Looking at the results of magazine showdowns might seem to be the answer to the conundrum of which antifouling paint to buy.
The latest pbo antifoul test came out over the winter. It is a worthy effort which tries to compare 20 antifouling paints across 13 UK locations. The test presents its results in the form of a top 5 ranking of the best antifoul in different locations. Two things standout:
Seajet 033 Samurai dominated the test – it comes out best in nearly every location. It’s a paint that’s done consistently well in other magazine tests over the years. In addition, people who have used it seem to generally have good things to say about it… So this paint should definitely be a contender if you are in the market for a self-eroding antifoul.
The results for spots 2 to 5 are all over the place, with little consistency across the UK. Even if we consider two self-eroding paints from the same manufacturer: International’s Cruiser Uno and Micron Extra, sometimes one performs better, sometimes the other… However Micron Extra is much more expensive – and one might reasonably have expected it to always perform better than its cheaper stable mate. These inconsistent results, in a way, mirror the results of magazine tests in general – if some paints always do generally well year after year – the overall winner is almost never the same.
Online forums are filled with people complaining that they experienced different results than what was found by the magazine tests. Some will report than the paint recommended by a magazine performed terribly, others will write that a middling test performer actually performed really well for them… These complaints reflect that there is a number of problems with the way magazines are testing antifoul paints.
One common test methodology is painting panels and attaching them to a pontoon in a marina. This type of tests will not give meaningful results for self-eroding antifoul paints. The paints that perform the best in these conditions are the ones with formulations that ablate well in relatively slow tidal currents. However this does not reflect how these paints will perform on a yacht that sails at 6 to 8 knots every weekend…. In these real life conditions, a paint that performs poorly in the pontoon test might do really well due to its ablation being properly activated. A second problem is that this type of test usually just looks at the results at the end of the season and not at the evolution of growth through time…
Other tests try to collate results from antifoul on different boats or from the same boat painted with a patchwork of different stripes of antifoul. However since the usage of the different boats will not be the same and that the perfomance of antifouling paint depends, to a large extent, upon the configuration of the underwater part of a hull, its orientation viz-à-viz the sunlight and its location, the results of these tests can only be regarded as inconclusive…
Despite their weaknesses, the magazine tests a good reminder of the many products available on the market. They serve to highlight the strength and weaknesses of certain products and encourage the yachtsman to consider a wider range of paint options than might be available at his local chandlery.