It’s not just the foiling multihulls racing ahead
It was only a year ago that the HH66 was introduced to the luxury performance catamaran market; since then activity both in the boatyard and on the racecourse has been frenetic. The potential this boat showed in the design brochures and renderings from Morrelli & Melvin is translating into reality, with outstanding performance, reliability and, most importantly, customer satisfaction.
HH66 hull no1, R-SIX, which was delivered to Valencia in June 2016 and promptly set out to sea, cruising as far east as Cyprus, was put on display to an admiring crowd at the Cannes Yachting Festival, and then attended the inaugural edition of the Multihull Cup Regatta in Mallorca. Sailing in a competitive class of more seasoned peers, including Coco de Mer, Slim and Nigel Irens’ custom 78 Allegra, R-SIX pounced on the challenge, finishing in first place overall.
In January this year R-SIX crossed the Atlantic in time to shift from cruising to racing mode for the Caribbean 600, where light winds prevailed for much of the 600-mile course. With gourmet food and plush accommodation, R-SIX raced in comfort and finished third behind two rather less commodious MOD70s – not a bad result.
She then competed in the St Maarten Heineken Regatta in March, defeating all three 60-footers in class and coming in second overall behind the nimbler, seven-ton, custom-built Bieker 53 Fujin (issue 448).
Next it was newly launched HH66 hull 3 Nala’s turn to shine, making her impressive racing debut at the St Thomas International Regatta just days after arriving in the US Virgin Islands. It proved to be an exciting event, with big breeze testing the fleet and providing Nala with the chance to show off her impressive speed around the rock-hopping courses. Boat and crew stayed fast – and strong – sustaining zero breakages and this time defeating Fujin to take the win.
The BVI Spring Regatta – next event in the Caribbean circuit – had Nala lined up against veteran turbo Gunboats Elvis and H2O. Still just a few weeks young, Nala gave both boats a creditable challenge, starting with some teething pains and then growing stronger each day, outperforming three of the five Gunboats in every race and steadily reducing the elapsed time deficit to two much more experienced teams. The tenacity paid off, with Nala taking second place overall.
Next it was R-SIX’s turn to do battle at Les Voiles de St Barth which, like the Caribbean 600, was a light-air regatta. Unfortunately R-SIX suffered a mast lock issue which made it impossible to use the asymmetrical headsail for much of the event. The team persevered well enough to secure a spot on the podium in third place overall.
Overcoming the gear glitch in St Barths may have provided motivation because at the final event of the season, Antigua Week, the R-SIX team raced hard and after four days of competition remained as the only unbeaten yacht at the event among a 150-strong entry. Taking line honours in six out of seven races and wrapping up first place overall, R-SIX closed out their Caribbean season on a high and immediately set out across the Atlantic once more, arriving in the Azores a short 10 days later.
Above: the first off the line of the latest HH55 model has already completed several months of blue-water sailing… but it was a shame about the DVD player (see text). The latest HH55 is being offered with this forward inside helming position (below) which has proved popular on other larger long-distance cats, offering unimpeded visibility when the salon is busy and also permitting the driver of the ship to remain an active part of the onboard conversation. World-class race multihull designers Morrelli & Melvin are enjoying themselves with the new long-distance yacht…
R-SIX boat captain Robert Janecki: ‘After many years of sailing racing catamarans it is refreshing to see that there are things that can still surprise me. In Antigua we managed to maintain 12-14kt upwind, into the waves. Quite amazing for a pleasure catamaran. What is more, the boat is built in such a way that it forgives some of our inevitable mistakes during intense short-course racing.’
As impressive as the out-of-thebox performance of the HH66 is, no doubt with more available as the teams learn the boats, builder Paul Hakes thinks about more than just good race results…
‘The performance of R-SIX has matched its owner’s expectations in a way that also emphasises our values in reliability and safety in offshore conditions as well as around the buoys,’ he says. ‘The owner’s previous boat was a Sunseeker 90, so he was interested in retaining all the amenities he was used to… Not an easy challenge, but we met it and still kept the boat down to the weight budget of 20 tons.
‘But as soon as he started to race his interest shifted towards performance, helped in part by his crew of Polish Olympic sailors. These guys race hard, but they are not exactly expert in the system maintenance of cruising boats so we also needed to make sure things were bullet-proof. So far everything has held up great even after many thousands of miles.’
In contrast HH66 hull 3, Nala, was built as a performance weapon, 2.5 tons lighter with a larger turbo-charged rig, whose main with one reef is the same size as R-SIX’s at full hoist. Nala flies a hull in only 15kt of wind and with larger sails is more easily raced with a pro crew. Yet R-SIX has still shown well under handicap and has a balanced feel appropriate for a true racer/cruiser.
‘This is what I’m proud of with the HH66,’ says Hakes. ‘It can be moded to what our customers are comfortable with to meet their all-round expectations. This is the most important point for any boat, especially at the high end.’
Within this last year another catamaran has also emerged to take its place alongside the HH66 in the same series: the new HH55. Here the first boat is for a couple interested in blue-water cruising in comfort and at speed, and in their first two months of sailing in the Bahamas they have achieved this with no problems other than realising their Blu-ray player was coded for Chinese DVDs.
Hakes is proud of this level of reliability out of the box. As a builder with three decades of experience, he attributes this success to several key factors:
1. Start with a strong designer as a foundation.
2. Understand the boat concept and stay with it. ‘Other designs in this class have tried to be market leaders with multiple innovations in design, but did not take the time to do the careful engineering needed to troubleshoot these designs, and problems became endemic and even dangerous,’ said Hakes.
‘Reliable technology does not come as easily as concepts. Look at concept cars: they are in the auto shows but then it’s years before they appear on the market. To be successful with your customers you need to deliver what you promise and meet expectations based upon proven technology.’ Examples include retractable rudders: yes, they reduce wetted surface drag, and are handy if you’re beaching your boat, but how often will you do this on your luxury catamaran? Spade rudders are a proven and reliable technology, and for performance can be upgraded with T-foils to stabilise fore-and-aft trim.
3. Invest in good solid tooling and reliable construction using known materials – but work hard to obtain the best possible result. Hakes says they save 1.5 tons in excess resin by thermo-forming all core materials and paying particular attention to the post-curing process for stable, strong structures.
4. Pay attention to finish details and how they may be affected by point 3. The post-curing at 60°C done by Hudson Hakes ensures the laminate is stable, so there is no movement of surface materials, and leads to a greater choice of topside finishes that will be less prone to wrinkling at the high temperatures the laminate can encounter when baking in the tropical sun – up to 75°C in some cases. Salon windows also have to be specified carefully to reduce the baking heat of the sun, which is why he prefers to have ‘eyebrows’ that act as both shades and rain gutters.
5. Do not become a ‘commodity builder’. Hakes’s heritage is in custom and semi-custom builds, where there is full control on quality and the ability to be responsive to all of the details that the customer requests. Maintaining this focus eliminates the temptation to cut corners to reduce cost if the quality will suffer as a result.
The flexibility of the HH66 design is shown in the latest iteration of the HH66, which has a different look to its predecessors. HH66-05, Flash, is for a Silicon Valley executive who wants to cruise with his family and race occasionally and has a strong interest in scuba diving. So the cockpit and deck areas are redesigned to accommodate this interest: the forward cockpit has been enlarged to include a forward helm station, leaving the aft cockpit area free to manoeuvre dive gear and have a more open area to entertain guests.
The interior has also been redesigned with the salon pushed out sideways to regain the interior volume lost from the expanded forward cockpit. There are aft tillers with bucket seats, allowing for a straight view of both bows and the sailplan, and push-button controls on the seat arms for sailing and manoeuvring functions. ‘Very high-tech,’ admits Hakes.
Fingertip controls manage a captive sheet winch for the self-tacking working jib, the traveller control, a 1:2 carbon ram on the mainsheet, the autopilot and the emergency dump on hydraulic pressure, plus the engine and bow thrusters are controlled via Bluetooth. All on a comfortable platform that’s less than 10 per cent slower than the fastest HH66.
What’s next at Hudson Marine? Hakes says there is a new HH48 concept boat in the works, about two years from gestation – already a serious customer is interested. Watch this space…
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