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North Sails 2021 LEADERBOARD

The dichotomy of it all

by John Curnow 21 Dec 2017 10:49 PST
Part stealth, all class - Volanté © mxDesign

There I was happily evaluating the very lovely lines and technological marvels of the mxCat88 – Volanté that you see above. Lots to take in, as you’ll see from the following. Honestly, it was more like lost in dreams and awe. Perhaps it was no wonder that iTunes served up Beethoven’s ‘Scene by a Babbling Brook’ from his Pastoral Symphony (#6). Then in came yet another superb piece from SY Crystal Blues about a chap called Sean D'Epagnier, and his little Bristol 27 from 1973, Alexandra. There is an achievement too, for this little craft has gone everywhere, cost just $1000, and has none, yes none, of the creature comforts now considered de rigueur on just about every production boat going around.

On top of all that, and somewhere in the middle is the exquisite Hurrica V, which you can now have as your very own! Not too long after reading and absorbing it all I was left with just the one notion – the dichotomy of it all. Yes. This is one wide spectrum indeed.

In amongst all of that was a call with a delightful guy by the name of Adam Kaplan. It was almost as meandering a conversation as the very brook in Beethoven’s masterpiece, for we went through nautical, aeronautical and automotive matters, and back again, concurrently. Out of it all, I was left with a genuine appreciation for what Adam and Vlad Murnikov of mxDesign had been up to for the last four to five years!

These are no mere renderings. What was a notion in Adam’s head after seeing the Harbour Wing project is very real, and has spurned many other items from it, and now Adam and Vlad are looking for others to come and enjoy not only the fruits of their labours, but also all the engineering work done by Gurit, the wing technology, and CFD calculations by Tyler Doyle.

See here is an express cruiser like no other. Pace was always at its core, given Adam’s background, yet the simplicity, whilst another of the cornerstone elements, is something to behold. In Adam’s own words, “I did not want any strings or all of that sailing stuff getting in the way. I wanted the serenity, and none of the stress and work that goes with standing and running rigging, let alone sails and stuff.”

Now Volanté has been used by Alfa Romeo, as well as Aston Martin for their convertible, and perhaps the most famous nautical version was Emilio Largo’s Disco Volanté foiler in Ian Fleming’s classic, Thunderball. Disco Volanté means flying disc, and the Volanté part translates into control, and rapidity, and flying. All of these are very appropriate when it comes to the revolutionary, and certainly high-performance, mxCat88-Volanté.

That apart, with Italian names, themes and connotations applied, you would also expect swathes of style, grace, artistic flare, elegance and beauty. Good thing the boat has got that then, as well as a bit of futuristic, almost stealth like edges to her credit. When you think about, the Disco Volanté was pretty out there for 1965. And so with that we come back to Adam once more, who said to Vlad, “What I am looking for is a solution that can get me around as fast as I am comfortable going, with minimal noise, minimal energy consumption and minimal physical effort.”

“I like your SpeedDream design concept and ultimately what I’d like to accomplish is a SpeedDream version of the cruising catamaran – avant-garde looking, super-fast and the most innovative boat on water!”

“Volanté (the winged cat) combines a luxurious interior and all the creature comforts for the owner’s family and their guests, with high speed (35 knots!) and simplicity of handling. All this has been achieved thanks to the advanced hull design, and the use of hydrofoils with wing sails in bi-plane configuration. This turns sailing into a process somewhat similar to flying a plane, which I am very used to. All controls are concentrated in the wheelhouse, and could be manned by a single person with a few buttons and joy-sticks.” Editor’s note: This is not too dissimilar from an Amel, for instance.

So outside you have the beauty, along with classical elements like long, slender hulls, but form also follows function and at the speeds they have designed her for, you have to deal with not only hydrodynamics, but also aerodynamics! “Everything must serve to enhance performance, to cut effortlessly through the waves, to create lift, or cut the spray down. It goes without saying that her slim hulls combined with wave-piercing bows reduce pitching and slamming, and greatly reduce the risk of pitch-polling”, said Kaplan.

Volanté’s wings are the first time this sort of configuration has appeared on a cruising vessel. As mentioned, Tyler Doyle performed the CFD work and says of the rig, which lowers the centre of effort, yet still allows for power, “Using free standing semi-rigid wings to power an eighty eight foot offshore catamaran offers a number of potential advantages over conventional rigs.”

“In addition to providing outstanding performance, two other significant benefits of free standing wings are ease of use and safety. Conventional running rigging used on large yachts is often complicated, and when highly loaded can be quite dangerous.”

“A free standing wing has no running rigging and simply pivots about two large bearings mounted in the hulls. Trim is accomplished by rotating the wings and power adjustments made by changing the shape of the wing through the use of control surfaces. All this can be done from the safety and comfort of the internal command post. Operation becomes similar to flying an airplane, with push-button and lever controls. If necessary, it could be fully automated.”

“The bi-plane configuration is a structurally efficient design for a catamaran because the rotational bearings and support structure are located in the hulls instead of on the centreline, where providing supporting structure is much more challenging. Burying wing’s steps in the hulls makes the structure significantly stronger, lighter and more durable.” “Aerodynamically the bi-plane configuration is especially efficient when power reaching because of the flow interaction between the windward and leeward wings.”

“To be feasible for an offshore performance cruising catamaran, the wings need the ability to reduce area in heavy weather. One way to reduce area is to have the back sections of a two-part wing retract into the forward sections. Another option is to have part of the wing surface flexible so that it can be furled. “ “Engineering of the ‘reefing’ devices is still ongoing as we strive to find the most simple, rugged and reliable solutions. With modern techniques and advanced composite construction, all of these goals can be achieved.”

Inside the whole set of parameters, where you have speed, safety, comfort, beauty and function as criterion, you get to see where the team ended up in regards to foils. Vlad commented, “We have main C-foils, and rudder T-foils. We have decided that a fully foiling cruising offshore catamaran, whilst exciting, is still more of a liability, and could prove dangerous. Instead we designed foils to offset up to 75% of the boat’s full displacement, significantly reducing drag and thereby improving performance.”

“Several foil configurations were explored, one of them utilising an articulating mechanism, which allows us the ability to place the main foil closer to vertical while sailing upwind to increase lateral resistance, and closer to horizontal for reaching legs to increase lift. We expect an upwind speed of 15-20 knots, depending on the sea state, and reaching speeds up to 35 knots.” Editor’s Note: AC36 design uses a similar set of thoughts.

Again, in keeping with the overall design ethos, Volanté’s bows are empty, which keeps her light. You do get a huge, light and airy main saloon/bridge/galley, the whole port hull as the Master Stateroom, while the VIP is in the starboard hull, along with two further guest or crew cabins for’ard of that. Her brilliance also extends to using her electric motors and wings to be geo-synchronous, thereby eliminating the need to ‘anchor’ in all but foul weather.

Now the idea is that you can have your own Volanté fitted out to your own requirements, which is very cool, and the pilot seat is sure to be a very hot ticket! See the video below to get the point. Volanté is 26.8m LOA, with a beam of 9.8m, displaces 26 metric tonnes and has a full sail area of 380m2. Should you wish to be a part of the overall journey and have you very own stylish, futuristic, safe, comfortable, über-express blue water cruiser, then see Vlad's site or email Vlad

Today you will find that we have tales for you about skipping the straw, Kennedy Space Center, tragedy in the Philippines, some utterly brilliant underwater images from Laurence Roberts and Mary Anne Runau, ARC, Florida, Lobsters, new launchings from Bavaria, Perini Navi and Amel, white as snow in Antwerp and on the ensign, meeting up in La Paz, and also Thailand, the many happenings of the USCG, tax in Greece, aids to navigation, ice and all it entails, as well as much more.

So you see, there are stories, lessons, inspirations and history to regale yourself with. Please do savour… We’re really enjoying bringing you the best stories from all over the globe. Remember too, if you want to see what is happening in the other Hemisphere, go to the top and the drag down menu, select the other half of the globe and, voila, it’s all there for you.

Now then, are you out there plying the seas and got something to say? We’d love to hear from you via please email us In the meantime, do you love being on the ocean? Well remember to love them back too. They need our help. Now more than ever! Until next time…

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