The Maxi Dolphin FC 100 high-speed cruising yacht

20 January 2015 • Written by Tim Thomas
The FC100 has employed extreme structural and design solutions from Finot Conq and SP Gurit to ensure that weight is kept within a strict 51-tonne limit

Sitting in a deli-restaurant in a small town in Lombardy, I approach my Milanese risotto with the chef’s instructions still sounding in my ears. The rice has been carefully sat atop a layer of Parmesan ice cream, and the directions are simple but unusual: eat vertically. It sounds like an unlikely combination, but that act of eating vertically proves a revelation – it is quite simply one of the best risotto dishes I have ever tasted.

I am enjoying dinner with Marco Ramundo, chief executive of the Maxi Dolphin shipyard, and the parallels between the risotto dish and a project that Maxi Dolphin is currently cooking up suddenly seem very apparent. In build at the yard near Brescia is an extraordinary 30m sailing yacht, which has been designed to be one of the fastest cruising superyachts yet conceived.

Designed by Finot Conq, the FC 100 has its sights set high – speeds of up to 28 knots have been predicted in the design VPP software. Naturally, she is full-carbon, but the build has gone beyond compromise in searching for every possible way of stripping weight out of the hull, fit-out, finish and equipment, to ensure she hits that target speed when she launches early in 2013.

Finot Conq designed a super-fast cruiser, and post-design they had to find someone able to build such a difficult yacht

Marco Ramundo, chief executive, Maxi Dolphin

Finot Conq is well known for its extreme racing machines such as Hugo Boss and other Open 60s as well as cruising yachts. The FC 100 was created for an owner looking for the ultimate cruiser in his first sailing yacht.

Her race heritage is obvious, not only from the choice of construction materials – carbon and Nomex, with honeycomb used extensively for the interiors – but also in her lines. She carries a hard chine all the way aft; her ballast comes from a deep-draught lifting keel and water ballast tanks; and she holds her 8.3m beam almost to the transom.

‘Our client is an ambitious person looking for something special,’ explains Ramundo. ‘Finot Conq designed a super-fast cruiser, and post-design they had to find someone able to build such a difficult yacht – difficult because it has to be built in very light materials to meet a strict weight target.’

That weight target is key to the project – an all-up displacement of just 51 tonnes. With Maxi Dolphin having launched a 20.4m in 2011 with a very similar philosophy, the timing was just right – and with the yard’s solid financial foundations (it is part of the extensive Terra Moretti Group) – it was a natural choice for the build of the FC100.

Seeing the yacht under construction, and before the interior has been fitted, it is clear that this is an unusual build.

The FC 100 is full carbon and the builders have taken every effort to reduce weight

Only the FC100’s key bulkheads are connected directly to the hull, with voids and spaces around other bulkheads and partitions emphasising the complex structural design and the focus on saving weight in every area.

‘There has been a big effort to develop a complicated structure for stiffness while achieving the minimum weight possible,’ says Luca Botter, sales manager at Maxi Dolphin.

The hull is built in carbon pre-preg with a Nomex core, and everything is designed and built along the same lines as an America’s Cup yacht, with a slight added safety margin due to the cruising nature of the FC100. A foam core runs along the centreline from the stem, and strength has been added in for the slamming areas.

‘The structure was designed by Finot Conq,’ explains Giovanni Pizzatti, nautical engineer at Maxi Dolphin. ‘Then we discussed the best way to build it. It is a thick sandwich hull with good rigidity, and it has a strong chine that works as reinforcement. The stringers and bulkheads are attached to the inner skin using a special lamination method that increases the strength of the bonding.

‘Anything non-structural is not attached – if it needs to touch the hull, it has to be scantled to take the load, so much of the structure is floating. This is true even for bulkheads – if they are not taking loads they fly, and this helps save weight. It is the first yacht we have built this way. The composites in the hull had to be within 12 tonnes, and we were very, very close with the hull – just a few kilos out, in fact.’

Only elements that are designed to be structural are attached to FC 100's hull due its Nomex core

The keel is all-carbon and weighs in at 1,100 kilos, with the lifting mechanism designed entirely in titanium for further weight saving. Moreover, the whole build is mounted on four load sensors, so that total weight and the centre of gravity can be monitored at every stage of the build. Unsurprisingly, it has been a complicated process.

‘Originally, the idea was to have teak decks aft and non-skid forward, but that was changed to full teak, so the weight also changed. The owner wanted 800 kilos for the whole of the interior, but we have so far spent 450 kilos on the engine room,’ says Botter.

‘With the added teak on the decks, we are less than 800 kilos from the limit of what is expected, so now we have extended the fin of the keel by half a metre, which has meant we can reduce the bulb weight by one tonne.’

At a projected final ballast weight of between 10 and 12 tonnes, it seems somewhat small for a 30m, but then the FC100 also employs a pump and gravity-fed water ballast system with tanks either side capable of adding nine tonnes of additional ballast per tack. This has also highlighted other problems. While the tanks are filled using a hydrodynamic scoop, the water inlets for the engine and generator cooling, along with watermakers and other systems, have required specific research and development.

‘The problem of these systems is the projected speed of the design,’ says Maxi Dolphin’s Marco Martinazzi. ‘Getting water in is difficult. So we went to a hydrodynamic studio to work on shapes to get water for the various systems, which has led to funny shaped intakes leading to a central manifold that feeds all systems.’

The generators have a power take-off for the hydraulics systems, while the electrical system itself has been developed and refined over several iterations to save as much weight as possible. Core to the system now are lithium-ion batteries and two small gensets rated at just 10kW and 24kW. Even the air-conditioning system has been trimmed down, rated at just 80,000BTU instead of a more usual 130,000BTU for a yacht of this size.

From the pre-preg hull lay-up, the build has progressed to where the decks and the interiors are being finished

The interior too has been subjected to the ultimate diet. All heads are carbon, weighing just 6.5 kilos each; the furniture supports, doors and any other interior fitting are honeycomb-cored, with additional wood applied only where necessary to take screws.

‘Everything has been researched to be as light as possible, even down to the door hinges, while keeping top quality,’ says Maxi Dolphin’s Leopoldo Angiolli. ‘It could be that the door handles end up weighing more than the doors…’

The yacht will also feature minimal insulation. Most elements are mounted on isolating rubber blocks, but look under the berths or in hidden corners and you’d be lucky to find even a coat of paint.

The FC100 will carry a square-topped main on a giant Lorimar rig expected to stand 46m tall, with sail-handling controlled by two primaries, three winches on the mast, a hydraulic traveller, two manual backstay winches and a Magic Trim system that will also control the lifting keel mechanism. The genoa sheets have been specced to take loads of up to 13 tonnes, while the forestay chainplate has a design load of an impressive 100 tonnes.

There is no question that the FC 100 is going to be a real head-turner when she launches early next year

The vast beam aft will make for a prodigious guest cockpit, with the helm stations located well aft. Forward, the sleek coachroof sits atop what will be an impressive deck saloon with 360° views. Steps heading aft from the deck saloon will lead to the galley and crew areas, while the bulk of the guest cabins are located amidships and forward, with one located aft to starboard from the saloon. One of the highlights will be a carbon chart table with an integrated chair, all of which can be canted.

The interior is being built in-house at Maxi Dolphin, and will be fully fitted, then removed for painting before final fit-out.

There is no question that the FC100 is going to be a real head-turner when she launches early next year. The lateral – and vertical – thinking that has gone into every stage of the design and build is evident in every corner of her hull. On launch, her sea trials will be an 800-mile passage to Malta, followed by a full ocean-going test.

If she achieves her target speed of 28 knots she will be one of the fastest sailing yachts on the water, certainly in terms of cruisers. It’s a delicious prospect. Even more delicious, in fact, than that vertical-eating Milanese risotto…

Originally published: November 2012.

Tim Thomas

George Guest for SuperYacht Media

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