Careful design has packed speed and comfort into the long, lean aesthetic of the new 50-metre Columbus K2
A couple of trends have influenced yacht design in the past few years – one consists of packing as much volume as possible on to a shorter hull, which results in a tall structure and capacious dimensions; the other takes the opposite direction, keeping the height low and lines long. K2, a 50-metre tri-deck built at Palumbo Superyachts shipyard in Ancona, Italy, with exterior design by Luca Dini, abides by the second school of thought: long lines, a low profile (generous headroom notwithstanding) and a volume just shy of 500GT.
This figure is important because, beyond that 500GT mark, a yacht becomes subject to a slew of additional certifications under international rules designed for ships. They’re applicable to everything from machinery to construction materials, adding substantial cost and time to the build for features that don’t make sense on a yacht of this size. Striking the right balance is a high-stakes game. “This is a complex recipe, and you have to be careful with the ingredients,” says Gianpaolo Lapenna, COO of Palumbo Superyachts.
A few requirements made it even more complex than usual to achieve that balance on this 50-metre yacht. For instance, the owner chose to include an enclosed garage – rather than open-air, on-deck storage, which would not count in the calculation of gross tonnage – and he wanted a shallow draught, which implied a wider beam, a quick way to boost the volume.
These also had implications in terms of the exterior design, of course, although the owner did not start from a blank sheet of paper. A previous boat served as a point of reference: his Columbus Sport 40-metre, a yacht with a vertical bow, fleeting lines and moderate speed but generous spaces. He liked the attributes of the previous yacht, particularly its “sporty exterior profile, straight bow and large spaces”, says Giampaolo Lo Conte, the owner’s representative, but in time realised some custom-made spaces, such as a full-size gym, would enhance his experience. Together with his team, he started thinking about a larger yacht “in keeping with the concept of the Columbus Sport line”.
They worked out the concept with Palumbo and yacht designer and architect Luca Dini – who has been working closely with the shipyard in recent years on interior as well as exterior design – for a larger yacht with some of the attributes they enjoyed on their previous boat.
“We wanted a contemporary-style yacht with sporty lines that respected some specific design details such as being fast, suitable for shallow waters and extremely comfortable – and, by comfortable, we also meant quiet during navigation,” says Lo Conte. “Another main element on our wish list was a clear distinction of the outdoor areas: on the upper deck, we wanted a Jacuzzi forward and a dining area for 12 in the stern; whereas the main deck had to accommodate a lounge area with a dedicated bar.”
The designer considered all these elements and came up with a suitable envelope for a sub-500GT yacht. The gross tonnage, says Dini, “influenced the whole layout and appearance of the exterior. But I am very pleased to have managed to win this challenge while maintaining harmony and functionality,” he says. “It is a yacht that reflects the personality but also the style and approach to life of its owner: elegant, refined, attentive, demanding, but also a traveller, sporty and open-minded.”
The Florentine designer also developed the layout and the interior design, which no doubt accounts for the cohesiveness of the whole. Working both on the interior and exterior design makes it easier, “to find unexpected solutions and to maximise the fluidity of the environments,” says Dini. “The layout pays particular attention to the fluidity of the spaces, to light, but above all to the liveability of the outdoor spaces.”
This includes a careful study of zones of light and shade, which is best exemplified by the generous overhang of the upper deck that shelters the outdoor lounge/bar on the main deck. This elegant and useful feature proved to be an engineering challenge, says Sergio Cutolo, owner of Hydro Tec. Cutolo was the exterior designer and naval architect on the shipyard’s flagship, the 80-metre Dragon, and the Columbus Sport 40-metre before that. He joined the new project’s team to help sort out the engineering and tonnage calculations of what would become the first of a new line. (The shipyard has sold a second hull, which is under construction at its Ancona facility.)
“The boat is quite complex,” says Cutolo. The owner wanted a draught of no more than 2.2 metres – achieved in part by a beam of just over nine metres and deep tunnels for the propellers – and a top speed of no less than 20 knots. That was an interesting task for the naval architect. “Today I am known as the explorer guy,” he says, “but any time I can go back to fast aluminium boats I am happy.
“Design-wise, we stayed very much on the lines of the 40-metre, but we have a better length-to-beam ratio,” he says. “We designed very sharp hull lines and when you accelerate it takes 20 or 30 seconds to reach the top speed, which is around 21 or 21.5 knots [above the contract speed of 20 knots], depending on the conditions. The bow is very fine and just below the anchor pocket there is a generous riser. The volumes grow immediately about the waterline. This keeps the spray very low.”
Helping to reach the optimal riding attitude and the top speed are interceptors and four fins from Naiad, a configuration that Cutolo, based on his experience with hydrofoil fast ferries, prefers to two large fins. They improve the seakeeping (and comfort at anchor, of course) while being easier to fit within the hull structure. The engines are relatively modest – two MTU 16V2000 M96L engines, developing 1,939kW each, which translates to a 70-litre fuel consumption at 10 knots. At 12 knots, the yacht has a reported range of 3,000 nautical miles.
Lapenna, who describes himself as a technician, is very happy with a top speed that flirts with 22 knots on relatively small engines. It’s too easy, he says, to throw in a lot of power to compensate for a sluggish hull. In the 1930s and 1970s, during periods when fuel was rare and very expensive, naval architecture was the most important discipline in shipbuilding, he points out, adding that some of the best hulls were designed in the 1930s.
One sure way to achieve the speed, of course, is to keep the yacht light-footed. And that was another challenge, knowing the owner’s team did not want to compromise on luxury and comfort. The yacht was built to RINA class for unlimited navigation and complies with MCA rules so it can be chartered. K2, which is managed for charter by Fraser, entered the charter market as one of only six brand-new yachts (45 to 55 metres long) to be delivered in 2021, according to Daniela De Marco, Fraser’s head of charter management Europe.
Planning in part for her duties in charter, the owner’s team chose sturdy and reliable equipment – for example, a tropical-air-friendly Heinen & Hopman climate system. The yacht’s interior, while very much to the owner’s liking, will also work well for charter clients, in that it is elegant and comfortably modern. “Her interior by Luca Dini is one of the best I have seen on any yacht – full of light and extremely stylish,” says De Marco. Five cabins offer optimal comfort to 11 guests who will enjoy highly personalised service since the yacht was planned for 11 crew. Although the galley has a smaller footprint than the gym, a central island and a large pantry make it user-friendly.
In the guest areas the feeling is laid-back and refined. Dini describes the ensemble of light veneer (sycamore), with darker accents (ziricote) underlined by stainless steel and lacquer details, marbles with geometric patterns, Italian furnishings – many from Fendi’s collection – and rich fabrics and leather, as “elegant, luxurious, and reassuring as well as clean, bright, harmonious and consistent with the owner’s character.”
The designer designed for the future. “We wanted to preserve a masculine feel, especially in the selection of colours, thus maintaining a contemporary, decisive and, at the same time relaxing, timeless style so that [the yacht] will retain a pleasant appeal even in a few years,” Dini says. “Then we let ourselves be guided by the owner’s passion for art, not only by creating special spaces to house the works of art but also by giving the interior a precious and therefore reassuringly luxurious touch.”
The exterior spaces are equally attractive, with the foredeck lounge and its private spa pool a personal favourite of Dini’s. “It is the place where I would like to spend time: a space away from prying eyes but overlooking the sea, an open and fun multi-functional space,” he says.
There is also plenty of room, as the owner requested, for dinner en plein air on the upper deck, an upper saloon that works well for movie night, a beach club for daydreaming by the water and an articulated platform to ease swimmers or kayaks into the sea. K2 is an elegant addition to the yacht fleet returning to the Mediterranean this summer. And she is no lightweight: under her lean lines, she packs a lot of comfort.