The growing – fortunate – band of big cat owners are really getting it together. Witness the ‘sporty’ and successful racing debut this winter in the Caribbean of the first few super cool all-carbon HH66 cats built by Hudson Yacht Group
The entry of Hudson Yacht Group’s HH66s into this winter’s Caribbean racing circuit illustrates interesting aspects of their design: despite significant differences in interior layout, accommodation, deck plan, rig plan and even sail sizes and inventory, this Morelli & Melvindesigned luxury cat can still deliver both speed and comfort. This is testament to the design’s flexibility to accommodate unique features, plus the ability of Hudson Yacht Group to imagine, design and build to the tastes of each owner and meet their vision of luxury highspeed offshore sailing.
One of the premier events in the Caribbean season is the annual Les Voiles de St Barth Regatta, which attracts some of the most luxurious performance monohulls and multihulls to enjoy a nicely balanced week of sailing and sunning: the perfect milieu for the HH66. Winds are typically a mix of fresh 20kt+ trade winds and near-drifting, and seas vary from oceanic breakers to flat as a mill pond. So versatility in performance is important.
Equally important this season was the dedication shown by the three HH66 owners and all other participants at Les Voiles. After the devastating storms that hit the region in September 2017 the rebuilding efforts at St Barths and all the northern islands were very much boosted by the yachtsmen’s loyalty – and their business.
Dave Welch, owner of HH66 #05 Flash, said, ‘We love the location. Looking forward to participating in Les Voiles as it has a fantastic collection of incredible boats and people. As a newcomer to the group, I look forward to getting the most out of Flash and to meeting the community.’
Flash will be joined by hull #03 Nala, owned by Jim Vos, who also competed in the BVI Spring Regatta two weeks earlier, and by the first HH66, R-Six, owned by Robert Szustkowski, winner of the 2016 Multihull Cup in Mallorca and 2017 Antigua Sailing Week. He has the most sailing miles of any current HH66 afloat (R-Six completed her third Atlantic crossing in March).
Just as the St Barths Bucket Regatta, held a month earlier, and several other regattas in the Caribbean and the Med form the basis of the active superyacht scene among monohulls, there is also growth in this new category of luxury performance cats being attracted to a new circuit of events. This is due in part to the organisational efforts of the Offshore Multihull Association (OMA). Owners in the OMA share the same passion for having performance and comfort in their big cats, both in day races and offshore. The OMA schedule has many participating events in the Caribbean, the US, the Med and, in 2019, the Transatlantic Race.
Recognising that these big cats are all different in weight, sail area, length and other parameters, and that existing rating rules for cats may not accurately capture the complex performance curves produced by these boats throughout their conditions, OMA have developed the Multi Rule, with help from offshore big cat veteran Larry Rosenfeld. Starting from a base of a few basic measurements and specifications, the Multi Rule uses performance data gathered from each boat during racing to develop a polar performance model that is used to score the race along the Performance Curve Scoring (PCS) concept.
In the PCS method the racecourse is modelled by its length and wind angles and, using the elapsed time of each boat and its set of polar performance data, a theoretical windspeed is determined. The boat that has completed the modelled course in the least time relative to their polar performance potential will therefore have highest ‘implied wind’ and win the race. The only inputs needed from race managers for this accurate and objective method are wind direction and elapsed time around the course.
As long as the performance data from each boat is gathered, and the polar curves updated, this sophisticated rating and scoring system can be ideal for this diverse fleet and owners can feel confident they are being treated objectively.
So in a racing context the diverse range of features on each HH66 will in theory not be hurt or helped by the rating system, since its rating will be a summary of their own measured performance. This is good news for those who want not only speed and comfort while racing, but fairness as well. It gives the designers, builders and engineers at Hudson Yacht Group the confidence that variations they create to fulfil their owners’ wishes will not result in compromised rated performance.
But to even consider this nuance the basic product must be sound in design and build integrity. Customised features can then be evaluated for their potential effect on performance. Unlike with most monohulls, big cat performance is very sensitive to weight and trim variations, so at Hudson Yacht Group they have to know where every kilogramme is on the design.
In-house lead designer James Hakes explains: ‘Regardless of the size of boat, all our owners and boat captains are tuned in to performance. It’s our job to not only know our component target weights, but also to have intimate knowledge of our processes so that we can be confident to advise on any options owners want to consider. We need to be able to reproduce the basic component parts with great accuracy, as well as any additional features they may want to add at any step in construction and assembly.’
Hakes says this demand for accuracy is most keenly felt among those involved with the larger designs, such as the HH66. It’s more common to see customisations in boats of this scale. Owners and knowledgeable project managers work closely together to ensure every detail is right. These may vary widely, from the choice of construction materials – resininfused carbon-Gurit Corecell-epoxy laminates are standard, but pre-preg-Nomex honeycomb core is used in some components to reduce weight – to the smallest details on interior finish coatings. The in-house team of 30 designers and engineers ensure all fabrication is not only to the customer’s standards of function and style but also to more practical considerations of fabrication and attachment, strength, durability and ease of maintenance.
The design team work closely with production manager Bruce Livingston, who employs 5S organisation methods to the workplace at Hudson Yacht Group, a massive operation with 300 employees in Xiamen, China where the cats are built. Their attention to detail and efficiency are enhanced by rigorous records tracking the weights and fabrication and assembly times for all component parts on an HH66. This makes production and pricing easier for owners, managers and builders.
It also helps when making good on delivering options that are new and untried – like the stunning clear-coated finish showing off the carbon TeXtreme laminate topsides on the hull of HH66 #02 Night Fury.
This winter’s early racing in the Caribbean confirmed the Morrelli & Melvin designed HH66 as a creditable and extremely competitive performer on the race course within a growing band of similar-sized contemporaries. The throne-like steering position (below) is now a familiar feature on these large multihulls, allowing good visibility together with easy communication with the sailing crew who are working in the trimming pit just ahead of the helm
At Les Voiles R-SIX will be heaviest of the three HH66s. She has a sailing displacement of 22,626kg, due to having the most luxurious interior layout supported by lots of infrastructure: two watermakers, two generators, a sewage treatment apparatus, air- conditioning and more interior structures and styling details such as leather finishes. Her largest upwind sail area (233m2) with main and Solent is the standard for the HH66, and largest downwind sail area is 440m2.
Flash will be about 20 tonnes and is also appointed with a full luxury interior with a big sound system (including piano!), wood trim details and guest cabins like R-Six. Her rig and sailplan are also about the same, except for a longer longeron for the spinnakers. She has a forward cockpit, with tillerdriven bucket seat helm stations positioned aft on each hull. Each bucket seat is complete with full push-button sail controls which gives great feel and visibility and is the default station for racing in all but the nastiest weather.
And HH66 #03 Nala will be the lightest (18.5 tonnes) at almost two tonnes’ less displacement, again due to a more streamlined interior with less wood trim, use of Nomex composite painted interior panels, no generators, smaller water heaters, liberal use of carbon in worktops and plumbing fixtures (although there are also fewer of these onboard).
Use of carbon-cored panels in furnishings is a quarter of the weight of equivalent marine plywood, so with a simpler interior there is weight loss here too. And all HH66s have sound insulation in their engine rooms, but Nala has more in her cabins for an even quieter experience.
Nala also has a more turbocharged sailplan, with a mast taller by almost 2m and lots more sail area. With a massive masthead J1 headsail, her total upwind sail area can reach 314m2, or 286m2 with a Solent. Downwind she carries a huge maximum sail area of 572m2. This extra horsepower has already proved to be effective when the wind drops.
So, with both similarities and differences to show off in St Barths and the remaining events in the upcoming OMA circuit, fair ratings offered by the new Multi Rule system, and some impressive pro sailors to help find their potential around the courses, look to the HH66s to help lead the way into this exciting new genre of racing.
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