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Everything you need to know about the groundbreaking new 47m Nilaya

22 March 2023 • Written by Laura Nicholls

What was known as ‘Project 405 and Reichel / Pugh Nauta 154’ has been named as the next rendition in the line of Nilaya – meaning ‘blissful home’ in Sanskrit – yachts owned by an expert and keen sailor. Once delivered in April 2023 by the Royal Huisman yard, the new 46.8-metre Nilaya will be one of the lightest aluminium sailing superyachts for her length.

The next-level design is the work of naval architects Reichel-Pugh Yacht Design, and interior and exterior designers Nauta Design. For Nauta Design, Nilaya is the studio's largest sailing yacht to date. While she may share some profile characteristics with her predecessor, the 'new Nilaya' is designed for luxurious cruising, albeit with a good turn of speed. 

As she nears completion, the Nauta Design team gives BOAT International the inside scoop on the key elements that have made this design an instant success.

Guy Fleury

She belongs to an experienced repeat owner

Silence, safety and space were crucial components of the owner’s brief. As a highly experienced yachtsman and previous owner of the 34-metre Nilaya (now Shagala Bagala)  delivered in 2010, he went the extra mile for the newest member of the Nilaya series. His time participating in the world’s most prestigious regattas, such as the Loro Piana Caribbean Superyacht Regatta and the Superyacht Challenge Antigua, instigated many of the racing-focussed features in Nilaya’s design.

“While Nilaya will take her owners around the world, the owners also asked for a boat with all the ‘good habits’ of their previous racer – particularly responsiveness and excellent handling,” says project manager Nigel Ingram.

“As repeat clients of Nauta Design, the owners wanted to step up to a 46-metre sailing yacht but retain the spirit of their previous racer, specifically the deckhouse design,” adds Nauta Design’s co-founder, Mario Pedol. “Nilaya’s racy, low profile with its straight bow, wide transom, and twin rudders, echoes the look of her owners’ previous highly successful maxi-racer of the same name.”

She dispels construction myths

The owner’s brief was also aimed at having a very silent yacht. Traditionally, reducing noise and vibration required the addition of weight, however Nilaya proves otherwise. “To combine the comfort and robustness to explore the world with the [owner’s] request for a lightweight yacht that would be responsive at the helm and competitive in superyacht regattas wasn’t an easy task,” noted Nauta’s co-founder Mario Pedol.

“One option was to build in carbon fibre, which is lighter and generally faster than aluminium. On the other hand, aluminium is more comfortable and impact resistant. We asked ourselves a very simple question: could we design an aluminium yacht that was much closer in terms of displacement to an equivalent carbon boat? The answer was yes, following my intuition that hull and deck are only 15% of the total weight of a modern sailing yacht; this was backed by analysis of our most relevant projects from our designs. In this process, we took into account the owners’ priorities, including less noise, the strength of the material, and the possibility of easily being repaired around the world. We set about discovering ways to minimise the difference and look for advantages elsewhere. Royal Huisman supported this vision with enthusiasm and accepted the challenge.”

To perfect the hull shape, Reichel / Pugh Yacht Design enlisted the aid of one of the world’s best Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) consultants, Caponnetto Hueber and Giorgio Provinciali, a team with two decades of America’s Cup experience. The top-performing designs in both materials were made into models for tank testing. Beyond conventional CFD analysis, naval architect John Reichel explained that they layered on a sophisticated RANS code analysis to predict underwater turbulence generated by the hull, keel, rudders and Propellors – a method usually used to optimise submarine hulls.

Nauta Designs' two founders Mario Pedol and Massimo Gino

Finally, the naval architects collected extensive wave data from the owners’ favourite windy cruising grounds and developed new hull shapes to run through the RANS CFD code to improve the seakeeping and motion characteristics of the yacht. As Reichel / Pugh improves the performance of their superyacht designs, they know it is critical to also improve the seakeeping characteristics in waves both under sail and power.

As the powerful sail plan was developing in concert with Rondal and Doyle Sails, running a Velocity Prediction Program (VPP) for the top designs showed that the yacht was shaping up to be an exceptional performer against top scorers in the maxi yacht fleet. The VPP predicts the yacht is capable of exceeding windspeed when reaching upwind with main and jib alone, even in a 10-knot breeze.

She is 11% lighter than the average

To create Nilaya, Royal Huisman implemented a brand-new design and production method. Named Featherlight™, the revolutionary approach ensured Nilaya was 11 per cent lighter compared to an equivalent aluminium cruising yacht. Featherlight™ was based on the design methodology used in spacecraft technology: Finite Element Analysis (FEA). This all-encompassing process saw that only certain construction materials were used for everything from the lighting and insulation to the mechanics.

The interior structure was created from lightweight foam coring, while the designs for the exterior aluminium plates and frame spacing specifically maximises hull stiffness and minimises the yacht’s total displacement. “With Reichel / Pugh, we set the target weight without making any sacrifices to the design,” says Pedol. “Royal Huisman really embraced the concept. It was a very good process, and a great collaboration.”

“This innovative approach narrows the displacement gap between aluminium and carbon composite yachts and most importantly, has reduced weight without sacrificing stiffness or cutting corners on quality,” adds Pedol. “The comfortable and robust nature of an aluminium yacht is now available to those owners seeking performance.”

There’s a convertible foredeck

The main deck has been designed in three sections: the cockpit, the foredeck and the transom. Crowning the yacht is a 17.5-metre-long curvaceous coachroof and cockpit made entirely from carbon composite. The cockpit is shaded by a carbon composite hardtop that can be removed for racing and features sun loungers that can convert into chaise loungers when sailing, a dining area to port with two coffee tables to starboard. The cockpit’s unique curved windscreen has three opening sections allowing a light sea breeze to filter through.

Forward on deck is a recessed well to house the yacht’s tender. This area – also made from carbon composite – can easily be transformed into a flush deck or a seating or sunbathing area for guests to enjoy, with a hi-lo table and fitted cushions. An awning can also be added here with carbon fibre poles.

To the aft, the two-tiered deck features a 10-metre-wide transom with a hinged section of the teak that folds down to rest on top of the beach platform, revealing an aft staircase leading down to the swim platform. The dual design allows for a lounging area that is directly connected to the beach platform below.

The carbon elements created by Royal Huisman’s sister company, Rondal, also include the watertight bulkhead, crew entrance, twin rudders and keel trunk.

Large custom sail designs

For any high-performance cruiser, a carbon fibre mast, boom, and standing rigging are critical to keeping weight as low and as centred as possible. Nilaya features a structured luff sail design pioneered by Doyle Sails. As the first yacht of her size to carry this design, Nilaya’s entire mast, rig and components are lightweight and made from materials such as carbon fibre and titanium.

To take advantage of the very narrow headsail sheeting angles, Rondal created a brand-new curved carbon fibre spreader design. This element is shorter and more aerodynamic than anything previously available. Rondal also supplied hybrid captive winches, hatches and various sail-handling gear.”

She’ll carry a crew of eight

While the finer details of Nilaya’s interior choices are yet to be disclosed, Nauta Design has revealed that the layout will be spacious, with a dining area and lounge beneath the deckhouse. In terms of accommodation, the full-beam master suite is located forward alongside an additional three guest cabins, as well as four cabins for a crew of eight.

“The owner is a quality maniac,” said Nauta co-founder Massimo Gino. “Not only this hybrid use of the two materials but the approach to saving weight while keeping quality and comfort was a great solution for this project.” 

"The choice of hull material did not alter the yacht’s interior design except as needed to adjust for framing dimensions, while the carbon composite coachroof preserved headroom. By developing the complete interiors in 3D and consequently by producing hundreds of high-quality 3D rendered views, of both general views and details, in several different revisions and options, we were able to fulfil the owners’ expectations for a light yet warm and welcoming interiors, which combine a modern look with classic elegance,” Gino added.

To find out more about the work of Nauta Design and its largest sailing yacht to date, Nilaya, contact the studio directly here.