One of the make-or-break moments on a yacht is at start-up. If a shipyard has skimped on its NVH (noise, vibration, and harshness) research, then as the ignition buttons are pressed down in the engine room, the guests up on deck will be treated to a boisterous cacophony made by two huge and rather angry turbo diesels spooling up. Sure, if you’re on something big and hairy, like a Mangusta, then the ‘thrum-thrum-thrum’ of 10,000 horsepower idling is all part is all part of the experience, however, for a luxury superyacht, mingling should be done in tranquility, not on an aft deck lounge that sounds like an old Routemaster Double-Decker.
For its latest superyacht, christened Home, Heesen Yachts went one step further in its quest for peace, matching an efficient fast displacement hull with an equally efficient hybrid propulsion system. This eco-friendly combination enables the 50-metre superyacht to cruise in near silence, which, according to the rather unconventional research of the Dutch shipyard, is essential in the enjoyment of not only rest and relaxation, but for eating and drinking, too.
To truly understand silence, Heesen turned to Professor Barry Smith, Founder of the Centre for the Study of the Senses and Director of the Institute of Philosophy. Smith’s studies examined the effects that silent running would have on Home’s guests, with some genuinely pioneering results. “Our research has shown that the brain’s processing of taste is affected by noise, which reduces the tongue’s ability to detect salt, sweet and sour,” stated the Professor. “The beauty of Home is her ability to run at a sound of around 46 decibels — the sound-level of softly falling rain – enabling those on board to enjoy food and drink to the full with no diminution of taste.’
The secret to Home’s silence is her hybrid propulsion system, a set up that enables her to draw on two sources of power: diesel mechanical and diesel electrical. Whenever you hear the word hybrid, you automatically think of batteries, but the only ones aboard Home change the channels on the flat screen TVs. Instead of rows of heavy batteries, two V12 MTU turbo diesels share their driveshafts with two 127kW water-cooled DC electric motors. Either or both sources can be used at the same time, meaning the Heesen has three modes of travel. For normal use, the MTUs can be run by themselves, which is overall, the best combination of speed and efficiency. For a power boost, say when running from weather, or getting to that restaurant booking on time, the both the diesel and electric motors can be run together, but it’s the electric only that is the most intriguing and the reason behind Home’s cabinet full of awards. Here, generators power the water-cooled electric motors, resulting in a top speed of nine knots with noise and vibration levels well below the original specification levels. Navigation is hushed, with only the rolling waves making any sort of noise and it goes without saying, that the compact generator/ E-Drive system is far smoother than the V12s.
Home is not only extremely quiet, she is also highly fuel efficient, with her turbo diesels consuming only 98 litres per hour at 12 knots, while supping a mere 45 litres per hour at 10 knots in hybrid mode. Range wise, she can cover 4250 nautical miles at 12 knots, using every drop of her 45,000 litre fuel tanks. These figures are pretty impressive for a 50-metre superyacht displacing 295 tons and coming in just under the 500 Gross Tonnage threshold, a real testament to the remarkable efficiency of the Fast Displacement Hull Form (FDHF) devised by van Oossanen Naval Architects.
Frank Laupman of Omega Architects is responsible for Home’s rather homely styling, with only her vertical bow and spray rails coming across as aggressively purposeful. The rest of her 50-metre silhouette is graceful, flowing and unpretentious, with only the aft main and upper deck cutouts breaking her sleek lines. That’s not to say Home isn’t sporty, with her low-profile sundeck hardtop and steeply raked aft superstructure styling, but a superyacht that’s designed to travel the seas in hushed tones should really look as subtle as she sounds.
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As each Heesen is custom built, the Owner gets the opportunity to choose which interior designer he, or she would like to work with, and for Home, Cristiano Gatto got the nod. Unlike many of his strictly industrial design peers, Gatto started his creative life as a sculptor, graduating from the School of Fine Arts in Venice before joining Nuvolari Lenard as Project Manager and subsequently, General Manager, meaning his yacht interior visions are routed more in art than pure industrial design and Home’s interior is as refined as her powertrain. Working closely with the Owner, Gatto has created a décor that boasts a sophisticated linear design. It’s bright, airy and calming, with white, the predominant colour. Of course, to create the interior’s subtle shadows and highlights Gatto didn’t use just the one white, instead, he incorporated 14 shades throughout Home, from the main salon and Owner’s suite on the main deck, to the five cabins on the lower deck and the upper deck lounge.
“The Owner asked us to modify the colour scheme, design details and overall decoration to give the interior a contemporary, almost minimalist design,” comments Cristiano Gatto.
We stepped in when the outfitting works were at an advanced stage, so we had to work with the existing structures.
The contrast between the pure white of the fabrics, leather and lacquered surfaces and the warm hues of woods, create a sophisticated ambience in all the rooms and bathrooms. There are hints of non-white pigments though, and with the Owner’s favourite colour being burgundy, the deep red can be spotted on every deck, both inside and out and is a great way of catching the eye. “The linearity of design is enriched by geometrical patterns, precious materials and meticulously designed details.” Concludes the man himself.
A superyacht that’s designed to travel the seas in hushed tones should really look as subtle as she sounds.
Rolls-Royce famously said of its car interiors that “the loudest noise comes from the electric clock.” On Heesen’s Home, you can’t even hear that. So quiet is the Heesen’s hybrid system (the electric-drive generators are mounted on flexible mounts inside an enclosed sound-box) that the captain can raise the anchor at dawn and head off to the next destination without waking the Owner and guests. It’s not only eco friendly, but also hugely impressive to those enjoying the whiteness of Home’s interior spaces, or enjoying their extra-appetising sweet and sour treats.