Advances in design of performance cruising yachts

The Superyacht Design Symposium was held in Miami this year and drew some of the biggest names in the industry for two days of lively interactive presentation and debate about prevalent issues in superyacht design.

Owners, designers, builders and project managers convened at the luxurious Mandarin Oriental, Miami on the stunning Florida coastline for the 2012 Symposium, With over 30 expert speakers and an impressive list of attendees, this 2012 Symposium confirmed its status as the must-attend event for all superyacht professionals and enthusiasts from around the globe.

Merfyn Owen was delighted to be invited to attend on behalf of Owen Clarke Design and present during a forum that  discussed the extent of trickledown of technology into superyacht design from racing yachts, it's relevancy and the direction this might take in the future. Each speaker was presented with five questions and there followed a thirty minute question and answer session with the audience.

Q:      Owen Clarke Design, or OCD, is best known for designing racing boats where performance is usually equated with speed. How would you describe performance in terms of superyacht design?

OCD describe performance and work with clients using the analogy of a graphic equaliser, where separate performance indicators can be adjusted by the designer and project team to produce the ‘perfect mix’.

Most factors can be included and defined by seven controls:

Safety/reliability            Response/feel          Functionality/Efficiency                Aesthetics/style    Eco/environment           Comfort/fit out          Speed outright/speed average

Whether we are designing short-handed offshore boats, trans-oceanic racing yachts, or blue water cruisers, each of these factors is significant to a greater or lesser extent – and dictated both by the client’s personal preference and the boat’s operating environment - so we have take them all into account in every design we have completed in recent years. The first four of these factors are a ‘given’, and important for both racing and cruising, so just need to be tweaked to suit. You might say that the last two factors, comfort versus speed, are the main trade-off items when comparing racing and cruising design. Clearly one doesn’t have to choose between the two though – fast can be comfortable, and comfortable can also be fast. It’s all a matter of degree.


Q:      Tell us about one design element from your racing experience that OCD apply to performance cruising design.

Although we have designed in steel and aluminium, a light carbon hull, rig and sails go without saying when we’re thinking of performance cruising nowadays. We also strongly believe however to design a large performance cruising boat one has to have a deep keel and a lead bulb.

As cruising yachts increase in length and displacement their sail-plans become so powerful that they require ever larger area foils beneath the water to stop them sailing sideways.  However, at some point draft becomes prohibitive and keels have either to go no deeper, or one has a deeper keel that can lift.

The deeper the keel, the lighter the bulb can be, for the same stability.  So, we can either have a lighter faster yacht and/or build in a greater level of comfort.

Through good design one can produce lifting keels that are cost effective, reliable and also discrete – Angels Share, Spirit of Adventure and Liara are all examples of performance cruising yachts that OCD have worked on that have deep draft lifting keels.

Owen Clarke 65 performance blue water cruising yacht

Q:      One can imagine how feel and response play a part in racing yacht design, but how do they feature in cruising design, and how do these factors influence ease of handling.

Feel and response and ease of handling are linked.  A performance yacht can be fast, responsive but at the same time dynamically stable.

With excellent handling characteristics transferred from Open 60 know how, we know we can make any manoeuvre or sail change in any conditions under auto-pilot.

For the owner this translates into the response and feel of a smaller sailboat, a connection to the elements through the rudder and through your feet. The yacht will naturally be responsive to the helm and to the trim of sails, the boat will be alive but under absolute control. Of course a yacht like this can be sailed fast and she will be a thrill to sail. However this also means in light airs the engine can remain off and in moderate breeze she can be cruised well inside her performance envelope, in great comfort at only a fraction of her potential but still putting easy miles under her keel.

In parallel the short-handed sailing boats I design and race have to have efficient deck and sail-plans that enable one person to carrying out all manouvres and sail changes. This technology working alongside systems developed within the superyacht industry can and has transferred up to large cruising yachts where layouts requiring fewer crew are less intrusive and provide more living space for guests and owner.

Owen Clarke 130 performance blue water cruising yacht

Q:      Eco’s one of your seven factors, why?

Because ECO is here and it’s what we all have to consider going forward.  It started for us with Mike Golding’s Open 60, Ecover 2 and continued when we co-designed Ecover 3 with American designer Clay Oliver.

The subject is has been on some superyacht owners minds for a long time. In 2009 we were approached to design a 45m blue water cruising yacht with reduced fossil fuel dependency. Of course, on a superyacht where we’re dealing with compressors for freezers, A/C etc it’s more of a challenge to use no fossil fuels at all, but we have to do our best to lower emissions because concern for the environment is more and more important in all aspects of life.

Coincidentally a year ago our eighth and latest Open 60 design Acciona was launched. As with previous designs she’s built from carbon pre-preg, designed using CFD, tank tested, engineered with FEA and is one of three of our 60’s will start next month’s 30,000 mile non-stop Vendee Globe. However, what makes her truly unique is that she will be racing with no fossil fuels whatsoever onboard. Power is created using only solar panels and a pair of retractable hydro-generators. This is the first yacht of its kind in modern history but she won’t be the last.

 Training before the 1.500 miles calification

Owen Clarke IMOCA Open 60 – Acciona

Q:      Your website says you design fast and beautiful boats. The ‘fast’ element seems to be a given - can you provide an example of ‘beautiful’?

Aesthetics are as important in a racing yacht as a cruising yacht. Our clients have always wanted to look good as well as sail fast. We have been told that the OCD look is bold, beautiful and that our style is cutting edge. Like all designers we’ll produce an interpretation of the client’s ideas but we’re also not afraid of proposing something different. This 40m design contains both element.

  • The guest cockpit leads into the main saloon, pretty standard, but it was the client’s requirements that lead to the innovative sliding glass roof creating the ability to offer a choice of two different spaces in one, conventional or outside living.
  • This future classic ‘Delta’ shaped hull means that the yacht cruises upwind and reaches at low angles of heel compared to a conventional design. Downwind she is even more stable.
  • The internal volume is greater with an owners’ stateroom that leads on to the private aft deck with impressive effect, creating a larger than normal lazarette for cruising toys.

We think she’s an elegant home from home, with leading edge technology producing functional, effortless sailing in style and comfort – designed to be head-turning in marinas and breath-taking on the water. 

Owen Clarke 130 high performance racer/cruiser


Privacy Policy | Web Design By Toolkit Websites