A range of fast-paced, sleek and modern-looking boats from Hudson Yacht & Marine based in south-west China will include cats from 55ft to 115ft, reports Elaine Bunting
HH Catamarans is a name you may not have heard of (yet), but behind this new brand is one of the largest-scale investments and boldest thinking in some years. The plans are ambitious, with a range of big, fast, luxurious catamarans up to superyacht scale.
The company is Hudson Yacht & Marine, based in south-west China, which sees its main market in Europe and the US, hence its appearance in Annapolis.
At the new facility in Xiamen, an island city lying between Hong Kong and Shanghai, the first is being built of what is to be a range of catamarans from 55ft to 115ft: the HH55, HH66, HH77, HH88 and HH115.
Four HH66s have been sold and are already in production. The first is due to launch in February for an Asian owner, and tooling for the HH55 is underway.
If the appearance of these resembles the Gunboat range more than the average production cruising cat, that is hardly surprising: the designs are the work of Morrelli & Melvin, the design team responsible for 18 Gunboats, and whose expertise in performance multihulls over the years spans A Class and Nacra catamarans to the late Steve Fossett’s PlayStation and, more recently, BMW Oracle Racing.
All will be fast-paced, sleek and modern-looking boats aimed at fast passagemaking and comfortable open plan ‘indoor/outdoor’ living. The HH55 and HH66 are styled as ‘a light and strong raceboat in disguise’. The HH66 is in composite construction, primarily aimed at cruising but, according to Morrelli & Melvin, “able to kick it up a notch”. So it is ultra light, and has C-shape daggerboards and T-foil rudders.
The HH55 is available in two configurations: forward cockpit and centre steering or dual aft steering and either in full-on performance-mode carbon composite construction or a less costly epoxy/E-Glass alternative. It, too, features C-shape daggerboards and T-foil rudders.
NZ builder brought in
Besides commissioning Morrelli & Melvin for the designs, owner Hudson Wang brought in New Zealand boatbuilder Paul Hakes four years ago. Hakes, a well known racing boat builder very experienced in building in pre-preg carbon, admits that he was “quite taken aback” by the scale of the company’s commitment to building boats – to date it has spent US$50m on building
a boatyard. In that time Hakes has built several of the Judel Vrojlik-designed HH42, the best known example of which is Richard Matthews’s Oystercatcher XXX.
Hudson sees yacht manufacture as part of a serial manufacturing operation. The company’s products are wide-ranging. It produces around 20 per cent of baseball bats bought in the US, makes aircraft escape slides, barbecues and coolers, and employs some 4,000 people, of which 400 are in the boatyard. Its history in boats goes back to building J/80s and RIBs.
Tooling for the HH55 is also well underway. Paul Hakes tells us that the yard has finished a new fit-out hall and now has capability to have four or five HH66s and five to six HH55s in build at a time.
Preliminary drawings for the HH88 have been done and sufficient structural detail to allow price estimates. Designer Gino Morrelli says that the company is in talks with two potential owners.
Morrelli emphasises that the range could also go beyond the 115-footer currently planned. “We think the yard has capability to go to 150ft and they’ve built their new building to get that out the door, as that is where we think we will be in five to six years.”
Each of these boats can be highly customised, and renderings show very modern interiors. The zingy hull colours illustrated emphasise the message that Hudson is aiming to appeal to owners not hidebound by tradition, and perhaps migrating from motorboats.
The fact that the business has put its weight so strongly behind multihull production is yet another indication of growing interest in this area of sailing. “As far as the sailing market is concerned, the share of multihulls is growing, and bigger boats are coming out [of the downturn] faster than smaller boats,” says Morrelli.