Galac­tica Su­per Nova

The lat­est 70-me­tre from Heesen, boast­ing 30 knots of speed Alan Harper

SuperYacht World - - Report - Pho­to­graphs | Guil­laune Plis­son; David Churchill

Heesen has al­ways been out on its own. True, it’s Dutch, it’s sited on a canal in a town with an odd name, and it builds high-qual­ity su­pery­achts in alu­minium and steel, but there has never been any­thing stereo­typ­i­cal about it. The ship­yard can no more be cat­e­gorised along­side Van Lent or Royal Huis­man than it can with Benetti or San­lorenzo. Frans Heesen, who founded the firm in 1978 aged 32, was never the stan­dard su­pery­acht sales­man ei­ther. He learned about fi­bre­glass by fix­ing the fair­ing of his Tri­umph rac­ing bike, lost three fingers to a bench saw as a 15-year-old ap­pren­tice, and al­though lat­terly he would drive to work in a May­bach, he still went to boat shows in his Levi’s.

It was Frans Heesen’s bullish, can-do at­ti­tude in tak­ing on tricky com­mis­sions that set the ship­yard on its cur­rent course. Back in the early Eight­ies he signed a con­tract to build Sun­liner VIII, a 30-me­tre that could do an un­heard-of 30 knots. Then came the project that put the Oss ship­yard on the map: John Staluppi’s Oc­to­pussy, a 40-me­tre mo­tor yacht de­signed by Frank Mul­der, which the Amer­i­can au­to­mo­bile mag­nate in­sisted should be ca­pa­ble of 50 knots. Staluppi’s ac­count makes it sound like a friendly re­quest, but the con­tract was so be­set with vi­cious penalty clauses it could have put Heesen out of busi­ness.

“The fi­nance guys looked at the con­tract and said, ‘What on earth did you sign?’” Frans Heesen told me with a laugh dur­ing an in­ter­view. “There were 15 or 16 yards in­ter­ested, which was soon down to three – me, one in Italy and one in the US. Then they backed out too.” Fa­mously, the Mtu-pow­ered, triple-jet su­pery­acht achieved 53.17 knots on its sea tri­als, and Staluppi paid the ship­yard a bonus. Ev­ery­one went away happy, and the Heesen yard never looked back.

“She’s like a race­horse – give her a lit­tle and she just wants to go faster”

Mr Heesen has long since re­tired, of course. You can find him at his beloved FC Oss foot­ball club, where the fans shel­ter from the el­e­ments in the 4,500-seat Heesen Yachts Sta­dium. But the ship­yard still stands out as a com­pany con­fi­dent with its own iden­tity, as un­afraid of risk as it ever was.

There are par­al­lels be­tween Oc­to­pussy and Galac­tica Su­per Nova – two triple-en­gined yachts whose top speed was a cru­cial com­po­nent of the deal – but even though the Heesen yard is on a much firmer fi­nan­cial foot­ing to­day than it was when John Staluppi’s hard-nosed con­tract could have asked se­ri­ous ques­tions, the risks in­her­ent in the con­struc­tion of this lat­est project are ar­guably just as great.

For a start, she’s huge. Oc­to­pussy with her ten­der in tow could fit in­side with­out touch­ing the sides. Get­ting a yacht of this dis­place­ment to hit 30 knots is a tech­ni­cal chal­lenge on a par with mak­ing Staluppi’s 140-ton­ner ful­fil her con­tract. The new yacht is ef­fec­tively a ‘Mark 2’ version of 2013’s Galac­tica Star. The two-knot dif­fer­ence in top speed be­tween the 65-me­tre orig­i­nal and her 70-me­tre suc­ces­sor might seem in­cre­men­tal, but it re­quired an ex­po­nen­tial in­crease in hard­ware and engi­neer­ing. The ear­lier yacht has two V20 4000-se­ries MTU diesels that pro­duce 5,766hp each and drive con­ven­tional shafts and pro­pel­lers. The 30-knot Galac­tica Su­per Nova has those too, but with the all-im­por­tant ad­di­tion of a third en­gine be­tween the two main ones, cou­pled to a Rolls-royce jet-drive.

“This is some­thing pretty ex­otic,” re­marks Niels Mo­erke, manag­ing direc­tor of naval ar­chi­tects Van Oos­sa­nen. The ‘fast dis­place­ment’ hull shape de­vised by the Wa­ganin­gen firm for Galac­tica Star and now reprised for the new yacht was an in­no­va­tion in it­self, with its wave-cheat­ing bow bulb, a 70mm

“We al­ways start with the so­cial and con­ver­sa­tion ar­eas”

in­ter­cep­tor pro­trud­ing down­wards from a barely sub­merged tran­som, and care­fully sculpted but­tock lines that re­di­rect pres­sure for­ward and help to re­gain en­ergy from the water flow.

“Heesen’s phi­los­o­phy usu­ally requires a hard-chine hull de­sign that can ex­ceed the hump speed,” Mo­erke ex­plains. “But that’s very un­com­fort­able, and in­ef­fi­cient at cruising speeds. We wanted to fill the gap be­tween full plan­ing and dis­place­ment hull forms.” It sounds like try­ing to turn base metal into gold, but Van Oos­sa­nen’s naval ar­chi­tects are clearly ex­cel­lent alchemists, for Galac­tica Star’s per­for­mance was truly im­pres­sive. A con­ven­tional dis­place­ment hull of the same wa­ter­line length would have a the­o­ret­i­cal hull speed of be­tween 18 and 19 knots, which puts her 28 knots into per­spec­tive.

But there are lim­its even to Van Oos­sa­nen’s in­ge­nu­ity. Notwith­stand­ing Galac­tica Su­per Nova’s slightly longer wa­ter­line length, there was only go­ing to be one way of achiev­ing the two knots nec­es­sary to en­able her owner to say that he had a 30-knot megay­acht, and that was with the ju­di­cious ap­pli­ca­tion of brute force. The third en­gine and its jet-drive were cru­cial to the con­tract. But it still wasn’t easy – the pro­pel­lers had to be spe­cially de­signed to op­er­ate along­side the jet in­take.

One man who knows the yacht bet­ter than most is her South African cap­tain Chris Guy. He joined the build with 12 months to go and took de­liv­ery last March, over­see­ing the tri­als in the North Sea and then de­liv­er­ing the yacht to the Mediter­ranean. It’s fair to say he’s im­pressed.

“As she’s fast and light I was ex­pect­ing to find some com­pro­mises, but no,” he says. “I’ve never known a bet­ter hull in 20 years of yacht­ing. We can run at 15 knots into 1.5-me­tre seas, quite com­fort­ably, with no

slam­ming. I’m sure we could go faster with the same re­sult. She’s like a race­horse – you give her a lit­tle and she just wants to go faster.”

Guy con­firms Heesen’s claims about Galac­tica Su­per Nova’s ef­fi­ciency: at 15 knots, on main en­gines and gen­er­a­tors, her fuel con­sump­tion is a gen­uinely fru­gal 500 litres an hour. At full speed, on the other hand, she burns more than 2,500 litres per hour. “We do run at top speed from time to time to clear the ex­hausts,” says Guy. “Re­cently we spent half an hour at 30 knots and the com­ments from the guests up on the sun­deck were very favourable. Of course,” he adds, “you have to re­mem­ber that you’re adding 30 knots to the wind speed, so it’s best to do it down­wind.”

The sun­deck has been care­fully de­signed with ex­actly that sit­u­a­tion in mind, of course, with max­i­mum pro­tec­tion from the wind but lots of glass, slid­ing windows, and a va­ri­ety of seat­ing ar­eas to choose from. Elsewhere, Galac­tica Su­per Nova’s deck lay­outs bear a fam­ily re­sem­blance to those of her smaller sis­ter, al­though of course with her ad­di­tional five me­tres over­all and slight ex­tra beam she is no­tice­ably larger.

“The 65-me­tre gave us a start­ing point,” con­firms designer An­drea Bonini from the Espen Øino studio, which un­der­took the yacht’s strik­ing ex­te­rior styling as well as the in­te­rior lay­outs. “We al­ways work out the so­cial ar­eas, the con­ver­sa­tion ar­eas, be­fore we start talk­ing to the in­te­rior de­sign­ers,” he adds. “The idea is to give each area of the deck a pur­pose, a point. It’s about the yacht’s char­ac­ter.” He points to the aft end of the main deck, where in­stead of a vast open area de­signed to im­press, there are nu­mer­ous smaller, man­age­able spa­ces with places to sit and things to lean against. It’s on a hu­man scale.

Galac­tica Su­per Nova’s ex­tra length made pos­si­ble one of her most spec­tac­u­lar fea­tures, the six-me­tre

“We cre­ated con­trasts but kept the look clean”

swim-jet in­fin­ity pool in the stern, com­plete with oblig­a­tory water­fall. The beach club un­derneath opens up astern and un­folds to port, with a to­tal area of 146 square me­tres. The fore­deck in­cor­po­rates a touc­hand-go he­li­pad, wired and rigged for con­ver­sion to an out­door cinema.

Galac­tica Su­per Nova’s in­te­rior is by the Dutch studio of Sander Sinot, who spent two years on the project. “The owner was very di­rect – he made good, quick de­ci­sions,” re­calls Sinot. “We have cre­ated con­trasts of fab­rics and tex­tures – metal, leather and wood – but kept the over­all look very clean, which is what he wanted.”

Low-level light­ing pro­vides a visual lift, while nu­mer­ous de­tails make an im­pres­sion of qual­ity and quiet con­fi­dence, such as the back­lit white onyx basin in the mas­ter bath­room, and panels of solid white mar­ble chis­elled into a lat­tice pat­tern and then sand­blasted smooth. At least it looks like solid mar­ble: in fact it’s just six mil­lime­tres thick and mounted on hon­ey­comb board. “All the mar­ble is light­weight,” con­firms Sinot. A spec­tac­u­lar and beau­ti­fully de­tailed cen­tral stair­case around a glass el­e­va­tor shaft ties the whole de­sign to­gether, in ev­ery sense.

Galac­tica Su­per Nova re­ally does seem to be as im­pres­sive as her name. Be­hind the scenes her naval ar­chi­tec­ture and engi­neer­ing are world class, while her de­sign and fin­ish are of the high­est qual­ity. And she does 30 knots: Heesen’s tra­di­tional will­ing­ness to take on im­pos­si­ble com­mis­sions has borne fruit again. Has her cap­tain dis­cov­ered any down­sides to life aboard his new charge?

“Well, the name is quite a mouth­ful on the VHF, es­pe­cially when I’m asked to spell it pho­net­i­cally,” ad­mits Chris Guy, with the hint of a smile. “But I’m proud to say it.” SYW

The yacht’s de­sign and fin­ish are of the high­est qual­ity

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