reason it is more expensive to ship by sailboat is that the boat is smaller, according to Barreau. It takes about three weeks to cross the Atlantic.
“If we could have a cargo sailboat the size of a conventional freighter, the cost would be about the same,” Barreau said.
The first launch of Grain de Sail was in the fall of 2020. The idea was simple: the brothers sourced cocoa and coffee beans from Peru and Central America, shipped them to France, where they produce chocolate and roast coffee, then return by cargo ship. with the finished products.
Most of the wines — which are French artisanal, biodynamic and organic — are in the “$20 to $45 range” of affordable luxury, Barreau said.
Last year, the company generated about $8 million in revenue. This year it is projected to be around $10.5 million and next year’s projections are up to nearly $17 million. That’s a big jump from their earnings of $315,000 in 2016, Barreau noted.
“We are growing rapidly thanks to our unique combination of products and sustainable delivery,” he added.
This trip will include expensive champagne to mark the 200th anniversary of the Charles Heidsieck champagne house, as well as wines from Château Maris, Minervois in the south of France; the Ferme de la Sansonnière in the Loire Valley and the Grain de Sail wines in Burgundy.
Their plan is to build a chocolate factory in New York as well, Barreau said.
Grain de Sail will also deliver wine to local restaurants and partner with the marina restaurant, Estuaire, for wine tastings on May 11 and 18. Tastings are free and can be booked through Eventbrite. The Estuary also hosts a monthly networking event for environmentalists and sustainability advocates, led by Sierra Club President Ramon Cruz.