Yard story: Australian built superyacht

McConaghy's Yard in Sydney is building a 30m maxi yacht for British property developer Mike Slade, reports Kevin Green.

The new Leopard3 is the latest in a series of performance maxis for Slade who intends to race the boat in international events including the 2007 Sydney-Hobart and this year's Fastnet Race, under his Ocean Marine sailing team brand.

The new boat is the latest incarnation, building on the experience of the two previous super maxis – Ocean Leopard (1988-1999) and Leopard of London (2000-2006) and like its predecessors it is aiming at top-level race sponsorship, day charters in the Solent and term charters in the Caribbean.

Boat captain Chris Sherlock said owner Mike Slade had a very successful five years racing Leopard of London competitively in worldwide events and the yacht also had proved to be a great business tool for corporate and charter work, but technology had moved on: “The new breed of 30m racing yachts have canting keels and are a lot faster than a fixed keel yacht so Mike decided to upgrade to remain competitive on the racing and charter circuits.”

Sherlock explained that choosing the Australian yard for the build was based on their track record: “McConaghy's were chosen for their success in building five of the most successful canting keel yachts afloat today. We felt that being number six, we would benefit from their experience as the yachts are structurally so different from what we are used to.”

The Bruce Farr design is for a 30m canting keel sloop with twin dagger boards or canards. A unique system, incorporating powered rollers, is used to raise and lower the twin, asymmetric canards. These canards are the most efficient solution for carrying the sideforce generated by the sails. The hydraulically actuated, powered rollers eliminate

Compared with the previous fixed keel boat, the new Leopard3 would have a lot more power with her giant mast and rig setup, said Sherlock. “The mast enables the yacht to carry a little extra weight which will be needed in 'phase two',” he said. Leopard3 is being built as a dual purpose yacht so after its first 12-18 months on the racing circuit, she will begin doing more charter work and the interior will be fitted out in full.

Sherlock said that the current Leopard of London was a fantastic business tool: “She initially made her name on the race track which made selling corporate and termed charter easier, as people looking at taking either a week in the Caribbean or a corporate day on the Solent knew the yacht from the publicity it received whilst racing.”

Echoing the innovations and experience from the Volvo round the world race, the boat not only borrows some design ideas but its build will also be overseen by ABN skipper Mike Sanderson. The hull is made entirely of carbon fibre with a nomex core and weighs in at only 36.5 tonnes. The lean build means she will be a downwind flyer, capable of speeds beyond 35 knots. But in her other role there will be space for 12 guests in three double cabins, luxuriously fitted throughout in an ultra light and modern style with layouts by Ken Freivokh Design. But, cleverly, the interior will be removable for racing.

Another similarity to the ABN design is the hard chine in the hull. According to Farr Yacht Design, the chine improves the water flow off the side of the hull at low and moderate heel angles. “This boat sails at twice the speed of the wind in light winds and is really rolling in seven knots,” said a Farr company spokesman. Mike Slade's brief to Farr was to make Leopard3 a line honours threat for distance racing. To that end the rig and sail plan can carry large sails for reaching and running that will be left on the dock for inshore races.

The build is another prestigious win for McConaghy's Mona Vale yard and an important step towards the lucrative superyacht business, said director Jon Morris. It has posed some interesting challenges, he said, due to the level of complexity of building to survey standards for the first time: “It's built to DNV classification which is required for the boat's charter work. So there's a lot of data logging and quality control processes that are involved with those guys.” As part of the quality control the ship classification company, DNV, inspect the project on a monthly basis during the year-long build.

Morris said that the actual hull build was similar to the yard's previous big boats – Alfa Romeo and Wild Oats XI – but it was the sheer magnitude of the project that was different with many more systems on board than the pure race yachts.

“It's got a few tricky things – it's got a chine down the side like the ABN boat – so that was a bit of a tricky element in building the mould; so that we kept the chine in the correct place when we laid out the hull,” he said. The hull was built over a male tool and they built a plywood male mould.

A further challenge was the deck. In another first, the yard had a mould milled from a CNC five access mill by Queensland company Mouldcam. “They milled the deck plug in five separate parts and trucked it down for us to assemble.”

The project involves using the expertise from many specialist firms in Australia and is again an opportunity for local companies, including Central Coast Hydraulics & Engineering, to showcase their work internationally, as the company's Greg Waters commented: “This is an exciting project with many challenges, drawing on our experience from the other great maxi yachts we have completed – Alfa Romeo, Wild Oats XI, Nicorette and others.”

His company was custom designing, manufacturing and installing all the hydraulic systems to make it one of the most advanced sailing yachts in the world, he said. This includes the canting keel rams, propulsion, thruster control, winch control and the sail control. Deck gear is from Harken and Lewmar with electrics coming from B&G. Reflecting the commercial nature of Leopard3's future, sponsors will be catered for by the installation of an interactive webcam, allowing internet viewing of the boat sailing.

The demands of survey requirements meant there are a lot of systems in Leopard3 including fire controls and engine ventilation units. Power comes from two big Yanmar engines supplied by local dealer Power Equipment – these also run the canting keel, winches and myriad of other systems. Electronics and the complex PLC programming was undertaken Guy Oliver's Sydney company, Electric Systems. This also included B&G instrument installation and computer programming for keel and winch systems.

This multinational project involves co-ordinating work across several continents with sails coming from North Sails in New Zealand and the rig from Southern Spars. Leopard3?s mast and boom is currently under construction at Southern?s premises, said company spokesman Ilan Graetz, who explained the background to the design. “The sail and rig design for Leopard3 evolved significantly over time. By working with North?s, we were able to better understand sail forces and rig structure, and produce very accurate mast bend plots for the mainsail luff curve,” he said.

Standing at 46.2m high, this ?fixed” mast is the longest autoclaved in one piece by Southern, meaning there is no vertical join in the mast so working in conjunction with the sail design was important, said Graetz.

“We have a powerful design ability in working with North Sails as our design software ?Rig Calc? can integrate with North Sails non-linear FEA ?Membrane? design software.”

The mast was built in a female mould. This manufacturing technique enabled Southern to optimise the design and placement of internal and external components such as sheave boxes, compression tubes, tangs, wiring and hydraulics, and in turn ensured the lightest, most efficient detailing and finish. Southern Spars manufacture all medium to large size rigs in female moulds. Leopard3?s mast was constructed with high modulus carbon fibre which is the strongest and lightest carbon grade on the market.

The mast has five sets of aerofoil shaped spreaders. All halyards are internal and have locking systems. The halyards comprise two internal mast head locks, two fractional locks and a lightweight jib swivel lock similar to the lock used on Southern?s TP52 masts.

Leopard?s boom is constructed using a combination of standard and high mod carbon fibre. It has five sets of brackets interconnected with lazy jack lines, similar to those used on Mari Cha IV, for ease of stowing the mainsail. The standing rigging is Future Fibre PBO.

The boat is intended to be a record breaker with Slade aiming to capture the transatlantic record and to attempt a non-stop circumnavigation in under 80 days. The completed hull will be shipped back to the UK in April for the launch in June 2007.

“The build is another prestigious win for McConaghy's Mona Vale yard and an important step towards the lucrative superyacht business,? said director Jono Morris.

– Yacht Designer: Farr Yacht Design
– Builder: McConaghy Boats
– Interior & Exterior Styling: Ken Freivokh Design
– Project Management: Ocean Marine
– Canting Keel
– Twin Dagger boards
– LOA: 30 Metres
– Beam: 6.8 Metres
– Draft: 5.5 Metres
– Displacement: 36.5 Tonnes
– Total upwind sail area 843 m2
– Total downwind sail area 1,604m2

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