It is the kind of weather that would strand most pleasure yachts in port. Force 5 wind, white-capped seas and gloomy skies — a proper winter storm that makes the summer splendour of the Côte d’Azur seem a distant memory. Not an ideal day for a sea trial then — except, perhaps, for testing 53.3 metre Galaxy of Happiness, a futuristic trimaran specifically designed for stability in rough seas.
Gleaming in silver, Galaxy of Happiness sits alone in Monaco harbour looking like a spaceship ready for take-off. While her profile is inarguably eye-catching, the aim of this project is function over fashion. Efficiency, stability and speed are the ultimate goals.
She comes from the drawing board of Jean-Jacques Coste, of Coste Design & Partners, the multihull specialist known for its sailing catamarans such as 29 metre Cartouche. Galaxy of Happiness sits is its first foray into powered multihulls, but it is one that has been a long time coming.
Coste has been working on powered trimaran concepts for more than a decade, fully formed with naval architecture work-ups and tank testing. “We were simply waiting for the right owner to come along,” says Coste. “I’m a sail guy but that market is now only five per cent. And when you’re thinking about power and a bigger yacht, a trimaran makes more sense than a catamaran.”
The right owner did emerge at last, a Russian client in his 40s. “Creator” might be a more appropriate term as this client breathed life into both Galaxy of Happiness and her sistership, Galaxy, keeping the latter for himself in Greece and gifting Galaxy of Happiness to a friend.
The twin yachts were built alongside one another at Latitude Yachts in Latvia and delivered last summer. They mark the first full superyacht projects for this young shipyard that previously concentrated on smaller boats, superyacht refits and some subcontracting work for northern European yards.
Latitude specialises in composite but it has also set up facilities where it can build in aluminium. The yard’s youth was a virtue, it turned out. Freed from the shackles of heritage, Latitude wasn’t afraid to take on the wild and new.
Only a handful of yachts have been launched in Latvia over the years, so it was an interesting choice. But the owner had worked with the yard already, when Latitude built a luxury riverboat for him years before.
“It’s still Europe,” says Maxim Lyashenko, Latitude’s business development manager, “it’s not an exotic country. We work with a top French designer, top suppliers. Our workers are northern European, very hard workers who take pride in their work and love what they do.” The big difference, he confirms, is that the man-hour rates are very low, allowing Latitude to offer a competitive price.
Galaxy and Galaxy of Happiness don’t share a mould as they were built in unison in female moulds out of composites, carbon fibre, fibreglass, epoxy resin and polyurethane foam materials using Gurit’s Sprint infusion process. The entire boat is also post cured, for a light and strong structure.
“The owner was attracted to the unconventional but he understood the other benefits of trimarans as well,” says Coste. “Style is subjective but naval architecture and efficiency is a fact.”
Efficiency is one of the biggest benefits of a trimaran configuration, Coste says, as they require 40 to 50 per cent less energy than a monohull of the same length. There is less drag than a monohull, and Galaxy of Happiness is also hybrid-powered, outfitted with electric engines that can be driven by the generators or run through a battery pack to deliver a silent mode at a speed of six to eight knots for several hours.
This meets the owner’s brief for quiet running while fishing off his yacht, and it helps when manoeuvring in harbours. Galaxy of Happiness also benefits from a “wing tunnel effect” between the main hull and each outrigger — their positioning perfectly calculated to create several tonnes of lift at full speed, further reducing drag.
The naval architecture is arguably more complicated than a monohull as the interaction between the three hulls must be taken into account. The outriggers must be of precise length and in exact positions, something that Coste reviewed at length in air flow tests and with computational fluid dynamics.
Tank testing showed just how stable this hull form is, one of the benefits of a beamy trimaran. They are also fast, as proved by the speed records set by sailing trimarans. Galaxy of Happiness tops out at 30 knots, powered by her twin 2,600hp MTU diesel engines, which are supplemented with 120kW electric engines, coupled to retractable props in the outriggers.
These shafts and props fold in at high speeds, reducing drag (while the main engines in the main hull drive the boat). Not many yachts can go 30 knots and have a transatlantic range as well. “Even the navy is looking at these types of boats because they can go fast in rough seas and have low fuel consumption with a good range [2,300 nautical miles] at cruising speed,” says Coste.
The benefits of a trimaran are obvious, but what do you give up? Space, for one thing. The narrow hull form means less room for cabins. Galaxy of Happiness has the equivalent volume of a 35 metre motor yacht, but then again she’s also the price of a 35 metre.
But you can’t judge a trimaran by monohull standards. Instead of a huge upper deck, the main aft deck is the entertainment hub, with plentiful sofas, sunpads and a long dining table topped in tiger eye stone that seats 12. The petite sundeck, meanwhile, still has the expected superyacht spa pool and bar.
The saloon is surprisingly spacious, although styled simply by this owner, who eschewed Coste’s recommendation to add a bar in the corner. He just wanted a sofa, games table and big dining table, so this is what is found in the lofty room that is well lit by an opening skylight above. The windows and skylight are LCD glass, which is dimmable.
Two separate superyacht staircases lead to the cabins, which are split with the master and a guest cabin aft and another guest cabin amidships. One staircase is framed by a masterful piece of architecture in carbon fibre. The entire interior is warmed by the owner’s choice of red-tinted mahogany floors and cherry joinery, also stained in a red varnish.
The bold choice gives a colourful contrast to the cool exterior. Coste’s company did the GA and even designed the furniture, while the interior décor was created in-house by the yard.
The portholes in the cabins all open, so a fresh breeze can flow through the interior. You can open the doors and skylight to get a current of wind that replaces the air conditioning, even in summer. Coste says he carried this over from the sailing catamaran world.
Originally intended for private use, the layout can accommodate a big family and has guest cabins with three beds apiece. You could picture the rooms reimagined with a larger wardrobe or sitting area instead of one of the beds if this wasn’t to the taste of a potential new owner. The owner who received Galaxy of Happiness as a gift found in the end that he wanted even more berths and is on the hunt for a larger yacht.
Although catching the eye isn’t the aim, there is no denying that Coste and Latitude are trying to attract a new type of client, one who is younger and more concerned about the environment, adventure and speed than yachting traditions — or perhaps who has had little experience in yachting at all. Coste thinks the trimaran, with its blend of unusual styling and efficient, speedy performance, could be just the ticket.
Despite the modern lines, Coste says his inspiration for the twin trimarans comes from some of the oldest craft in the world. “It’s not that we’re actually doing something new — just look at Polynesian pirogues. Multihulls are one of the earliest configurations because they are efficient and stable,” says Coste. “It’s the same as those wooden craft: long, narrow hull and two outriggers.”
Perhaps the multihull has been forgotten and it’s time for a revival or, in Coste’s opinion, a yacht design revolution. He points to the bareboat charter market in the Caribbean, where sailing cats have overtaken the fleet thanks to their stability and comfort on board.
In 20 years’ time, Coste suggests, trimarans could take over the superyacht fleet, or at least put a dent in it, as more owners seek the combined benefits of fuel savings and speed. Multihull superyachts offer that rare combination of being eco-conscious while reaching their adventurous destinations more quickly.
“There is a place in the market for people looking for something that is both fast and efficient,” says David Legrand, of Fraser. “Perhaps it could appeal to the Mangusta owner, offering enough speed but not be prohibited by range.” He admits the multihull market is still a niche one, but for the younger millionaires who enjoy self-sufficiency it’s an appealing proposition.
It’s hard to ignore the elephant in the room — Galaxy of Happiness is reminiscent of Adastra, which similarly turned heads with her launch in 2012. Of course, there are plenty of white, multi-tiered yachts but with Galaxy of Happiness’s space-craft exterior the resemblance is more striking.
According to Coste, this was never the intention. The creator/owner of the Galaxy vessels explored several styles before settling on this design, but in the end this met the brief of the owner more than Coste’s original ideas did. The owner specifically wanted a flowing, winged superstructure, without a flat windscreen and no reverse bow.
Staying under 300GT was also part of the aim, a challenge in a 53 metre. But even so, Coste is quick to point out the differences. “Adastra is much more soft and curvy, we are more straight,” he says. “And we are much faster than Adastra,” a fact that Coste attributes to the wing tunnel lift advantage.
It certainly proves true. Galaxy of Happiness is sure-footed in the choppy seas. Up on the flybridge there is some wetness, to be expected on a rough day, but noticeably far less rolling than a monohull. Inside the saloon, it is whisper quiet and so calm that you can’t tell we’ve hit a top speed of 29.5 knots.
It’s a boat that you feel comfortable going to sea in, and in conditions that would keep most monohulls in port. And best of all, you wouldn’t have to stodgily roll through the waves at an economical speed but could take off near top speed and get to safe harbour faster and in more comfort, although maybe not slip into every port.
This is just a sample of the possibilities of the trimaran platform. Coste shares the renderings for a number of other concepts that use other superstructures on the same hull form employed in the Galaxy twins. It is remarkable how different from Galaxy of Happiness they are and they display how a semi-custom platform could easily be born, offering a variety of exterior profiles and layouts.
One version has two decks with Portuguese bridge style windows reminiscent of a sailing catamaran wrapping all the way around — more of a floating loft than a spaceship. An 88 metre and 100 metre are also in development. A bold owner, other multihull projects ready and waiting and a yard willing to do things differently — for Coste, good things come in threes it seems.
First published in the April 2017 edition of Boat International