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A pair of eco-warrior French twins have built a transatlantic cargo sailboat – and it’s slated to dock in Brooklyn next week carrying a motherlode of wine and chocolate.
From a distance, the “Grain de Sail” – which is 80 feet long, low-slung, with two towering masts – looks like it might be fit for competition in a posh 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 be arriving on Monday at Brooklyn Bridge Park’s One15 Marina, slightly less than half full with 8,000 bottles. It also will be carrying 450 chocolate bars.
“When you taste the products, you are also tasting the adventure and sustainable development,” said 54-year-old Jacques Barreau, who built the boat with his twin brother, Olivier.
The boat, whose only motor is a 6-horsepower engine that’s required by law for docking at US ports, cost just around $1.5 million to build. It has modern navigation technology and is made of aluminum for speed and durability. It also features mini-wind turbines, solar panels and hydro generators.
To scale the business, Grain de Sail plans on developing a fleet of three cargo sailboats that can transport 350 tons of cargo each, doing three transatlanticloops a year, said wine director Matthieu Riou.
“We operate dedicated and direct routes for high value added products with relatively small ships that can operate fully by sail,” Riou said. “Thinking holistically, we seek to provide sustainable shipping for sustainably produced products from far away in an eco-responsible manner, reducing transportation’s carbon footprint.”
Indeed, the main reason it’s more expensive to ship by sailboat is because the boat is smaller, according to Barreau. It takes about three weeks to cross the Atlantic.
“If we were able to have a cargo sailboat the size of a conventional cargo ship, the cost would be approximately the same,” Barreau said.
Grain de Sail’s first launch was in the fall of 2020. The idea was simple: The brothers sourced cacao and coffee beans in Peru and Central America, shipped them to France, where they produce the chocolate and roast the coffee, then return by cargo sailboat with the finished products.
Most of the wine – which is artisanal, biodynamic and organic French – is in the “$20 to $45 range” of affordable luxury, Barreau said.
Last year, the company generated around $8 million in revenue. This year it’s slated to be around $10.5 million and next year projections are up to close to $17 million. That’s a big jump from their $315,000 revenue in 2016, Barreau noted.
“We are growing quickly thanks to our unique combination of products and sustainable delivery,” he added.
This trip will include some pricey champagne to mark the 200th anniversary of Champagne house Charles Heidsieck, plus wines from Chateau Maris, from the Minervois in the south of France; la Ferme de la Sansonnière in the Loire Valley and Grain de Sail wines from Burgundy.
Their plan is to build a chocolate factory in New York as well, Barreau said.
Grain de Sail will also be delivering wine to local restaurants and partnering with the marina’s restaurant, Estuary, for wine tastings on May 11 and May 18. The tastings are free and can be reserved through Eventbrite. Estuary also holds a monthly networking event for environmentalists and sustainability advocates spearheaded by Sierra Club President Ramon Cruz.