Combining the expertise of Fibre Mechanics and Multiplast with that of VPLP, under Gunboat’s reputation for design, build quality and finish... it’s no wonder that the new Gunboat 80 offers such a breathtaking package
Above: the spectacular silhouette of the new Gunboat 80 is bound to turn heads in any anchorage
Imagine sailing faster than the wind while cruising with your family in just six knots of breeze, when all other yachts are motoring. Now imagine racing that same boat with your team, with boatspeeds reaching 30kts. Welcome aboard the Gunboat 80.
After the success of the Gunboat 68, the next step was to go bigger – and a lot more hi-tech. More than ever before, this new flagship model brings Gunboat into the world of grand prix sailing technology. The CFD modelling, structural engineering, prepreg carbon construction and rig optimisation of the Gunboat 80 are on the same level of sophistication as an Imoca or Ultime build project, with the same fanatical focus on weight reduction.
‘When you’re building high-performance cruising catamarans, being on weight is just as important as being on time and on budget, ’says Gunboat’s managing partner Benoît Lebizay. ‘When someone puts their faith in us we deliver.’
Like a grand prix raceboat project, some of the solutions developed for the Gunboat 80, such as a system that effectively allows the daggerboards to be lifted under full load at speeds over 20kts – have pushed the boundaries of design and engineering.
There are, however, some crucial differences. First, unlike any stripped-out raceboat the Gunboat 80 has to achieve its grand prix level of performance as well as high-end cruising comfort and quality of finish. Second, it has to work equally well as a safe, versatile, reliable world cruising platform and family home as it does in line-honours racing mode. And third – a key differentiator for the Gunboat brand – it needs to deliver all of the above in a semi-custom package that avoids the inherent risks, budget overruns and delays of a full custom build while still offering owners a huge scope for customisation. It wouldn’t be a Gunboat if each owner couldn’t place the cursor exactly where they want it to be on the performance-cruising continuum and tailor the boat to precisely fit their own personal style and sailing ambitions.
The innovation without the risk
At the cutting edge of sailing, highperformance design and engineering move forward in leaps and bounds, sometimes in good directions and other times down blind alleys or worse. Gunboat’s close partnerships with some of the industry’s leading innovators, like VPLP Design and North Technology Group, allow them to take full advantage of the latest developments while maintaining the boundaries of safety and structural integrity that are equally crucial elements of Gunboat’s ethos, and among the widely admired qualities of its boats.
Most sailors develop strong opinions and ideas about their ideal boat as they gain experience, and they often assume that a full custom build is the only way to achieve it. The downside is that full custom projects are inherently fraught with risk. They typically take twice as long to design and build, and they often end up costing 50 to 100 per cent more than was originally envisaged. While a racing yacht builder can deliver a high-quality hull, deck and structure, they very rarely have the knowledge and experience to install and integrate the immensely complex and sophisticated hotel systems of a high-end cruising yacht while maintaining the crucial focus on both weight reduction and reliability.
Above and below: Progress on Gunboat 8001 Highland Fling. Fibre Mechanics and Multiplast apply the latest build techniques and hi-tech materials proven on elite grand prix racing yachts.
Some owners still prefer to go their own way in every aspect of a project. For them, that element of risk is part of the thrill and is worth the inevitable delay, hassle and expense. But for most owners, Gunboat’s proposition – using process-driven, quality controlfocused operations to deliver the best aspects of a full custom build whilst removing the worst and most unpredictable elements – makes a lot of sense.
Owners have almost complete free rein to customise the interior of their Gunboat. The primary bulkheads have to stay in place but the secondary bulkheads can all be moved, so there is a lot of flexibility with what you choose to do with the space. The first two Gunboat 80s are extensively customised and have very different interiors. The first boat has the owner’s cabin starboard side aft; the second has it port side forward. One boat has a family room and a kids’ room. The galley is highly configurable and you can have helm stations inside, outside or both.
Leveraging the best of the best
Gunboat has always used a carefully judged, meticulously evaluated combination of in-house production and partnerships with other industry leaders to deliver top quality. For full prepreg construction of the Gunboat 80, its partners include two world class raceboat builders: Fibre Mechanics building the hulls, bridgedeck, and secondary bulkheads, and Multiplast supplying the deck, coachroof and primary bulkheads.
‘Outsourcing different elements of the boat means that there's no compromise in the build process,’ says Gunboat’s chief operating officer William Jelbert. ‘For me as a boatbuilder and project manager it's like being a kid in a candy shop because we get to work with the absolute experts in their field.’
‘The raceboat teams at Fibre Mechanics and Multiplast have worked together for many years, collaborating on high-profile Volvo and Imoca yachts as well as giant Ultime racing trimarans, ’says Geoff Stock, managing director at Fibre Mechanics. ‘We are using the same materials and techniques to build the Gunboat 80 as we do for custom racing yachts.’
The hull is cooked and cured three times during hull shell construction with a final cure of 10 hours at 95°C, Stock explains. The majority of the fibre is unidirectional carbon, preimpregnated with a very accurately controlled resin film that makes up just 35 per cent of the total hull skin weight. The foam core is thermoformed to shape on a hydraulically controlled adaptable mould surface, then bonded to the outer hull skin at 90°C with an epoxy adhesive film.
Another big benefit of building hull components at Fibre Mechanics is the shipyard’s strict quality assurance. ‘Our laminating techniques and oven cure processes have been developed side by side with the increasing ability of NDT specialists to analyse a cured laminate,’ Stock explains. ‘We have been working with the best ultrasound experts in the business for many years, and as their accuracy has improved we have been able to adjust the way we do things to eliminate the faults and flaws that used to go unnoticed. This is all equivalent to an America’s Cup level of quality oversight’
Safe and reliable
Safety, reliability and seakeeping are just as important to Gunboat as their boats’ remarkable speed and superb quality of finish. All aspects of safety on board receive the same meticulous attention as weight savings and performance enhancements, from the height and strength of the stanchions to the placement of handholds and clipping-on points, the reliability and control of sailing systems and the general ergonomics on deck. Whether you’re planning to use the boat for inshore regattas, offshore passage racing, trans-ocean voyaging or coastal cruising, all Gunboats are built and outfitted to the same extremely high standards. And that’s one of the keys to their notably high resale value. The build quality of the brand is widely known and when a Gunboat comes back on the market it tends to sell quickly.
Perhaps the strongest aspect of Gunboat’s offering is that buyers can have full confidence, backed up by the brand's reputation, that their new boat will be delivered exactly as expected, on weight, on time and on budget. The full joy of ownership starts straight away – without major snags or surprises. 'We give a realistic project management proposal with a cost and a timescale that we’re actually going to deliver to,’ Jelbert says. ‘You can’t tell someone there’s no risk in boatbuilding because there always is. But we are very good at mitigating the risks, even with an ambitious, complex and sophisticated project like a Gunboat 80.’ And if you’re a sailor who loves performance, you’ll end up with a boat that really grabs your soul.
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