Superyacht spotlight: Tripp-designed 280-foot superyacht is NOT too big to SAIL


Since I’ve been following and writing about this 280-foot “superyacht that actually sails well”since 2014, I feel weirdly connected to it, and vicariously proud that she had such a great maiden sail. Man that’s a big boat to hand steer. And full kudos and credit to Stuart Pearce/ for the image that was posted on Bill Tripp’s Naval Architecture Facebook page today. Now I just have to see how it sails for myself!


As I’ve written before, Bill Tripp III and his design team believe that large yachts should sail better, not worse, than small yachts. So when an experienced sailor was looking to build a long-range “performance cruiser” in the 85-meter range (that’s roughly 280 feet for you non-metric-system types), they were called in to design something special. And as you can see in these early photos, it just made its grand entrance in Holland.

Both Vitters Shipyard and Oceanco in Holland cooperated to build the Tripp design that’s simply called Project 85. And according to Tripp and Vitters’s Managing Director Louis Hamming, this groundbreaking, 85-meter-long yacht is going to have all the space, style, and luxury one expects of a large, modern, world-cruising superyacht. But unlike almost any other sailing yacht in this size range, it’s also designed to be a true high-performance sailing machine that will be more responsive, rewarding, and fun to sail than any other sailing yacht in this size range has ever been before.

Look at the size of the yard workers to get an idea just how big this yacht is.
Look at the size of the yard workers to get an idea just how big this yacht is.

“Voyaging is what this ketch is all about,” says Tripp somewhere en route between his US and Dutch design offices as this enormous, several-years-long-project barrels on toward its June 2015 launch date. “She’s designed to provide a kick-ass ride around the globe and fabulous accommodations where the exhilarations of offshore voyaging, and just as importantly, the true joy of sailing, can be experienced in unparalleled comfort and style.”

With multiple award-winning designs that are known for superior sailing performance in the 30- to 45-meter range to their credit, Tripp’s firm was the logical choice for a project of this magnitude. And Project 85 has been designed with many of the features that make Tripp’s “smaller” boats sail so well. These include his signature “high performance” retracting keel with a torpedo bulb, dual rudders, a highly efficient hull shape that maximizes waterline length while minimizing wetted surface, and an extraordinarily powerful and comparatively easy-to-manage ketch rig.

The 20-foot test tank model hanging from the rafters was used in the design process to insure this 280-footer will sail as good as she looks.
The 20-foot test tank model hanging from the rafters was used in the design process to ensure this 280-footer will sail as good as she looks.

The sheer magnitude of the project is just one of several things that sets this yacht (ship really) apart. For instance, the sophisticated torpedo-shaped bulb keel alone weighs 200 tons, and is attached to the end of a relatively narrow keel that’s designed to retract from a maximum depth of 11.6 meters to 5.2 meters with the push of a button. That may not sound like that much until you realize that the hydraulic keel-lifting system can move the equivalent of roughly 200 cars, or 8 double decker buses, fully loaded, up and down the height of a two-story building. You would need 40 V-22 Osprey helicopters to lift that load.

And while nothing improves stability and upwind sailing performance on an 85-meter sailing yacht better than having a sophisticated, hydrodynamically correct keel that weighs 100 tons 11.6 meters below the waterline, the yacht’s industrial-strength hydraulic power that makes it possible to reduce the draft down to a much more friendly 5.2 meters is what really makes the difference when it comes to actually going ashore on a world cruise.

This early photo appeard on twitter this winter inspite of the owners desire to keep the project onthe down low.
This early photo appeard on twitter this winter inspite of the owners desire to keep the project onthe down low.

Meanwhile, the yacht’s dual, 91-meter-tall carbon fiber masts are just a few meters shorter than the Statue of Liberty and will literally provide acres of sail-area horsepower. Overall volume is akin to the volume of the Goodyear Blimp albeit just a bit heavier—total displacement is a whopping 1,538 tons or roughly the equivalent of 77 production-built 40-footers. And at 85 meters long, she could fit nicely inside a football stadium, and will have just the right number of crew—18—to form a football team—almost football teams, that is.


But what’s even more remarkable is how well the design, engineering, and construction teams have worked together to save weight wherever possible to ensure that this revolutionary new yacht delivers the superior sailing performance it’s designed to be capable of. Saving weight isn’t always a big concern on yachts that weigh thousands of tons, and this is one of several reasons why many truly large yachts aren’t always the best “sailing” boats.

Vitters’s Managing Director Louis Hamming echoes Tripp’s philosophy when he says that strict weight monitoring on a “heavy” boat is arguably even more important than on a smaller, lighter boat because the sheer scale is bigger and excess weight can add up quicker. “This project has been fun because we are building a proper sailing boat,” says Hamming. “And with that in mind, we’ve made sure that both the overall weight and balance are kept to within strict predetermined parameters.” To ensure the yacht is boat strong and “light,” the hull is built of steel while the deck and superstructure are built of lighter weight aluminum to keep the center of gravity down. The dual-mast ketch rig is built of carbon fiber for the same reason. Of course Project 85 is still comparatively heavy, but ensuring that all the weight is in the right place, especially down in the keel, is the key to performance.

Other elements of the construction pay similar attention to sailing performance. Custom-designed captive winches have been built not only to handle the significant (up to 40 tons) sheet loads the large sail plan will create, but also to raise an extremely powerful Code 0 headsail in less than two minutes.

And while sailing performance is obviously a priority, no luxury, comfort, or feature has been left out—including a large tender garage equipped with three custom-built tenders and every other extravagance you’d expect to find on such a large yacht.

As for the interior accommodations, we can’t say much yet except that it’s been designed by the German firm Dolker +Voges and features light wood, stainless steel details and colorful upholstery. And there’s accommodation space for 12 guests on board (in addition to the 18 crew) that’s divided over three modern and stylish decks.

I’m sure Tripp and Hamming and every single person who’s been involved with this project will attest to the fact that designing and building such a large yacht to be able to do things that have never really been done before is hardly easy. But I’m also pretty sure that when the winches whirl, and the sails get set, and the rail dips down, and this marvel of design and engineering gets powered up for the first time, it’ll most definitely be worth it.

And I can’t wait to feel that power myself.

*note* This story originally appeared in the May issue of Supersail World in the UK. Check it out if you’re lucky enough to have a subscription.

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