When Heesen laid the keel of what is now Galactica Star there was no mistaking its importance, not only for the yard itself but also as a proof of concept. The largest Heesen built to date, she uses the patented Fast Displacement Hull Form (FDHF) developed by Dutch naval architect Van Oossanen & Associates. The principle was simple: draw a slender hull with a bulb to take the concept into fast semi-displacement speeds with highly efficient cruising capability. Add distinctive lines – drawn by Frank Laupman – that recall the Heesen signature look but which have evolved into an exciting new profile, and throw in a huge beach club and you have a 65-metre yacht that excites on every level.
That excitement mounted right from the sea trials. ‘Sea trials are always a special occasion and, of course, there is usually a slight feeling of tension,’ says Perry van Oossanen, one of the key naval architects on the project. ‘In this particular case – the first time our FDHF concept was being tested for real – there was maybe a bit more tension than usual.’ He shouldn’t have worried. The design iterations were finalised through extensive CFD analysis by Van Oossanen’s in-house specialists, and through model testing at the Wolfson Unit in Southampton, UK. ‘During the sea trials,’ Van Oossanen continues, ‘the maximum speed (averaged over a number of runs) was 28.8 knots, and in one particular run we maxed out well above 30 knots.’
The yacht has proved herself not only in top speed, though. ‘As a sea boat, she handles well,’ enthuses her captain. ‘Going into a 1.5-metre swell at between 20 and 25 knots, she was comfortable, and from the bridge you feel like you’re doing 12 knots. She’s really quiet and comfortable. All the sound measurements were way below target. Moreover, she’s really efficient at slower speeds: at 15 knots we burn 400 litres or less of fuel an hour. She does get thirsty at the very top end, though – around 2,500 litres an hour at maximum speed.’
It is quickly apparent that this is a special yacht for more than just her hull form. Beyond the large bathing platform, a gaping, atmospheric beach club invites you to relax. Dappled secondary light through the glass base of the aft deck pool creates shimmering patterns on the deck, and beyond a large seating area, served by a bar to starboard and with a second large fold-down platform to port, offers a spot to watch films or enjoy the epic sound system that has been installed throughout. Forward, the bulkhead hides doors to a sauna, dayhead and engine room access.
The main deck aft continues the theme of luxurious living and inside-outside concepts. A large aft pool peeps out from under the dramatic sweep of the superstructure arch line, while forward a generous part-shaded seating area forms a magnificent entertaining space. These large outside areas are continued elsewhere, too. Forward on the bridge deck a spacious seating and table area leads to a large area that acts as a dancefloor as well as a touch-and-go helipad. The upper aft deck offers outside dining, while the sun deck includes an aft spa pool, bar and dining area amidships under the radar arch, a buffet station and forward seating and sunning spot.
The master suite is set forward, with a full-beam bathroom, office area and generous dressing rooms. Aft, past the foyer, the main saloon area has been cleverly designed around the minor intrusion of engine room ducting to create three distinct but connected spaces. Forward is the formal dining area, and aft the comfortable seating area leading to that generous aft deck, while between them lies a bar to port and comfortable armchairs in front of a working fire to starboard – a club area, if you will.
The four guest cabins are located on the lower deck, with two aft doubles that offer forward sofa seating areas, and two forward doubles that maintain generous space in spite of the relative restrictions of the hull form. The crew area is forward of this, with the tender garage located one deck up in the forward part of the hull.
Notable is the interior styling, conceived by the Bannenberg & Rowell studio. Here, rather than changing colours, materials and themes from space to space, the entire interior is a coherent, yet interesting, whole. ‘It is a deliberately uniform, unified, knocked back interior,’ explains Dickie Bannenberg, ‘even to the choice of the marbles – there’s only two or three, and they have that striated, almost woodgrain effect. The key materials used throughout are brushed spruce, Macassar ebony, a lot of polished stainless and nickel, rippled sycamore for the doors, and some pretty judicious use of silver carbon fibre (known as Texalium).’
Bannenberg & Rowell was also commissioned to help select the various artworks on board Galactica Star, which complement and contrast with the muted palette. ‘It was just fantastic for us,’ Bannenberg enthuses. ‘The interior lent itself perfectly for great striking pieces of art so we spent a few days going around London galleries and private dealers just acquiring pieces with specific areas in mind.’
The art and style continues through to the exterior design, and those sweeping lines that make Galactica Star both sleek and striking. ‘You see a lot of high-volume yachts from other shipyards,’ says Frank Laupman from Omega Architects. ‘I really wanted to design a much lighter 65 metre, elegant and sporty, fitting into the “Heesen niche”. The concept started as a vertical bow design, which I already had before we were briefed. By integrating the aft overhang with the hull, I knew that the ratio of the body and the rest of the superstructure would change and influence the perception of scale. It took us a long time to figure that out. At the same time, we created this inside-outside space on the main deck aft around the pool. It adds a protected area with half light, which you would really need in a yacht of this size. One of my favourite elements is the sporty “helmet” design of the superstructure and the consequent detailing of the exterior glued glass, which we did together with the Heesen team. She has exactly the right amount of innovation.’
The team will be making one or two tweaks – for example, the Seakeeper gyro stabilisers are a little underpowered and will be uprated to a high speed of revolution, and the entire AV system is being upgraded by VBH to a system from California Audio Technology with full iPad control – but on the whole the yacht has proven a considerable triumph right from launch. If you wanted further evidence of this, consider that her owner stepped on board as the yacht left Rotterdam and didn’t get off for six weeks. As we tour her grand spaces and enjoy her seductive lines – and, of course, revel in the magnificent beach club – the crew are busy preparing to take her to Ibiza for another cruise with the owner. It is not hard to see why he loves this yacht so much: whether it’s her chic, interesting interior or those grand deck spaces, or simply the option to cruise with high economy or get somewhere quickly if he’s in a hurry, Galactica Star is a worthy flagship for the Heesen yard. As we leave her the following day, swinging to anchor in another glorious Sardinian bay, all eyes are fixed on her until she finally drops out of view. There aren’t many yachts that hold that allure.Featured in the October 2013 issue of Boat International magazine
Jeff Brown/Superyacht Media