The…female body of the boat


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photo-boatThe boat is a complex object composed of 6 faces (bow, two bulwarks, stern, hull and deck) where a multitude of lines and surfaces intertwine. In this interplay of forms, as the influential Mario Pedol of Nauta Yachts, designer of many of the most beautiful boats around (his Southern Winds and the new Grand Soleil, for example), says: “the most attractive and exciting part, the female body of the boat, is definitely the hull,” which like the aesthetic ideal of a woman is constantly changing. While in the era of galleons the shapes were the result of nascent naval engineering that adhered to the hydrodynamic “cod-head bow” and “mackerel-tail stern” model, in the last century the influences have mainly started from tonnage regulations, emerging technologies and new materials.

From the pronounced swoops of the 1920s-30s of the America’s Cup J Classes to the rounded full-wheel bows of the 1970s-80s of the IOR Class, to the truncated hulls of more recent racing regulations (ORC and IRC, ocean-going boats) with nearly vertical bows and sterns. Today, Pedol further points out, we have entered a new era in which “the limitations imposed by the aprioristic constraints of the tonnage regulations are less strong, the forms become freer and more self-serving in terms of performance and behavior at sea: much more essential, I would say sexy.”

This emerging historical phase brings with it a strange juxtaposition of schools of thought that compare and sometimes clash in the use of edges and rounds, straight lines and curves, more or less pronounced bows and sterns.
The neoclassical current counts among its most significant representatives the American shipyard Hinckley and the English Spirit Yachts, which are characterized by their pronounced leaps and the tendency not to use or avoid straight lines, favoring a mixture of curved forms in harmony with one another without harsh shifts, suspended or interrupted lines. Instead, the school of designers, known as modernists, demonstrates how one can, from a thorough knowledge of history, rework old codes of expression to design balanced classic and modern boats. The emphasis is always on momentums that play a primary role in defining the aesthetic, crowning or spoiling the whole work.

To better clarify the aesthetic codes of yachting design, one need only look at some iconic profiles, compared with each other, and follow the explanation given by the well-known designer Javier Soto Acebal (many Wally and Solaris in his resume) introducing us to the lesser-known aesthetic variables: “Let’s start with the bow. To make a hull with a vertical bow more elegant, one can think of doing a great aesthetic work on the knee (profile 2 and 3), the connecting part between the foredeck and the hull, located above the waterline. But this is not the only possibility; you can achieve the same result with an accentuated leapfrog (profile 1). This is all within the technical-functional restrictions, which are greater in racing boats and lesser in cruising boats. On an ultralight racing hull (profile 4), for example, function dictates that the knee should be lowered below the water level to increase waterline length and make the most of the tonnage regulations. The same logic influences the design of the stern. On tighter hulls, one lowers the profile of the aft area (profile 4) even at the risk of getting a heavy leapfrog and freeboard. Whereas in the absence of constraints (profile 1), other than those of seaworthiness, safety and comfort, it is easier to play with shapes to achieve an elegant stern.” When asked, what is the right dosage of elements for the perfect boat, no designer answers: like the chef, he never reveals the secret ingredients.



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