WRITER: Esther Barney
Pushing the boundaries in design and technology, the sleek, spacious DART 80 is an innovative collaboration between Andrew Winch and Royal Huisman, a motor and sailing yacht, in one.
Each year, dozens of superyacht concepts are released in the hope of catching the eyes of the prized few who want to push the boundaries with their next project. In doing so, designers need to strike the right balance between creating an inspiring design and going overboard to the point where a project is never going to be built.
During the recent flurry of autumn concept releases, one in particular stood out: the DART 80. It’s a collaboration between Andrew Winch Design - one of the most respected superyacht designers in the world - and Royal Huisman, one of the most prestigious shipyards in the world. Their unique concept is the first tandem motor-and-sailing superyacht platform, an innovative hull form that can be topped off with a mast or motor finish - or even both - for the buyer who has everything but a matching pair of 80-metre yachts.
Initially designed as a motor yacht, the DART 80’s sleek profile, smooth sheer lines and vast deck areas lent themselves to a sailing yacht and this inspired Winch to propose the unique dual concept. “The exterior profile of the DART is inspired by the marine world itself, incorporating an elegant arc reminiscent of a leaping dolphin,” explains the designer, who has been creating yachts since 1986.
This striking low profile gives her a visual balance often lacking in modern builds that strain for ever more interior space, reaching higher and higher and taking the on-board experience away from the natural aquatic environment. Mast and rigging aside, modifications between motor and sail are mostly within the mechanical systems and technical aspects of the hull below the waterline.
Winch wanted to reintroduce guests to the water with both concepts, so a vast terraced deck leads to an open transom and beach club. The main deck aft, a shaded area popular for dining on superyachts, comes with floor-to-ceiling side views, courtesy of its foldout balconies. The six guest staterooms on the lower deck have remarkable full-height windows near the waterline and the full-beam master suite is supplemented by a VIP suite on an upper deck. Not quite identical on the interior, the motor yacht iteration offers an additional deck, featuring an upper salon and captain’s quarters behind the wheelhouse.
The dual concept reflects how far luxury yacht design, construction and client demand has evolved. There is a growing appetite for larger sailing yachts fed by technological advances. Dutch shipyard Royal Huisman is renowned for its craftsmanship and 130-year pedigree with five generations of Huisman family ownership. While it did deliver a 35m motor yacht in 2006, it is most famous for its sailing yachts.
With such a history, how important is it for the brand to be pushing boundaries in technology and design? “Very! If you are not going forward you are slipping back. There’s no comfortable territory in between,” says Alice Huisman, the current head of the company. “When we publish images of the early wooden working boats the yard built all those years ago, that may not appear so obvious. Yet Huisman was one of the earliest yards to move from wood to steel construction, one of the earliest to adopt aluminium and the first to research the properties of different aluminium types, identifying the potential of Alustar and developing specialised welding techniques for its use in yacht building. We built a composite mast-building hall almost 20 years ago and were a pioneer of daylight-visible alarm, monitoring and navigation displays. These are just a few examples.”
The DART 80’s engineering has been meticulously considered to ensure the vessel will be regarded as revolutionary, adds Winch. “Lightweight and long-range, this high performance yacht can employ advance propulsion techniques that will enhance the overall experience for both owner and crew in terms of onboard comfort as well as being highly efficient.”
Instead of outdated diesel generator systems, Royal Huisman will be installing microturbines, which are much smaller, quieter and fumeless and according to the company’s concept design manager, Martin Groen, azimuth thrusters will provide an efficient and flexible propulsion system for the motor yacht. The pirouetting propellers have been used successfully in commercial circles for many years but have yet to make waves in yachting.
As for where this drive for efficiency originates, Groen is reluctant to stereotype the ‘typical’ superyacht owner and their motivations. “There are individual owners, for example Bill Joy of Ethereal and the owner of our current in-build Project 392 (NextGEN ketch), who are strongly motivated by a desire to build energy-efficient yachts,” he says. “There are also owners (and advisers) who are wary of new technologies until they are well proven. From the yard’s perspective, many of the developments that arise from working on technologically advanced projects provide such evident opportunities to build smarter, more reliable and efficient yachts in the future that it would be almost irresponsible not to use them.”
For the DART 80 sailing yacht hull, high aspect foils and a retractable centreboard offer high performance speed for passage making, while still allowing access to shallower waters. A nod to the last Americas Cup, the sail plan uses square-topped mainsails, like those of the AC72 catamarans, which aren’t just for show. “We have sought to optimise performance within the context of a luxury yacht and the rig is designed to be both powerful and easily managed with great security. The square-topped sail evolved not for aesthetic reasons but because it is much more aerodynamically efficient than a traditional Bermudan sail head,” Groen explains. “Late adoption in superyachts generally is just that. As owners become increasingly keen to do well in regattas, we will see more square-topped sails.”
But there doesn’t have to be a choice between motor and sail for the DART 80 buyer. Many superyacht owners have more than one vessel, each for a different purpose. In an era of 180m superyachts, it isn’t outrageous to consider owning multiple ‘smaller’ vessels instead that can offer the full spectrum of yachting experience. “The beauty of the DART project is the multiple possibilities its design holds and the variations of lifestyle she will offer,” Groen concludes. “A client could have a sleek motor yacht built for relaxation and entertaining friends and family in the most vibrant of locations, whilst simultaneously owning a beautiful high performance sailing yacht that can be used to discretely sail to the most secluded of locations. The DART design will no doubt appeal to many different kinds of yacht owners.”