Panamax sloop Nilaya reached another milestone with her departure from her construction hall at the builder’s Vollenhove facility in preparation for the installation of her towering rig in Amsterdam. This highly anticipated superyacht is the first to utilize Royal Huisman’s new Featherlight™ design and production method. Continuous weight monitoring throughout the build of Project 405 aka Reichel / Pugh - Nauta 154, confirms the Dutch builder has achieved its goal of slicing 11% of the weight of its typical advanced aluminum cruising yachts. Most importantly, it has reduced weight without sacrificing stiffness or cutting corners on quality for this high-performance cruiser. The shipyard’s revolutionary Featherlight™ method for this 46.8m / 154-foot sailing machine is not a single process or construction technique, but a holistic light weight approach combining various weight-saving solutions.
The Featherlight™ process makes use of Finite Element Analysis (FEA), a design methodology rooted in spacecraft technology. FEA modeling enabled selecting various construction materials and varied Alustar aluminum plate thicknesses and frame spacing to maximize hull stiffness while minimizing total displacement. With engineering and weight management brought in-house, the approach was comprehensive, extending to lighting, insulation, and all mechanical systems. The interior, too, benefited from careful weight analysis. All interior structural members utilize lightweight foam coring. This innovative approach narrows the displacement gap between aluminum and carbon composite yachts. Comfortable, robust characteristics of an aluminum yacht are now a viable option for owners seeking true sailing performance.
Capturing the carbon fiber expertise of its sister company Rondal, Royal Huisman’s engineering team used this synergy to analyze and predict which structural components would be best made of composites or aluminum. For example, the entire 17.5m / 57-foot curvaceous coachroof and guest cockpit structure are carbon composite. Likewise, the recessed tender well on the foredeck (that transforms to a seating area for cruising or a flush deck for racing) is also carbon composite as are a watertight bulkhead, crew entrance, twin rudders, the keel trunk and a cockpit bimini hardtop.
For any high-performance cruiser, a carbon fiber mast, boom, and standing rigging are critical to keeping weight as low and as centered as possible for optimal balance. While Rondal has considerable carbon spar expertise, bringing the design of this component — and the sailmaker – into the process during the larger hull design phase is a page out of a maxi-racer’s playbook.
Project 405 is also the first yacht of this size range designed to take advantage of structured luff sail design pioneered by Doyle Sails, a choice that allowed the entire Rondal mast, rig, and components to be lighter — a key point considering her Panamax air draft. To take advantage of the very narrow headsail sheeting angles possible, Rondal created a radical new curved carbon fiber spreader design that is both shorter and more aerodynamic than anything previously available. Rondal also supplied new generation hybrid (carbon and aluminum) captive winches, hatches and various sail handling gear. Most deck hardware is titanium.
Nilaya’s racy, low profile with its straight bow, wide transom, and twin rudders, echoes the look of her owners’ previous highly successful maxi-racer of the same name. Not surprisingly, she is from the boards of the same naval architecture and design firms, Reichel / Pugh and Nauta, both firms with impressive reputations for high-performance sailing yachts. Exploring all the options for a luxurious performance cruiser also capable of podium finishes at superyacht regattas, the team made full design studies for the yacht in both carbon and aluminum using computational fluid dynamics (CFD) to optimize hull shape and balance. Royal Huisman’s Featherlight™ method, an evolution of nearly 60 years of aluminum yacht-building experience melded with the latest carbon technology, provides her owners the best of both materials for a no-compromise yacht.
Nigel Ingram of MCM Newport serves as the owners’ project manager on the build. “While the new Nilaya is meant to take the owners world cruising, he also asked for a boat with all the ‘good habits’ of their previous racer, meaning responsiveness and excellent handling. Alustar aluminum is the right material for an advanced, quality superyacht for global cruising. It deals with noise better and is a better choice for cruising in comfort to remote locations. However, we also thought it was possible to build a lighter aluminum high-performance superyacht. Royal Huisman was not afraid to invest in research to explore and develop all manner of innovative weight-saving possibilities. They really chased the details.”
Nauta Design’s Mario Pedol noted that the choice of primary hull material did not fundamentally change the yacht’s layout or total weight. “With Reichel / Pugh, we set the target weight. Royal Huisman really embraced the concept. It was a very good process, good collaboration.”
Royal Huisman CEO Jan Timmerman used the occasion to highlight both the innovative construction methodology and the latest milestone for Project 405: "The success of the innovations with Project 405 paves the way to use this bold new approach for future builds. I am proud of the investment we have made in advanced engineering and of the way teams from Royal Huisman and Rondal advanced new solutions to meet the brief from very knowledgeable clients and designers. The owners as well deserve congratulations for pushing everyone to achieve just a little bit more and for encouraging innovation at every step. Nilaya will be the world’s lightest aluminum sailing superyacht for her length: she rewrites the script for high-performance superyachts.”
Royal Huisman Project 405 Nilaya will be delivered to her owners in the coming months.
📷: Guy Fleury