Entering what promises to be a landmark year with the launch of the first Gunboat 68 next fall, and with construction in full swing in La Grande Motte, France, we are kicking off a series of articles on different aspects of design and construction. We’ll cover topics such as Interior Design, Systems, Foil Construction, Rig and Sails, Deck Layout and more – with insights from the naval architects, designers, industry experts and boat builders involved in the creation of the Gunboat 68.
So, let’s begin at the project’s inception – the Exterior Design Brief.
The Gunboat 68 design brief was to create the fastest, most comfortable and most elegantly-designed, luxury performance cruising catamaran in the world.
Design sketch by Patrick le Quément (exterior designer)
With Gunboat under new ownership by Grand Large Yachting, we wanted the first model rolled out to be a show stopper. When we went to the drawing board for the Gunboat 68, we sought the expertise of some of the most talented and preeminent designers in the industry: the world renowned naval architects/engineers at VPLP design and an aesthetic design team combining 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).
For a year, the designers worked a collaborative design loop with the internal design team at Gunboat to capture the brand’s DNA and create the lines of the long-awaited next Gunboat model. Unique to this project and the approach of VPLP, the architects and engineers ensured the designers had full creative license; leaving Patrick le Quément and Christophe Chedal Anglay to capture the essence of Gunboat, while guiding them to fully understand the structural tolerances and the functionality of the forms related to performance. Together they collaborated to design 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 quite a daring decision to give the keys to the designers to drive. It proved to be unique and exciting to have two strong designers bring 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, as well as with active involvement of owners and crew to incorporate 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
The designers were challenged to take the best attributes of prior models and integrate them into the new model, and achieve the balance 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. Identifying the “must-haves” and challenging the designers to find ways to create a cohesive, beautiful, and functional platform forged a collaborative design with exciting results.
The prior Gunboats had either low or high walkthroughs from the transom. Both have their benefits, but also drawbacks. On the Gunboat 68, a mid-height walkthrough transom creates the best of both worlds, with maximum space and light in the aft cabin and also the security in having a physical barrier from following seas while offshore. The traveler is mounted all the way back on the aft beam. This, in conjunction with the mast further aft, meant a balanced, modern sail profile (with the added bonus of a customizable entertainment area in the same aft structure!).
The cabinhouse design offers maximum real estate for solar panels while remaining visually aesthetic with sleek, wraparound windows. Sugar scoop cutouts in the transom make for easy boarding and tying up a dinghy alongside the inner hull. Another unique feature of the Gunboat 68 is ‘The Breakthrough.’ Though an aesthetic concept by Quément and Chedal Anglay at the outset, we quickly identified many uses such as a lead for dock lines, a short 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!
Long topside windows are visually striking 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. These design decisions are made with aesthetics, performance and utmost safety in mind for a blue water performance cruiser.
Christophe Chedal Anglay compares our project to a race around the world (at a time when we’re all inspired by the recent solo-round-the-world record by François Gabart aboard MACIF – a VPLP designed 30m trimaran!).
“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 – we just made it awesome.”
Building lighter and stronger
With our first look at the lines of the Gunboat 68 out of the molds, beyond the striking design we can also start to show how the ingenuity of the feedback loop between interior and exterior designers, the naval architects at VPLP and Gunboat have resulted in a stronger and lighter structure.
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, and this gives the designer freedom to explore new, stronger forms that are aesthetically pleasing while not causing additional hours in the production line.”
Signature elements of the design relate to balance and proportion, strength and elegance – but manifested in a way that makes sense for a fast world-cruising cat.
From the Boatbuilders:
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 software, so we have reinforcement patches and core recesses in exactly the right places to match the load that each area will see. We brought in expert carpenters to lend their experienced hands for a perfect core-fit. 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!