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Natural Selection: Feadship Concept inspired by nature embraces sustainability

The 2023 Monaco Yacht Show debuts Feadship’s twelfth cutting-edge Concept Design, a breath-taking 83-metre with significantly reduced energy needs. Flowing lines from Studio De Voogt reflect the concept’s namesake… Dunes, while the mast and stern add an air of mystery to the organic shapes of the superstructure. It’s what can’t be seen, however, that sets this concept at the forefront of sustainability.

Dunes takes a big leap toward Feadship’s goal of Net-Zero superyachts. Like a complex 3D puzzle, it combines features that reduce energy demand with technology that increases efficiency and eliminates emissions. Numerous factors, from shading windows to reduce cooling requirements to extra-capacity next-generation storage batteries, to abolishing teak decks, a new type of fuel cells, and even a radical propulsor, link in a beneficial design spiral. Alone, each element reduces environmental impact, but implemented together, Dunes will slash a superyacht’s environmental impact without diminishing the enjoyment of cruising. Assessed using the comprehensive YETI tooling, Dunes eliminates up to 95 per cent of the potential negative environmental factors associated with operating a superyacht compared to a yacht meeting today’s minimum environmental regulations.

Concept begins with asking the right questions

Before we could begin drawing lines, we had to define the scope,” said designer Thijs Orth, who took the lead on this Concept. “From customer input, we thought the ‘envelope’ should contain six guest staterooms, plus a spa area, a beach club, an owner’s private deck and a pool. It would be a substantial hull.”

Then came a barrage of “what-ifs”. What if the engine room does not sit in the middle of the yacht? What if guest staterooms could have direct access to the beach club? What if we moved the bridge as on Concept Pure (2021)? What if the fuel cells don’t require hydrogen storage tanks? What if there is an entire multipurpose deck? What if we update the passive ventilation system of Concept Breathe (2010)?

What if the superstructure is asymmetrical? What if the decks themselves could generate electricity? What if, indeed! These and other questions led to new solutions for old problems. The knock-on effects of just one change – moving the engine room from the most comfortable spot on a boat to areas forward — opened up the possibility of an entirely new layout where gracious lower deck guest suites link to a fantastic beach club, water sports platform, and the pool above.

This also eliminates large engine room air and exhaust trunks from compromising saloons or dictating stairway placement. Electric yachts do not need huge gearboxes, long shafts and propellors.

For aesthetic inspiration, Studio De Voogt focused on undulating waves, not of water, but of sand. Noticing how dunes are never fixed, their ripples and valleys appearing to shift with light and shadow, the designers explored ideas about line, flow, and adaptability. Dunes undulating curves emerged as a backdrop for the onboard lifestyle today’s owners desire with adaptable, multi-purpose spaces, endless views, and a mix of open-plan areas and cosy, intimate spaces. Surrounding guests with design inspired by nature allows them to relax even more once they step onboard.

A broader look at sustainability

Sustainability is more than controlling exhaust emissions. With an international treaty prohibiting old-growth Burmese teak imports by all the world’s major yacht-building nations, and demand far outpacing the supply of suitable plantation-grown teak, the responsible position is to move on. Dunes is teak-free. Two new luxury decking systems being tested by Feadship combine for this concept.

Outside, the topsides shimmer with teak-free decks made of millions of tiny glass or stone chips sealed in a transparent aliphatic polyurethane resin. The resin surface can be sculpted in myriad shapes to show direction or amplify the impact of built-in features. The designers envisioned alfresco lounges appearing as islands on the decks and rendered them clad in beautiful, golden, maple wood – a sustainable teak lookalike. The long aft overhangs are uniquely supported by a stunning, single maple-clad column, uniting decorative sections of maple overhead with those below.

Notably, the uppermost Pavilion Deck structure is built of wood. While this is how early Feadships, and in fact, most steel-hulled vessels, were built in the days before aluminium, this choice is based not on a quirky juxtaposition with the past, but on science. Treated timber is a CO2-negative building material with a high natural insulating capacity. This benefit and the beauty of the material come without increasing its overall weight. The Pavilion Deck is an exciting concept. Surrounded by glass and separating a forward sun and Jacuzzi zone from an informal dining and conversation area aft, it can be outfitted for formal indoor dining or any number of purposes from night club to conference room. Circular stairs lead from this area to the yacht’s signature feature, its striking 10-metre mast. More than just arresting design, it has an important technical function.

The wind, as they say, is free, and so is the electricity generated by a wind turbine or the sun. Feadship engineers devised a slim, two-blade vane that nearly disappears in the mast structure. Used only at anchor, this turbine can yield about 25 MWh per year. We imagine Dunes’s foredeck coated with a thin film solar panel. Called solar paint, this technology is in its infancy and its efficiency today is low. Currently, the effect is the proverbial drop in the ocean. But then again, why not collect it?

Putting a different spin on props

For the first time since screw-type propellers began to replace paddlewheels on steamships in the 1840s, there is something truly new in propulsion. Dunes introduces a breakthrough, high-efficiency electric propulsion system from ABB called ABB DynafinTM unveiled last May. In development and testing for ten years, the ABB Dynafin™ utilises revolving, vertical blades to mimic the thrust of a whale’s tail – one of the most efficient forms of thrust ever seen. The first prototype is estimated to be available in 2025, with hydrodynamic efficiency targeted to be up to 85 per cent, up from 65 per cent for current pod drives, or 55-60 per cent for typical propellors on shafts. An independent study of ABB Dynafin™ of a passenger vessel design equipped with different propulsion solutions has verified savings in propulsion energy consumption of up to 22 per cent compared to conventional shaft line configuration.


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