THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME – GUNBOAT 68 EXTERIOR DESIGN

December 21, 2017

Headturner. Jawdropper. Showstopper. Gunboat owners know the consequences of owning a fast, sexy catamaran.  While you gain access to remote anchorages and have the ability to set sail and go fast…they’re still there – the admirers, the aficionados, the curious!

As the first model built by Gunboat under the ownership of Grand Large Yachting, the Gunboat 68 had to be a showstopper, capturing the spirit and design elements of the fleet while boldly moving into the future. Right from the drawing board we sought out the most preeminent designers in the industry: the world renowned naval architects/engineers at VPLP design and an aesthetic design team combining the talents of Patrick le Quément (multiple design award winner and former head designer at Ford and Renault) and Christophe Chedal Anglay (multihull design aficionado and exterior designer of the latest three Gunboat models).

The Gunboat 68 design brief was to create the fastest, most comfortable and most elegantly-designed, luxury performance cruising catamaran in the world.

For a year, they worked a collaborative design loop together with the internal design team at Gunboat to capture the brand’s DNA and create the lines of the highly-anticipated  Gunboat model. Unique to this project and the approach of VPLP, the architects and engineers corroborated the work of the designers; giving Patrick le Quément and Christophe Chedal Anglay full creative license to capture the essence of Gunboat, while guiding them to fully understand the structural tolerances and the functionality of their concepts as they related to performance. Together they designed a boat that was both beautiful and functional, luxurious and race-inspired, and worthy of Gunboat’s iconic brand name.

“While we knew we were working with experienced professionals on all aspects of the project, it was a daring decision to give the keys to the designers to drive. But like kismet, two strong designers brought together complementary visions and contributions to respect the DNA of the brand and also bring it forward to the next level. Their synergy was brilliant with architects VPLP and our in-house team – and they involved owners and crew to incorporate their 17 years of experience. This is the sector that Gunboat pioneered and it is imperative – we owe it to the brand – to get this right.” – Benoit Lebizay, Managing Partner of Gunboat

EVOLUTION, NOT REVOLUTION

We challenged the designers to develop the best attributes of prior models and commit to the synergy of form and function. For example, the hulls had to have wide, spacious cabins yet retain the lightweight simplicity of earlier models. The bow profile had to be modern, but with the volume for big sail locker hatches for watersports toys. The cabinhouse had to be stylish, while ensuring maximum sight lines from the interior helm to the horizon. So as a team they generated a collaborative design – a cohesive, beautiful, and functional platform that solved for the list of “must-haves” and feels genuinely exciting.

DESIGN HIGHLIGHTS

Design decisions were made with aesthetics, performance and utmost safety in mind for a blue water performance cruiser.

– A mid-height walkthrough transom provides maximum space and light in the aft cabin as well as the security of having a physical barrier from following seas while offshore.

– The traveler is mounted all the way back on the aft beam and, in conjunction with the mast positioned further aft, yields a balanced, modern sail profile.

– The aft structure remains free and clear to serve as a customizable entertainment area (choices including fridge drawer, ice maker, sink) or additional storage.

– Sugar scoop cutouts in the transom make for easy boarding and tying up a dinghy alongside the inner hull.

– ‘The Breakthrough,’ an aesthetic concept by le Quément and Chedal Anglay at the outset, was quickly validated for uses such as a lead for dock lines, power cords, or a dock hose, as well as a stepping point for boarding. (This is a great example (albeit rare) where function follows form!)

– The cabinhouse design offers maximum real estate for solar panels while remaining visually aesthetic with sleek, wraparound windows.

– Long topside windows look sleek and ensure fabulous natural lighting in the hull cabins.

– The mast located further aft than prior models, combined with an increased beam offers a higher safety margin and increased righting moment.

– The modern wave-piercing bow profile gives a sense of modernity and increased performance.

Christophe Chedal Anglay comments, “The Gunboat 68 captures the lightweight structure, expectation of performance, and luxury that is race-inspired but truly a platform for people who would enjoy going around the planet. Detailed design and planning have given us a great jump off the start line!”

Patrick le Quément further unpacks what we’re looking at: “In design, there is this rule that one searches for balance. With the Gunboat 68 we sought the perfect imbalance – the notion of movement and speed. The proportions make the boat look right, like it is positioned moving forward in the sea and totally adequate for its purpose. There are no straight lines – everything is designed with taut curves as in nature. There are no mechanical radii, instead we designed accelerated lead-ins that look right from any angle. There are curves, an overall strength and authentic design that we did not want to look aggressive but rather captivating – it just makes sense to the eye.”

BUILDING LIGHTER AND STRONGER

Beyond the visual appeal they’re creating, the close collaborative loop and a masterful design make for highly efficient boatbuilding.

Gunboat’s COO William Jelbert explains, “The (curved) shape of the hull actually makes it stronger. We don’t have large flat panels – which are easier for production but much weaker. The bow chamfer, for example, creates a very rigid shape. Thankfully, to optimize weight we were always planning to thermoform the corecell. That decision means we simply shape the core to the designers’ lines and place it in the mold, so it gives the designer freedom to explore new, stronger forms that are aesthetically pleasing, and there’s no risk of that causing additional hours in the production line.”

FROM THE BUILD TEAM

The devil is in the details. 5-axis milled plugs and female molds mean smooth hull parts and small tolerances, but it doesn’t help if you plan to add large bumps of joining laminate after the fact. We incorporated all the fine details into the mold, like recesses for seacocks and most importantly small rebates for anything that will be laminated together later, like the deck or the daggerboard case. This ensures minimal paint filler and weight.

The laminators apply the dry carbon to the mold following strict rules for overlaps. The hull is engineered using the latest Finite Element Analysis (FEA) software, so we have reinforcement patches and core recesses in exactly the right places to match the load that each area will see. The thermoformed core-fit is performed by expert craftsman, done to millimeter tolerances. After the core and inside skin of carbon are completed we went about applying the infusion resin feed lines. The infusions are designed in conjunction with our supplier’s technical experts and validated beforehand by doing several test panels. This gives us a clear indication of flow rates and reduces the risks when we infuse a large component like the bridgedeck – because once you start, you can’t stop!

Article #1 in our series offering insight on the design and build of the Gunboat 68; Originally published Dec 2017 chronicling production stages of 6801, updated with additional build photos from the series in 2020.

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THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME – GUNBOAT 68 EXTERIOR DESIGN
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