The design of a yacht is more than it appears – many different materials, systems and technical details are needed to realise such a complex object. By Angelo Colombo.
THE ENTIRE EVOLUTIONARY PROCESS of yacht design benefits from the evolution of each and every element that is part of the final result. Of course, there are also some other reasons behind design evolution, but most are possible thanks to the evolution of all the elements that will be part of the completed boat.
For example, thanks to the evolution of materials used to make the hull, superstructure and even interiors, designers are able to consider more ways to realise a yacht while maintaining the same weight required by the project.
In the meantime, they can push their projects to explore new ways of creating more volume, or better performance with more speed and less fuel consumption. That is something normally not considered by most Owners who think about a displacement yacht made with steel for hull and aluminium for superstructure, or a planing boat made with composites in a conservative way.
Try to consider how many different naval projects were made in the last 10 years – hundreds – and the reason is connected mainly with the progress behind the materials, project design systems such as computer software and equipment.
The results are boats and yachts that are more comfortable, more environmentally friendly, faster or with more range at sea before having to reach another port to refuel.
With bigger yachts, one of the most important matters to consider on a new project is to maintain the gross tonnage below 500GT because of international rules and wanting to realise a yacht that is easy to manage in terms of crew members, safety equipment, and so on.
<b>PHOTOS:</b> ROYAL HUISMAN.
Black Cat 50M.
Designers have to maintain this point as one of the project’s fundamental elements, even if they are called to work on a 40 metre or a 50m.
“Maintaining a gross tonnage below 500GT today is a must even if you are working on a 50m project,” says Italian designer Luca Dini. “Now we can manage this request thanks the ability to realise a yacht of this size with less space in the interior, but with some new possibilities for the open spaces.
“One clear example of that is offered by the sky lounge on the upper deck, completely surrounded by glass and totally openable. In the past a solution like that was impossible, but now with the technological evolution and new materials is safe and is something new we can offer to our clients.
“What I like to say is that now thanks to the new technologies and new materials is possible realise more slim projects reducing weight and making more efficient yachts. All those changing require a new approach on the design process that consider the gross tonnage more than the length of the yacht.”
Sergio Cutolo is an engineer at the helm of Hydro Tec who has realised many different projects, for example one of the first hybrids the Palumbo 40S, a totally new concept made with the latest technology starting from the project passing through the construction materials and finishing with the sophisticated hybrid propulsion system.
“With the new safety rules of the LY3 certification, many details in the new projects require more volume at the same length (talking about yachts more and less below the 50m), and in the meantime an increase of weight at the same size,” says Cutolo.
“Some other details, for example the shell doors, require more internal height. So as designer and engineer you have to manage all these aspects to fit everything and arrive at the right result for the Owner’s comfort and safety as well as aesthetic shape.
“Clearly more weight mean less efficiency and so more fuel consumption, but thanks to new materials and new computational software we can recover this loss. It is very interesting to observe that those kinds of problems are exactly the same in the automotive industry.
“One of the main problems is the increase of costs and is not easy to follow the rules with new materials as for example the composites, that offers many new solutions for make the structure lighter but new rules make it impossible to use sometimes.
“Now the tendency is also to design yacht of 50m and more below 500GT, it means to reduce the internal height with a complex work for engineer and shipyard for the project of the systems, in the meantime this requirement make necessary to reduce the height of the main deck on the water and the beam.
“I think that in terms of rules a better modulation of the requirements talking about the Gross Tonnage or a modification of the rules that consider as first the final use of the yacht instead of his gross tonnage can have a beneficial effect on the safety overall.”
Without a doubt it is not an easy job adapting the projects daily to the rules from one side and the Owner’s idea of the ultimate yacht on the other. But, all the engineers and designers we talked with on this matter agree that for sure the new materials – in particular composites for construction process but also for the interiors such as the new honeycombs – allow the professionals to solve many problems.
Some believe that composites are an enemy of the environment, but there are some things to consider before accepting this theory completely: composites allow designers to make lighter boats, thus more efficient with less fuel consumption; they don’t have to be mined from the earth, they are more durable than other materials including aluminium because of a superior fatigue resistance; composite are becoming recyclable with new technologies that allow for the recycling of main fibres, for example carbon and Kevlar.
It is not an easy job make a 60m yacht in composite, of course, and probably steel or aluminium for the hull at this size is still better. But for the interior, such as the furniture and finishings, modern composites help to reach great results in terms of aesthetics and weight control.
A new company based in Switzerland is now completing a carbon and Kevlar recycling process, with the realisation of a new carbon, Kevlar or combined carbon-Kevlar fibres that offer a high mechanical standard, low cost and pay attention to environmental needs. More information about this technology will be revealed after the certification process.
The technology around composites needs to go forward every day to increase the performance in terms of weight, mechanical resistance and the ability to satisfy, for example, the increasing power of the engines.
Over the last 15 years, every presentation of new engines time declares them to be more powerful and lighter. This means that on a boat there is a more favourable relationship between weight and power, offered from one side by the lighter materials but also the mechanical characteristics of composites for example, and on the other side by the increase of the power from engines with the same displacement but are lighter than in the past.
That’s a real main point of the yachting evolution. But evolution also means more comfort, more possibilities for enjoying life at sea, more ways of interpreting the Owner’s point of view.
Think about the latest beach areas, or the latest balconies, or the exterior solutions to transform an enclosed area in a open area in conjunction with the other parts of the deck, or the new electronic systems that allow the Captain or Owner or a crew member to manage and control any part of the yacht. There are many examples of the evolution that translates into a better life at sea, increasing safety, comfort and most of the time also privacy.
A complex object such as a yacht benefits daily from the evolution of many different elements, from the raw materials to the sophisticated systems that we are now accustomed to having on board for entertainment as well as for safety during navigation.
The evolution of stabilisation systems is playing an important role in the design of yachts. It is possible today to design a 50m yacht that’s slim to stay inside 500GT, but also safe and comfortable in any conditions thanks to more efficient stabiliser systems that require less power and are more reactive than in the past.
It is not a simple detail to keep the ship stable when at the anchor, especially for planing yachts that are naturally more sensitive to this problem.
Sunreef 74 interior.
Ferretti 960 THB edition interior.