These days superyacht owners expect high performance to go hand in hand with great aesthetics. It's not always easy marrying up these two objectives, but composite rigging specialists Future Fibres has shown that their new 'Under Deck Turnbuckle' (UDT) system offers one of those rare 'win-win' situations.
Future Fibres has patents pending on new technology that will enable boat builders to incorporate turnbuckles for standing rigging below decks. Tom Hutchinson, CEO of Future Fibres, explains the advantages of the technology: "The UDT system enables us to reduce the overall weight, in comparison to a normal turnbuckle system, and to lower its centre of gravity by recessing it into the hull structure. But more importantly, certainly for the superyacht market, is that unsightly turnbuckles are no longer visible above deck. Composite rigging disappears 'through the floor', leaving a smooth and uncluttered deck for the owner and guests to enjoy."
Turnbuckles for standing rigging below decks
Hutchinson believes the ideal, and most weight-effective, solution will be to create a composite tube laminated directly into the hull. But he accepts that persuading designers and boatyards to incorporate such far-reaching ideas won't initially be easy. "We're working on a project for Sunshine, a Tripp 38m currently building at Vitters, although this version is in stainless steel tube," says Hutchinson. "People are sometimes more comfortable using steel, although I'm sure it won't be long before we're working with someone on a UDT project in composite."
Peter Lassche of Vitters Shipyard comments: "The benefit of this technology is to have the turnbuckles buried underneath the deck, making for a clean and aesthetically beautiful deck. The challenge is to keep it as light and clean as possible, while still being practical for every day use." And Jens Cornelsen, project manager for Sunshine adds: "Whilst I think incorporating a UDT system is going to be technically challenging, it makes that area of the boat look very elegant. It's a nice feature."
Hutchinson points out that although the UDT system going into Sunshine is a first, it is still the result of many months' intensive research and development into the technology. "Our plan is to enter into a full design programme for the next three to four months, to produce UDT systems that will cater for every size of yacht from 12 to 60 metres.
"At the moment, as with many innovations, this is being driven by demand in the superyacht market and the UDT is very much a custom project application. However, given time, there's no reason why it couldn't penetrate the broader market. The yard has to design a UDT system into the chain plate of the boat, so it will take time for the technology to filter through to the production boat market. But there's no reason why a Dehler 44, for example, couldn't have an Under Deck Turnbuckle system. It will be lighter, offer less windage and will make for a much cleaner look. Who wouldn't want that?"