A modified wood product manufactured by the British firm Accoya has undergone extensive testing at Westport Yachts, the largest yacht builder in North America.

“We’ve got two years of test panels with the Accoya Alder product, though we haven’t installed it on a finished boat yet,” Taylor Olson, Wesport’s Director of Engineering told SuperyachtNews.com exclusively. “We’ve been exposing it to weather on our service docks, putting it through its paces to test durability and see if it could be a viable option for our customers.”

Accoya uses a chemical process called acetylisation that reduces wood’s ability to absorb water, effectively making planks far more stable and less prone to rot. Accoya says its non-toxic wood displays minimal bow, cup, warp and splitting.


Accoya Alder alongside teak in Westport's test panels...
different colour but similar wear and feel under foot


“We haven’t had customers come to us yet with concerns about the old growth teak forests or who simply want to explore alternatives; teak is just totally dominant as the decking material of choice,” Olson said. “But we foresee that environmental awareness, decreased quality and increased prices will one day mean we will get that question, and we want to be ready with an answer.”

The properties of Accoya’s treated wood were different and interesting enough to capture Westport’s attention when the yard was first presented with a sample, Olson said. Accoya’s US distributors had first approached Wesport Yachts’ furniture department to propose the Alder product as an alternative to traditional teak and other woods the company uses. While the company had no pressing need for an alternative wood product in their furniture, they were interested in the product as a potential marine decking material, a function Accoya had yet to consider.
 
“The first product they showed us was pine, which was too soft for use as a decking material on a yacht,” Olson said. “It occurred to us that Accoya’s process might be applicable to other species, so we started a conversation that led us to try beech wood and now it looks like the most viable option on the table is alder.”

 “We’ve done four or five test panels over the past few years where we mix together a number of different species, including teak, so we can measure the performance against our control sample,” Olson said. “The Accoya Alder has held up very well. Its expansion may be a little bit more than teak, but as far as the wear we’ve seen on it, it’s been comparable. It’s not super hard like a lot of the other alternative deck materials, and it feels like a teak deck under foot. But it doesn’t look like teak: It’s much lighter. Still, if a customer came to us today looking for an alternative, Accoya Alder would be at the top of our list of recommended products.”

Westport buys decking from Teak Deck Systems, whose quality has remained good, Olson said. “They have come back to us a couple of times and warned us that we might need to compromise on our margin board layouts because of the size of the lumber we’re asking for might not be available any more,” Olson said. “We feel the need to have an alternative ready rather than be caught flat-footed.”

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