The rapid evolution in sailing superyachts has proved that seaworthy, attractive and comfortable boats can be designed and built in almost any format: ultra-modern and sleek carbon racer-cruisers for the Mediterranean; deep-ocean, retro-classics capable of a circumnavigation; J Class throwbacks; a three-masted, square-rigged clipper; flying bridge, lifting-keel sloops, ketches or schooners that make small harbours and secluded, remote bays a destination option.
Advances in technology and design have established that levels of comfort on board a sailing superyacht are comparable to those normally found on large motor yachts: internal volume, on-board entertainment, communications, climate control and an extensive inventory of toys are a prerequisite and sailing superyachts can now absorb almost any demand made by an owner in terms of comfort. However, just as the evolution and development of sailing superyachts appeared to be settling into a gentle progression, a new demand has to be met: performance.
The introduction of superyacht regattas and bucket regattas provides an opportunity for big boat owners and crew to observe how yachts perform in competition and under fire. For many, the attraction is social; for others, the sheer spectacle of glamorous yachting hardware thundering around a race course is enough. For some owners, though, the racing demonstrates that their yacht is struggling against the opposition. One remedy is to hire or invite a professional, highly experienced after guard to improve results. However, there is the ultimate realisation that their yacht is simply not designed for performance. So is there a yacht available for these owners? Is there a superyacht that combines comfort and elegance without compromising on performance?
The answer may be found in the concept 60m High-Performance Cruiser (HPC60) – a collaboration between naval architects Donald L Blount and Associates (DLBA) of Chesapeake, Virginia; performance yacht designers Mills Design of Kilbride, Ireland; and the English marine interior designers Redman Whiteley Dixon. The trigger for the project was an informal conversation, explains Dr Robert Ranzenbach at DLBA.
‘The impetus was at a conference and I heard a gentleman talking about racing at a bucket regatta,’ he says. ‘He expressed his interest in a more high-performance yacht as a result of a recent third place finish in a regatta and also because he wished for even better success in the future.’
The initial challenge for the Anglo-Irish-American design triumvirate was to create a yacht with accommodation for an owner and eight guests in a high-performance hull. A rig, appendage package and sail plan would then be devised to compliment the hull. A further, crucial, design component was the drive to maximise the overall helming and sailing experience.
For Mark Mills, head of Mills Design, the project was a blank canvas.
‘DLBA are the point of the arrow here,’ explains Mills. ‘Rob brought it all together. The owner in question has had a couple of big boats in the past and was interested in increased performance without compromising the interior amenities. That was the focal point and the brief at the outset.’
Initial weight estimates, a target displacement and internal volume were targeted.
‘We wanted to establish what the minimum displacement was for that level of amenities,’ says Mills.
To reach the targets and incorporate an interior that would be familiar on a 45m to 50m yacht produced a stretched hull to 54m at the water line, a narrowed beam of 11m and a displacement of 370 metric tonnes. To achieve the hull shape, the team studied and applied America’s Cup computational fluid dynamics (CFD) data producing a plumb bow and a fine entry with a broad, 7.1m long stern overhang: a combination that will supply a reduced wetted surface when the boat is upright in light airs, but increased overall length when heeled and fully powered.
The design of the 70m rig was kept simple using high-modulus carbon with swept spreaders, non-overlapping jibs and a mast head, asymmetric spinnaker. Below the waterline, the keel and bulb exceed 70 tonnes and the 8m draught (5m with the keel raised) provide an impressive ballast ratio and righting moment potentially supplying stable and fast sailing.
The overall style for the HPC60's exterior is already set.
The aft 'beach deck' is close to the waterline, dispensing with the need for heavy hydraulic arrangements for swim ladders or tender-boarding walkways which would add weight at the stern. A spa pool is fitted at the forward end of the aft deck. All freestanding furniture on deck can be quickly and unobtrusively stowed, and forward of the mast, two 5m tenders are stowed below decks.
It is the flying bridge, however, that is the yacht's most appealing feature, offering over 40 square metres of space for sunbathing and entertaining, in addition to twin, cantilevered helm stations that are suspended over the side decks at the yacht's maximum beam a location that Ranzenbach believes will provide 'a unique helming experience'.
Internally, the HPC60 has a full beam owner's cabin furthest aft with private access to the beach deck, two twin cabins with en suite showers, and two en suite double cabins furthest forward against the engine room and lifting keel bulkhead. Forward of the mast, accommodation for 10 crew, the galley and crew mess area is split over three levels with a separate staircase to the main deck saloon via the navigation area.
The internal design layout by Redman Whiteley Dixon is a footprint for a potential owner.
'There's not a specific style for the interior,' explains Ranzenbach. 'It seems to me that we have done this layout in a way that is consistent with this type of boat, but it would be individually styled to the client,' he adds.
While the specific interior design style and choice of materials to be used awaits direct input from an owner, the selection of construction materials for the HPC60 will also be tailored to an individual client.
'We had a number of discussions internally about how to proceed with the construction materials and we felt that once you pick the materials you cleave the project down the middle,' says Ranzenbach. 'This severely limits the options available in choosing a yard for a project like this.'
Consequently, DLBA have decided to keep every practical option open.
'As we didn't have a specific customer, we couldn't focus on a particular yard,' Ranzenbach confirms. 'It will be very dependent on the owner's individual requirements, what level of comfort he demands and on which yard he wants to work with. So, rather than making a choice that would limit us, we chose to leave it unspecified.'
Drawings courtesy of DLBA