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Guillaume Plisson

Design secrets: How the Flexplorer went from archived concept to ultimate pocket explorer

5 July 2022• Written by Laura Nicholls for Hydro Tec

As the industry continues to grow, naturally, so do its stakeholders. One company that is already one step ahead is Hydro Tec, a design studio with a lot of team spirit and more than 25 superyacht projects in the pipeline that, in total, measure over 1,000 metres in length and 10,000 GT.

Celebrating its 27th year in business this year, Hydro Tec has achieved several milestones, including the design of the award-winning RSY 38M Emocean, the Columbus 40 Sport Hybrid Mrs D and Leudin I and the 80-metre Columbus Classic Dragon. In hindsight, one project in particular that has cemented the studio’s impressive scope of services is the Flexplorer range. With already one at sea, Aurelia, and three more in the shed, the studio’s founder, Sergio Cutolo, recalls how the Flexplorer concept was brought to life by the Hydro Tec team, how she evolved and became the popular flexible explorer platform she is today.

Guillaume Plisson

The concept was already developed

“Many years ago, a client requested a design for a shadow vessel that also had the typical characteristics of a cruising yacht. This vessel would support the 60-metre mothership and have enough space to transport large tenders, an optional touch-and-go pad for a small helicopter and luxurious accommodation for several guests, including the owner and his family when the mothership was being chartered.

This project was put on hold. However, sometime later, Vasco Buonpensiere, co-founder and sales manager for Cantiere delle Marche (CdM), reached out on behalf of a repeat customer who wanted an explorer yacht that could accommodate a large tender. It was only natural to update the 38-metre shadow vessel project to the needs of the customer, who at the time was the happy owner of the CdM Darwin 102, Hvalross.”

Guillaume Plisson

Naval architecture optimised for comfort and efficiency in all weather

“The first Flexplorer has a unique bulbous bow design with a bulb that does not exceed the overall length of the hull which helps improve penetration and reduce the forward wave formation.

The addition of a flared bow was for aesthetical and functional reasons to suit the owner’s request for a classic-looking vessel designed to face all sorts of weather conditions in total safety and comfort. In addition, Aurelia is the first CdM yacht to receive two pairs of stabilisation fins, maximising the onboard comfort even further. This was proven during sea trials, where she was able to reach a top speed of 15 knots with very low fuel consumption. At the cruising speed of 10 knots, the registered fuel consumption was approximately 70 l/h for both engines, far exceeding the efficiency requests (range and consumption) from the client, and allowed a range of 8,000 nautical miles – enough for almost three Atlantic Ocean crossings without any stops."

Guillaume Plisson

The entire interior layout was restyled

“Next, we increased the interior space in a way that retained the space on the aft deck for an 8.5-metre tender. To achieve this, we shortened the length of the main lobby, galley and saloon/dining room and widened the beam to nearly nine metres. By doing so we recovered a lot of deck space and were able to resize the master cabin to match what could be found on a much larger yacht.

Another benefit of the wider beam was that the central area, made up of the galley, stairs and hallway lobby, could be kept in a wide-body configuration to gain the space that was lost lengthwise.”

Guillaume Plisson

The saloon was inspired by Paolo Caliari

“Our design for the main saloon was inspired by the work of architect Paolo Caliari, which had already been built on board two yachts by Turquoise Yachts in the early 2000s. These two yachts, 40 and 42.5 metres in length, feature saloons that are wide-bodied on the starboard side with a traditional corridor connecting the crew area on the port side. This solution completely overturned the typical saloon layout as normally, after entering through the aft door, one would encounter the lounge area and the dining area towards the bow. In this case, the conventional layout is rotated by 90°, bringing the dining area to the port side and the lounge to the starboard.

This layout has proven to be successful for several reasons. Firstly, the passage from the sliding door at the stern towards the bow is through a direct corridor that does not cross either the conversation area or the dining area. Secondly, the conversation area is oriented outwards and provides excellent views, also thanks to the large 3-metre side window.”

Guillaume Plisson

Teamwork helped create solutions

“The arrangement and handling of the large 8.5-metre tender was an unsolved challenge. However, by working together, just like we have done for the other 30+ yachts we have created together to date, Hydro Tec and CdM found a solution.

To maximize space for the customer we choose not to have a crane on board, as the preference was for the aft deck to remain completely clear when the tender was in the water. More importantly, the owner wanted to be able to launch the tender without the boat heeling over during the manoeuvre.

Ennio Cecchini, the co-founder of CdM, suggested the idea of adding an A-frame, an idea we had always nurtured but had never managed to put into practice. The chosen A-frame was one that is perfectly compatible with the concept of a pleasure boat.

The yard’s regular supplier, Advanced Mechanical Solutions (AMS), took one year to finetune and integrate a hydraulically-operated, all-carbon structure on board. This device can lift a three-tonne tender and launch it at the stern without heeling the yacht. The frame is housed entirely below the teak deck to keep the space free when the tender has been offloaded.”

Guillaume Plisson

The exterior look was perfected

“The first 39.37-metre Flexplorer, Aurelia, was launched in 2020. And for the first time, the world saw how her design was inspired by Supply Vessels and modernised by extraordinary technology with elegance and balanced proportions.

Some highlights of her exterior design are the way the ventilation ducts and the descent to the engine room have been moved to the side to house the stairs to the upper deck. This part of the design allows perfect circulation on board, but also gives the possibility of being able to hide the asymmetry of the superstructure when observing the boat from the dock.”

Guillaume Plisson

Desirable amenities were added

“As its name suggests, the Flexplorer concept was made to be flexible and can adapt to customisation. The design of the hull can be lengthened up to around 45 metres, and there’s the potential to add an infinity pool that can double as a toy hold.

Inside, there is a fairly conventional layout for the accommodation with four ensuite guest cabins on the lower deck and the owner’s stateroom on the forward main deck. Other key interior areas are the gym, which benefits from skylights inserted in the upper deck floor, and the large 100-square-metre-plus beach club with two collapsible bulwarks. There is also the possibility to rig a cinema screen between the two supporting arms of the crane.”

Guillaume Plisson

The Flexplorer is a proven success

“The Flexplorer has become a new design path for Hydro Tec. Its success, I believe, is down to the studio’s ability to expand design and provide some of the best and most efficient hulls on the market. Hydro Tec has become a specialist in every sector of the industry.”

To find out how Hydro Tec can assist with your superyacht project, in any way, shape or form, contact the studio directly here.


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