Visits to three of Europe's leading superyacht yards reveal some impressive new launches and major developments 29/9/06

One of the most eagerly awaited launches this year has been Wally’s new 143ft Bill Tripp-designed supersailing yacht, a vessel with which the Italian builders are once again poised to redefine the way people go sailing. During a recent visit to WallyEurope near Fano on Italy’s Adriatic coast, we were the first journalists to step aboard ES, the obscure name given to this new flagship.

We were also able to look at Albert Bull’s new Saudade, a 148ft version of the concept and the new Wally 130, a high-performance, deep-bulwark yacht designed for a repeat Japanese client by Argentinian Javier Sotto Acebal and with a Norman Foster interior. Both are well advanced.

ES might not be a memorable name, but everything else about this yacht sticks in the mind. She’s an astounding-looking vessel, something quite new which is capable of taking away the breath of even those of us used to the occasionally wacky concepts of superyachts. Even more remarkable is that she is the first yacht for ES’s female, Italian owner. An extraordinary entry-level choice.

Sitting alongside a commercial dock in Fano, ES looked understandably high on her marks because she had neither her mast stepped nor her keel or rudder fitted. Because of the relatively shallow waters in Fano, ES will have to be moved north to Ravenna, where her 190ft (58m) Hall Spars carbon mast will be waiting for her, together with the keel and rudder. The spar is so long it had to be transported from the USA in two parts and is specially designed to bond together.

The keel has a lifting mechanism to reduce draught from 6m to 4m (19ft 8in to 13ft 1in). When she’s fully up and running ES will displace something in the region of 140 tons. Compare that with the 150 tons for Saudade (overleaf) and the 84 tons for the new 130 and you begin to realise just what a rocket ship the 130 is likely to be.

Apart from ES’s sheer size, the most dramatic element of her design is the deep – and I mean almost waist-deep – bulwark which runs right around the yacht, apart from the stern. The bulwark is a feature which Luca Bassani and Wally instigated as a concept, Tripp developed and the engineers in Wally’s own design office number-crunched. High Modulus and SP were also involved, but Wally’s impressive technical department, led by Davide Legati, is able to carry out its own finite element analysis to confirm what the outside engineers predict.

One of Legati’s team members is Nino Ascone, whose skills were developed with the car manufacturers Ferrari. A major challenge was to work out the longitudinal bending loads in the hull shell, including the bulwarks, and how they affected the deck, which in a normal design would be integral to hull stiffness. A lot of load is taken out of the deck, leaving the big bulkwark to do most of the work.

But ES isn’t just about construction, engineering and performance. She is also about living space. Skinned with 8mm laid teak, the entire deck is designed to offer a choice of areas for guests to sit and relax, dine, take breakfast or to sunbathe. Bassani is passionate about this part of the design, which he said was instrumental in winning over this client.

The deep bulwark offers an unusual element of privacy and it also copes with another irritation aboard a yacht capable of sailing upwind at 13 knots – apparent wind. It’s an issue that has to be addressed when wind speed over the deck is over 20 knots. “People don’t realise just how windy it could be even on a pleasant day
in the sun,” said Bassani.

The bulkwark helps create a windbreak and also offers a remarkable amount of protection for the safety of guests and crew.

Double-deck Saudade
Our visit to the yard also provided an excuse to have a nose around Albert Bull’s well-advanced Saudade, similar in concept to ES, although the bulwarks make way for more volume below decks. This is a yacht likely to be used for serious passagemaking and by using the extra space there is more room for systems and stowage for items like a tender, which will fit flush under the foredeck. Essentially, the yacht has a double-deck.

Saudade is all carbon, 2.5 tons of it concentrated in the keelbox, an enormous structure which has to deal with the loads imposed by a 40-ton keel. Wally have gone to considerable lengths to maximise the advantages of carbon, with everything from cylindrical carbon pillars supporting the sole board framework to hollow deckhead support beams.

Interestingly, the wafer-thin sole supports are landed on timber bases, so the sharp edges of the tubes don’t cut into the stringers and transverse members onto which they are bonded.

To complete the Wally trio there’s the Javier Soto Acebal-designed 130, a different prospect again, which, in addition to a canting keel, will be equipped with 11 tons of water ballast and a custom-built, high-modulus carbon, tapered mast from Hall Spars, a rig which really makes the most of carbon weight-saving. The 130 and the 148 are due to launch towards the end of 2007.

All three of the large Wallys have been moulded and finished in WallyEurope’s new, larger shed, which is equipped with a 160ft oven and just about everything else you could need. The only snag is that if Wally receive orders for anything bigger – more probability than possibility – they will have to shift to an already-identified premises closer to the Fano waterfront because low-loading hulls any bigger would be impossible.

Claus Peter Offen’s successor to his Wally 94 Y3K is also well advanced, a 100 he’s calling Y4K which is scheduled for launch next March. She’ll be a force to be reckoned with in the Med curcuit in America’s Cup year.