Luca Santella lifts the lid on Bluegame’s hydrogen-powered America’s Cup chase cat.
Bluegame’s head of product strategy, Luca Santella, is also a former Olympic sailor. So when reigning America’s Cup champion Emirates Team New Zealand decreed that all teams in the 2024 America’s Cup competition would need a hydrogen-powered support vessel at least 10 metres long, with a top speed of 50 knots and a 180-nautical-mile range, Santella’s strategic, competitive and architecturally driven mind sprang into action. He conceived Bluegame’s own hydrogen-powered foiling cat, and the design was so tempting that team American Magic asked for one.
What’s the design focus?
The boat is very much like a Formula 1 car. Performance is the priority for everybody, starting with the design and entailing the engineering as well. Weight was very important (it’s 100 per cent carbon fibre) and efficiency too, but we couldn’t sacrifice ergonomics either. We chose a sleek profile and an enclosed cockpit, because we had to consider that the boat would be used many hours a day at high speeds. We chose the catamaran design for two reasons. Firstly, it was the best way to create space on board, and, secondly, because we are soon launching a Bluegame catamaran, the first multihull in Bluegame and (parent company) Sanlorenzo’s history. We wanted to show what we can do.
Tell us about the performance
At 23 or 24 knots it gets up on its foils and then goes up to 50 knots. It’s partly boat and partly airplane so we need a flight controller and software for controlling the boat’s flight.
What challenges have you had?
The difficulty has been to put together a very large and complicated thing with a bunch of specialists. Some guys do the foils, some do the composites, etc. There is a huge combination of expertise to be managed. There is a lot of know-how, a lot of emotions and a yearning for excellence. But thankfully egos have not been a problem. These guys are very humble. They all have America’s Cup experience. It’s been a joy to work with them.
How will your boat be different than the New Zealand boat?
We will have more Italian style, of course! It will be sleeker and more elegant, I think. And also we have some features onboard that we don’t think the Kiwis will have, but we are being quiet about them for now. We are working very hard and the project is going along as we planned though, that much I can tell you.
What is next for Bluegame?
We are very enthusiastic about our first catamaran yacht, the BGM75, and then there will be a smaller catamaran after that. Also, by 2026, we will have the first catamaran with hybrid propulsion— Volvo Pentas paired with hydrogen electric generation.