Design: Support Vessel Butlers for superyachts
They call them “shadow boats”, “support vessels” or “yacht support”, and we could in some sense think of them as butlers for superyachts. These are boats, or better ships, given that they range from 20 to 90 metres in length, designed to be support vessels to a mother ship, in other words a superyacht. A little like ghost-writers in literature, these vessels are becoming an invisible yet fundamental “appendix” that is quietly gaining ground in the magical world of super- and mega- yachts. In simple terms these are boats born to follow their mother ship and carry things such as large tenders and all those fun ‘toys’ and ‘gadgets’ that today’s superyachts are full of. If indeed toys on-board were once limited to a canoe and a windsurfer and little else, today’s superyachts cannot go without a couple of wave runners, a small sailing boat, a speedboat for water-skiing, and even a mini-submarine and a helicopter. Without counting air compressors for pumping up slides, floating docks and whatever. Over the years this has meant that super yachts have needed larger and larger garages, which take up a lot, maybe too much space. With a support vessel the owner doubles the space available and can take on holiday everything he wants, including his favourite car or a helicopter. But, depending on how it’s fitted, a support vessel can also be used for hosting additional guests, for example, or for a professional kitchen, a Spa, a gym. And also to free a yacht of crew not needed on board, if moored in a bay for example. And it can also be used as a support vessel for racing yachts.
From a more technical point of view, support vessels are derived from those used for servicing offshore oil rigs. They feature big engines and are generally very seaworthy, both musts for the sort of tasks they’re put to. In effect, support vessels are not just extra space or a floating warehouse, but can be used for scouting dangerous waters, or for quick trips, and indeed emergencies. These characteristics mean that both from a technical and a design point of view they look a lot like an expedition yacht. It’s not by chance that some designers and yards are proposing explorers in a support vessel version. A Support vessel’s ultimate purpose is to simply life. Not just because it carts toys around, but also because it can go ahead and get everything ready and in the water for the arrival of the mother ship, then to pack everything up when it leaves. Lastly, it seems that it’s advantageous also from a money point of view: in effect, considering that a support vessel is much cheaper than a mega-yacht, an extra boat will cost less than opting for a bigger mega-yacht. Many yards have joined the market for these support vessels, both with projects on paper and support vessels that are already operational. Let’s take a look at some, starting with the three yards that for the moment are market leaders for these somewhat special boats, and that indeed offer various sizes: the Dutch yards Lynx Yacht and Damen, and the French yard Piriou.
DAMEN This Dutch ship building colossus, specialised in vessels with a high content in terms of technology, such as offshore vessels or naval patrol vessels, including su-
peryachts under the Amels brand name, has in recent years come out with a range of suppor t vessels, which it counts on a great deal for the future, branded YS ( Yacht Support), available in sizes from 43 to 89 metres LOA. These are born of what are known as fast crew suppliers, the high- speed suppor t vessels used for transporting personnel for oilrigs and such like. And from these they have inherited the “sea axe hull”, the axe bow hull designed to cleave through roof seas at speed, as well as all superstructure placed right forward so as to act as a protection for the deck aft of it. ( figures 02, 03 e 04)
PIRIOU The French yard Piriou last year launched its own range of suppor t vessels that includes three sizes from 40 to
63 metres LOA. Piriou is not so well known in the world of yachting as it specialises in building working vessels, built to be solid and trustwor thy. Aesthetics and design are thus not priorities. Their suppor t vessels are indeed basic but at the same time ver y versatile, but they have now come up with an attractive 63- metre model with an innovative design that can be used for a variety of purposes. ( figures 05, 06 e 07)
LYNX YACHT Branding them YXT, acronym for “Yacht X Tender”, the young Dutch yard Lynx Yachts offers a range of support vessels from 20 to 36 metres LOA, all designed for huge storage capacity both on deck and in the holds. The silhouette of these YXTS is very similar to that of a traditional tugboat, with a high bow and superstructure right forward to protect the large and low aft deck, which is close to the water so as to make it easier to launch the toys the mother ship’s owner wants with him. The smallest, the YXT 20m launched last year, has 45m2 of deck space for toys and as much as 30 cubic metres of hold for the “smaller” toys. Shifting all this gear of course requires a crane, and this is another feature of the silhouette of the YXTS. ( figures 08a e 08b)
ARCADIA Arcadia is an Italian yard that has over recent years won growing attention for the unmistakeable style of its large semi- planing yachts that feature innovative solutions in terms of ergonomics and style, such as their unique kaleidoscopic superstructures, with their sharp edges and massive insulated window like panels, with encased solar ones, that provide the huge interior with stacks of light. Presenting Sherpa, last year Arcadia became a producer of suppor t vessels with a 58- footer, just under 17 metres at the ser vice of its
larger mother ship. Even if considerably smaller than other suppor t vessels you see around, Sherpa has all their typical characteristics. Indeed, Sherpa looks ver y much like an explorer with superstructure forward to allow for a flush main deck that is a full 41 square metres that, depending on the version, can be completely open or fitted with a veranda and become a fully fledged if small expedition yacht. Also below deck Sherpa has bags of space thanks to its 5.5 metre beam, quite considerable for its 16.8 metres LOA, allowing for a 13 m2 garage the volume of which is a full 7 cubic metres. Together with these characteristics Arcadia has included the look of all its other yachts. The end product has a pleasant and innovative design, one reason for the success of this small suppor t vessel, which despite having come onto the market only a year ago, has already sold as many as 4. ( figures 09)
ECHO YACHTS For this par ticular suppor t vessel from Australia a full 46 metres long, the yard has opted for a catamaran hull. It’s called Charley and was launched at the end of last year by the yard Echo Yachts. It was built to be the suppor t vessel for the mother ship still under construction at the same yard, White Rabbit Golf, an 84- metre trimaran. Designed by New Zealand’s LOMOcean, Charley carries just about ever y toy and accessor y you can imagine, including a touch- and- go helipad and a decompression chamber. ( figure 10)
CONCLUSIONS The suppor t vessels we’ve looked at have already been built or are under construction. But there are many other yards and designers that are coming up with more ideas for this new niche market for this type of vessel. Among them, alongside ‘ pure’ suppor t vessels, many are mixed- use yachts that, even if they don’t have the extreme characteristics typical of this class of vessel, can in any case be considered honourable compromises. Some of these ideas can be seen in the pictures and diagrams with this ar ticle. What more to add? For sure these are ver y specific boats, dreamed up for billionaires that already have a super yacht wor th tens of millions of euro. But the fact that suppor t vessels have become all the rage so quickly and considering that the smaller versions are built in series or on specification, in other words without an order, is food for thought, even when these vessels do not come cheap, given that they star t at over a million euro, for the small ones too. But these are in any case born as “suppor t” for superyachts that can even be over a 100 metres long!
The Fast Crew Supplier 5009 “Doña Diana”, a 51 metre high-speed support vessel designed and built at Damen over 10 years ago, is capable of 25 knots in the tough weather conditions typical of the North Sea and works for offshore oilrigs. Below, “Pursuit”, one of the first support vessels ever built by Damen, in 2010. On both vessels the innovative “sea axe hull” is very noticeable, the axe bow hull dampens the effects of rough seas even at high speeds, and the superstructure right forward that acts as a protection for the deck behind it is also clearly noticeable The illustration shows some of the many functions that a 55 metre support vessel, such as the Dutch yard Damen’s YS5009, can provide. With a deck of 225 square metres, this support vessel is available in various versions such as for scuba diving or sailing regattas, or also with a certified helipad and other needs.
Fast & Furious, delivered last year, is one of the latest YS5009 support vessels built by Damen, and shows how this type of vessel is gaining more and more defined features. The Damen yacht supports (YS) offer flexible areas that can be transformed according to need, with modular systems that can increase or decrease the covered part of the deck. The illustration shows the modular hangar on the YS5009 class.
The support vessel fleet by the French yard Piriou, from 40 to 63 metres LOA.
Longitudinal section of the YXT 20 metre: with helm station and crew’s quarters all well forward, in the superstructure, which shields the huge deck aft that is very low so as to make launching toys easier.
This 20 metre YXT, the acronym for “Yacht X Tender”, is an entry-level support vessel made by the Dutch yard Lynx Yachts, the biggest in this range being 36 metres. The main feature of these vessels is the amount of stowage space both above and below deck.
For its 63-metre YSV Piriou has worked on a new original and smart design; looks are becoming important also for support vessels! The majority of support vessels built by Piriou are basic but very versatile: the illustration shows a Piriou YSV 53.
Figure 14 - Van Geest Design, together with Marimecs, has come up with this 62-metre support vessel designed for mother ships of 85 to 160 metres LOA. This is a pure support vessel and boasts 300 square metres of deck for toys and tenders and a vast amount of space below deck, with a garage large enough to stow a helicopter.
Figure 15 - Developed by the Italian design studio Green Yachts, the Naucrates 85 is a 25-metre support vessel that can double as a true and proper yacht. This thanks to the possibility of adding and removing modules that hook onto the main deck and become additional superstructures. In this way one can easily add cabins, for those extra guests, or remove them when there is need for more space for toys on deck.
Figure 13 - Roman designers Zuccon International Project have proposed a design in line with the support vessel but that can also be used for cruising. It sports three double cabins and a large lounge area on the main deck, whilst the upper deck is for the owner and has direct access to the helipad.