Carbonautica is a well-known brand among sailors and yards. At the last METS in Amsterdam, we met Anton Bizjak (in the photo), owner of the company, who told us not only lots of things about his business, a real leader of the market, but also the striking spread of fiberglass composite and carbon in the production of boat steering wheels. Once considered as “exotic” optionals for extreme boats, now these materials are becoming a standard equipment increasingly required by owners.
Carbonautica is a Slovenian company, from Velenje, which has existed for over 10 years and specialized in the production of wheels, gangways and deck accessories. At the moment it has 16 employers, a number – as Anton Bizjak told us – that is destined to increase fast…
Why composite wheels are so successful?
First of all, they ensure a better “grip” than traditional steel wheels while maintaining a balanced temperature. Then, maintenance almost disappears since the wheel will never oxidize. Finally, on racing boats, they reduce weight by about 35%.
Prices have significantly decreased. Until recently, composite wheels were very expensive..
Yes, you’re right. This is because, meanwhile, research has significantly stepped forward. Now, wheels can be produced very rapidly. Even though they still remain a difficult object to work, work hours are fewer. We need about 15-16 hours to produce a carbon wheel, 2-4 hours for a composite one.
Can you explain us briefly how a wheel is produced?
The aim is the production of a one-piece product. It comes from two symmetric moulds but the working flanges of one are superimposed over the other’s ones. The result is a fusion which produces a unique entire monolithic object. It is burned in the oven at 90° for 4-5 hours, according to its size.
Do you produce custom wheels?
Of course, we do. We create models for specific yards, such as Elan, X-Yachts and J Boats. On the other hand, we also produces small series for few samples, such as Vismara. We produce some one-off models, too: for the 12 boats of Clipper World Race, for example, we produced a series which was subject to a great stress in the ocean for 3 years. It was a very useful test for us. Only one wheel got broken but because of a collision.
Yes, it is, since carbon wheels tend to explode in these case. However, we have found the solution to this problem and we place some Kevlar inside the wheel, which prevents from explosion.
But steering wheels are only a part of your production, aren’t they?
Seven years ago, we started to produce gangways and some accessories, such as yoke lines, fairleads and cleats. All are in composite and produced on moulds.
Like wheels, also carbon and composite gangways are rapidly gaining ground, aren’t they?
Yes and even on motorboats, This is an absolute news which moves important numbers. In many cases, they take their place alongside hydraulic storable ones.
Finally, can you tell us your three main values?
First of all, the high-quality of our products. Then, the excellent bonds we establish with our customers and, finally, our punctual deliveries.