Nilaya: first photos of the ultralight, hi-tech super sailing yacht (46.8 m)


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Nilaya - Photo by Tom van Oossanen
Nilaya – Photo by Tom van Oossanen

The superyacht Nilaya (46.8 m) – conceived by Nauta Design and Reichel/Pugh – finally leaves the Royal Huisman shipyard in Vollenhove, the Netherlands. Destination? Amsterdam, for a new and equally delicate operation, rigging, by Rondal. An event that would be nothing special, were it not for the incredible amount of technology and scale that instead surround the project, first of its kind, poised to disrupt the horizons of construction techniques employed to date. Techniques that we will try to explore a minimum as they are not only innovative but also aerospace-derived.


So as the project moves one step closer to its goal, Royal Huisman instead adds a new feather in its cap and rightly celebrates the accomplishment of the feat by sharing images and curious insights into the techniques employed. In fact, the highly anticipated Nilaya is the first superyacht to see the Dutch shipyard’s new design method, Featherlight, a process that, as we will get to see shortly, uses FEA modeling and has its roots in technology applied to spacecraft.

Nilaya – Photo by Tom van Oossanen

Nilaya – Project

Low-profile and streamlined, with a nearly vertical foredeck and a wide twin-rudder transom, Nilaya recaptures the styles of its owners’ maxi of the same name, but takes the technique to yet unprecedented heights. The offspring of the pencils of Reichel/Pugh and Nauta Design, Nilaya is the result of one main concept and intention: to be both a luxury cruising yacht and a contender at the podium in super yacht racing.

A goal that was anything but simple and required comprehensive design studies in relation to both carbon and aluminum (Nilaya is a composite of the two), using computational fluid dynamics (CFD) to maximize the shape and balance of the hull, a full 46.8 meters long. Minimizing weight, on the other hand, has been taken care of by Royal Huisman’s Featherlight method, an integrated, multidisciplinary approach that focuses on weight reduction through advanced construction technology similar to that employed by the European Space Agency (ESA).

Nilaya in a Photo by Tom van Oossanen

Basically, the process Featherlight makes use of the Finite Element Analysis (FEA – Finite Element Analysis), a methodology that allows both materials and their thicknesses to be selected and defined already at the modeling stage in each of the constituent components of the hull, thus maximizing hull stiffness and minimizing total displacement. That is, a strength analysis using the FEA method integrated with parametric modeling makes it possible to determine exactly the right thickness of the constituent material for each of any of the required components and positions, thus achieving the design parameters with the minimum possible weight.

Nilaya – the Featherlight Method during construction

Construction and Results

Moving the theory into the concrete: through continuous monitoring of material handling (Alustar and Carbon) in relation to its mechanical properties, during the construction of Nilaya, the Featherlight method allowed as much as 11 percent of the total weight to be cut compared to a typical construction.

This is a particularly telling achievement, especially considering that it involved no sacrifices whatsoever, either structural or in terms of rigidity, thus leaving intact the qualities of the hull, a high-performance cruiser. A result that is not only the child of technique, however, but of a whole holistic approach to design, to lightness itself, which moves from attention to material distribution, down to the most mundane lighting fixtures.

Nilaya under construction
Nilaya – Photo by Mike-Tesselaar

Hull aside, a lot of technology and research also went into rigging and sail design by Roland and Doyle Sails, respectively, who managed to find novel solutions to succeed in reducing weight and center of gravity height as much as possible. In fact, this is the first superyacht to adopt Doyle’s Structured Luff Sail Design, a solution that has thus made it possible to lighten Rondal’s entire mast, rig, and various components, reducing weight, and lowering the center of gravity and drag coefficients.

The Nilaya Tree

Nilaya – Propulsive aspects

Finally, in addition to sailing performance, a further positive result of the whole approach, as of the Featherlight, is also concluded in terms of propulsion, resulting in a much lighter complex that, as a consequence, requires less power for motorization, a factor that benefits both the boat’s footprint and interior space.

In the case of Nilaya, Royal Huisman’s team developed a “tribrid” propulsion system in response to the owners’ request for an emergency engine to get home. Three ways to power the variable pitch propeller are thus offered, but without the need for an additional third motor, or gearbox, thus saving an additional 2,000 kg. Its battery pack has the added benefit of allowing the yacht to operate quietly in carbon-free areas.

Nilaya stern view
Nilaya and the Royal Huisman Team – Photo by Priska van der Meulen

Technical Specs


Length Over All 46.8 m
Baglio Massimo 10.0 m
Fishing 4.5 – 6.9 m
Accommodation capacity 8 – 10 guests + 8 crew
Concept & Interior Design Nauta Design
Naval Architecture Reichel / Pugh
Builder Royal Huisman
Hull Materials Aluminum and carbon composites




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