Radical. Reimagined. Revolutionary. Words like these are often used to describe new superyacht concepts. But few new superyacht designs combine a fresh new aesthetic (both inside and out) with serious engineering innovations that make a host of new ideas possible quite like the new 150-foot-long EXO concept sailing yacht that was developed in partnership between Claydon Reeves and Dykstra Naval Architects is all about.

According to preliminary reports, the designers primary focus was  to let greater amounts of light into the interior and provide better views from within than other similar-sized yacht, so EXO was given huge glass windows that wrap over the deck and a convex wall of glass that separates the saloon from the aft beach club. Meanwhile, thanks to a recent research program that’s studying potential applications of so-called “topology optimization” in yacht design, EXO’s structural “exoskeleton” has been engineered to divide and dissipate all the forces on the yacht to make this radical new design approach possible. 

Ok, so…what is “topology optimization” you ask? Well…according to the designers, it’s a “mathematical approach that optimizes material use within a given design space for a given set of loads and boundary conditions, such that the resulting layout meets a prescribed set of performance targets. It is a method by which designers and engineers can find the best concept design that meets the design requirements, which is then fine-tuned for performance and manufacturability.”

Since the designers wanted a more organic and natural concept yacht that was inspired by shapes and forms not usually found in traditional yacht design, they conducted a study in conjunction with the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany that took nature as their main source of inspiration. The study analyzed the exoskeletons of microscopic marine creatures to discover whether the same functionality, efficiency and aesthetics could be transferred to yacht design using a dedicated software program. 

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In the case of the composite EXO concept, the study involved entering data on load paths through components such as the fore- and backstays, shrouds and keel box, into the software program. The resulting 3D ‘skeleton’ design basically mirrors the loading on structural stiffeners and truss members in the hull, as well as the deck and bulkheads.

“Because the spaces in between the load paths are non-structural, you can then create shapes in the hull that would not be possible with traditional frame construction,” says Thys Nikkels of Dykstra Naval Architects. “In the case of EXO, for example, the large organic windows set into the hull are the direct result of this process insofar as they are designed around the loads on the hull structure, not the other way around.” The research is still in its infancy, but in theory an “organic” composite structure could be manufactured in a female mold that is then clad to create the hull form.

The main load bearing elements are designed to be built of carbon fiber while the hull skin is to be developed using even lighter construction methods. Even the deck caulking is inspired by the radiating growth rings of a tree trunk, which illuminate at night, forming intriguing patterns and effects. The twin helm stations grow out of the bulwarks like tree branches. While the massive glass windows wrap into the deck and will be framed by the carbon fiber “chassis.”

Now this is a design concept I’ll be following closely.

Watch this space.

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