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The Vertigo AY41: grand scale, fine detail

Published in Navis June / July 2012
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For a yacht of this magnitude, the level of detail and refinement inherent in every perfectly-completed component of SY Vertigo almost defies belief. The astonishing, minute details could almost be lost in the sheer scale of this stunning superyacht which designer Philippe Briand describes as being "a worthy descendant of the great seafaring ships of the past". After all, at the time of her launching, at 220ft (or 67.2m) in length Vertigo is the largest yacht ever to be designed by Briand, the naval architect; the largest yacht ever to be built by the shipyard, Alloy Yachts; and the single largest sailing yacht ever to be built in the Southern Hemisphere.

Undoubtedly Vertigo is magnificent from the tip of her 67.9m ketch rig to the bottom of her 9.1m daggerboard, from her near-vertical bow along the long clean, sweeping deck line to her short transom. Vertigo's purity of line reflects the kind of simplicity that comes only from huge attention to detail. Yet she is powerful and sensitive to sail, traits virtually unheard of in a vessel of this size which reflect well on the down-to-the-millimetre approach taken by her owner, designers and builders.

The Vertigo project started with preliminary designs by UK-based naval architects Philippe Briand Ltd in December 2004. Initial discussions with yacht builder Alloy Yachts, in Auckland, New Zealand took place in 2005 with the design completed in 2007. Construction began in 2009 and more than 800,000 man-hours later, she was launched in February 2011. Vertigo is an ultra-luxury, performance-oriented 67.2m ketch with a beam of 12.53m and draught of 5.05m (with daggerboard down 9.1m). Her very modern hull design and 'urban at sea' interior provides owner and guest accommodation for 12 and cabins for 11 crew members. Customised technology features strongly inside and out. High definition entertainment and information systems include unique options such as the custom Google Earth interface where, onscreen in each cabin, a 3D model of the yacht follows Vertigo's exact location.

Vertigo carries five tenders, four in custom-built storage facilities in the teak foredeck with a dedicated garage in the transom for an 8m limousine. In fact, all utilitarian equipment is out of sight; submarine anchors, mooring equipment and fairleads are hidden and the massive captive winches – 16 in total – are concealed. At 837 gross tonnes, Vertigo is the first vessel that Alloy Yachts has built to the over 500 gross tonne classification rules. Her 5037 m² sail package from North Sails New Zealand broke new ground by having a roach on the main and mizzen sails much larger than any other sail of this size.

The roached mainsail and mizzen required the development of an entirely new mainsail track and batten car system by mast and rigging specialists Southern Spars. Vertigo also carries a Southern Spars' patented Southern Furl Boom in-boom furling system on each mast. Under sail, she can attain speeds in excess of 20 knots with a true wind speed of 20 knots. Using her twin 1450hp Caterpillar engines, the yacht can reach a maximum speed of 18 knots and maintain a cruising speed of 13 knots with an estimated range of over 4,000nm.

Comments on behalf of the owner

At the start of the project we had a vision to create a large scale yacht that delivered comfort, safety and a route to experiences that we could not begin to imagine at the time. Now Vertigo is complete, she is everything we dreamed of years ago. The complete harmony of the exterior and the interior design makes the yacht unique. Nowhere is there a line, an angle or a feature that could not be placed next to any other anywhere onboard. 

We gained inspiration from the experience of operating an earlier large scale yacht where we saw that comfort, style and functionality need not be compromised as previously has been the case in large sailing yachts. The objective then became to produce a vessel that not only provided a vehicle to allow the guests to find experiences otherwise out of reach. The vessel itself should also be a modern work of art, displaying craftsmanship, design and engineering at the level where the line between technical object and artwork becomes blurred.

Watching the worldwide development of systems and controls that allow the massive sailing loads to be safely managed gave the team the idea that sailing at this scale was not only possible, but that it could be performance-focussed. Highlights of the project include the way in which the designers, the yard and the contractors were able to see the single vision of the yacht. Discussions never lost focus from the end goal of simply building the best boat we could.

The physical milestones that make up the build cannot be seen as highlights as they were lost in the middle of the thousands of small details, each a highlight in their own way. The simple act of standing on the boat as it took shape was a highlight each time the yard was visited. Now the boat is sailing, the highlight is the simple look of amazement upon the faces of every person who has the opportunity to visit the yacht.

The aspects that stand out the most include the manner in which items built far apart from one another fit together, making you realise that the world is a very small place indeed; the manner in which the barriers of language, distance and time can be solved using technology; how the stroke of a pencil can be transformed into an object that has a personality, and how graceful, elegant and powerful the yacht feels when we sail her.

The inspiration

The aim was to create a luxury performance yacht, 60m in length, which could be used for worldwide cruising in absolute comfort and safety. The project team drew on the positive experiences of the owner's former yachts which featured very comfortable saloons on the main deck and extensive flybridges. The design brief was formed by enhancing what worked with these aspects from the earlier vessels, along with the desire for a contemporary design that would still be cutting edge in ten years' time. The addition of a mid-ship lazarette – hull sections that open up on both sides to create boarding/swimming platforms – created yet another dimension to the design and engineering briefs.

Performance was critical – not only is the vessel expected to handle adverse weather fronts, she also needed the power to outrun them, and thus designers of the hull, spars, rigging and sails all had vital roles to play in making sure this 67.2m yacht could meet the agreed performance objectives. She also needed enough sail power to perform well in light air, rather than simply resorting to firing up the twin engines.

Overlaying these elements were the physical constraints of ensuring the vessel could travel safely through the Suez Canal (maximum air clearance 68m) and access marinas without restraint (most have a maximum depth of approx. 5.25m).

Naval architecture & exterior design

Designer Philippe Briand has an extensive background in yacht racing and, with more than 10,000 yachts of all shapes and sizes built to his designs, has become known for his expertise in designing streamlined, fast hulls. Briand is also known for sketching extensively throughout the design process. "I tend to explore quite different approaches before setting on the one drawing which keeps cropping up in my mind." Briand says Vertigo's design is unique. "The owner knew of our reputation for building outstanding performance yachts and we have worked hard to exceed his expectations with Vertigo. Although she is not designed as a racing machine, her performance will soon be proven."

Vertigo has modern hull lines and is the first yacht of this size to have an almost vertical bow, allowing for greater water displacement and a considerable increase in speed both under sail and engine power. She is both fast and sensitive to sail. A ketch rig was the only suitable option, according to Briand, who used predictive modelling for every possible true wind speed, every wind angle and the most appropriate sail set. 

"From this we calculated the yacht speed, heel and loads; all this information was of great value to Alloy Yachts, North Sails and Southern Spars. The mainsail and mizzen sail are square-topped with considerable roach to maximise the sail area into the top of the rig. Roaches have never before been seen or used on yachts of this size. More surface area of the sails is exposed up where the wind velocity is greater than it is at the proximity of the water. This led to having sails developing a larger driving force than that of conventional triangular sails. Therefore runners are used instead of permanent backstays. This is another first on a boat of this size, made possible via the technology of mast builders Southern Spars. While tacking, one runner needs to be eased while the other is trimmed."

The custom-built Alloy Yachts' captive winches are a great example of the sheer engineering considerations for Briand and the build team. "The yard developed the largest captive winches they have ever built to carry the loadings on Vertigo – up to 41 tonnes. In the rig, the extreme mast compression at the foot of the main mast has been estimated at 387 tonnes. The V1 can sustain loads of 163 tonnes. In sailing conditions we could expect 65 tonnes on the forestay and the working load on the blade can exceed 30 tonnes. This is quite impressive, but is what it takes to move 700 tonnes at 15 to 20 knots using only energy provided by the wind."

Briand also needed to take into account MCA SOLAS regulations which apply to vessels of this size. Fireproof bulkheads, over 300mm thick, were required and the lazarette doors needed to open 60cm above sea level. From an external design perspective, Briand concentrated a lot of effort on the creation of Vertigo's superstructure. Given the constraint of the lazarette openings, he paid special attention to the relative height of the topsides and superstructure. "I wanted it to 'float'."

Vertigo's purity of line reflects the kind of simplicity that comes only from huge attention to detail. The superstructure arcs like a sculpted dome between the two masts, balanced by the tapering line of the flybridge extending aft. Briand achieved his goal of making the silver-painted superstructure look as if it's floating over the contrasting jet black hull. 

"Another original aspect lies in the layout. The main lazarette is situated in the middle of the boat, rather than aft as is more usually the case. As a result, access to the boat from her tender is more central. The aft lazarette houses a large 8m 'commuter' tender. On the foredeck, two lockers house two 6m tenders. The foredeck and passageway are entirely flush. This gives the aesthetic a very sleek appearance which is unique for a yacht of this size. "The windows are an intricate part of the design; they have very precise rounded sections and add huge aesthetic value. Other details such as the handrails, the angles of the roof, the fine supports for the hard top, required flawless execution of the design by the Alloy Yachts' team. "Particular care has been given to the exterior relaxing areas, cockpit and flying bridge, affording the possibility to be outside and sheltered as you wish. The aft cockpit is especially well protected by a large hard-top that incorporates a louvre system and by lateral sliding windows."

With twin helm stations forward, the flybridge is open but occupants using its settees, central table and chairs can be protected by foldaway bimini covers and a large dodger. A glass windshield can also be raised from behind the aft-facing settee to reduce the breeze for those enjoying the flybridge. Sun-beds at the rear of the cockpit conceal a spa pool, and a BBQ, fridge, icemaker and sink add to the entertainment possibilities over 6m above the waterline.

"Inside she is extremely comfortable; light floods in all around, as we intended, especially in the saloon on the main deck. The sides of the superstructure are transparent, bringing the outside into the saloon. The perfect integration of deck saloon and cockpit create a seamless living area 30m long," says Briand. "The lower deck features four guest rooms, each with its own ensuite and, aft, the huge owner's state room with twin bathrooms. The passage from this cabin leads directly to the lazarette and swim platform. Forward there is enough accommodation for 11 crew members. There is every indication that this will be a true 220' sailing yacht, comfortable and sensitive to sail. Vertigo is a worthy descendant of the great seafaring ships of the past."

The shipyard

Regarded as one of the best builders of luxury sailing yachts in the world, Alloy Yachts regularly wins industry awards for their top-quality workmanship. The yard is well-known for the extensive customisation and engineering expertise they bring to superyacht projects. Even by Alloy Yachts' standards, AY41 – Vertigo's in-house project number – created a number of new records for the Auckland, New Zealand operation. It's the first project they've built over 500 gross tonnes and required a massive 800,000 man-hours from start to finish. "We are very proud of the way Vertigo has turned out," says managing director Tony Hambrook.

The Alloy Yachts' team worked closely with both the naval architect, Philippe Briand, and the interior architect, Christian Liaigre, to ensure that the functionality, comfort, performance and comfort all came together perfectly. The various specialists among the 400-strong team at Alloy Yachts executed myriad elements, finding engineering solutions and translating the combined visions into the finished craft. Constructed primarily of aluminium, Vertigo sports an array of Alloy Yachts' custom components such their SeaTouch monitoring and control system which required 500 alarm points to meet the 500 GRT requirements. "The scale and complexity of the monitoring system is evident when compared to the 58m Kokomo which has 370 SeaTouch alarm points," says Alloy Yachts' operations manager Chris Lynch-Blosse. Vertigo also features a suite of custom winches including 16 captive winches – ten 30-tonne and six 15-tonne, 12 feeder winches and five vertical hydraulic winches.

The dual independent stern passerelles with adjustable stairs are an industry first, according to Hambrook. His talented team had the opportunity to develop several components specifically for Vertigo, including the side boarding ladders which have a 90° slew and adjustable stairs and platforms, the port and starboard hull side doors and the stern door with its custom hinge arrangement. The limousine tender has its very own launching system and the intercooled sea/fresh water central machinery and cooling system is unique to Vertigo. Comfort levels in her aft cockpit can be adjusted via the dual electric side glass windows and a pair of electric louvres set into the roof that open and shut with a touch of a button. The touch of another button sees the sun-bed slides away to reveal the spa pool.

Inside, "an amazing collaboration" between the design studio and builder saw them work through various structural components and specifications to complete the desired vision. From a sailing performance perspective, Alloy Yachts developed sail handing systems, remote sailing controls and a hydraulic steering feedback system which is integral to the sensitivity with which Vertigo can be sailed. Vertigo is most certainly an exceptional superyacht. She exudes outstanding quality in every detail of her construction thanks to the dedication, skill and hard work of Alloy Yachts' craftspeople.

Spars & rigging

Made from carbon fibre by the world's leading spar manufacturer Southern Spars, the mast and rigging package on Vertigo represents the single largest project that the company had completed by the March 2011 installation date. Vertigo also features the largest continuous Element C6 (EC6) hybrid rigging package that Southern Spars had developed to that time. EC6 rigging is made from continuous 'pultruded' carbon fibre rods and, in EC6 hybrid form, comprises continuous vertical shrouds with a spreader end fitting to provide a positive mechanical connection between the diagonal rigging and the spreader tip.

Southern Spars' patented EC6 rigging is the lightest, strongest, cleanest rigging solution available and Vertigo's exceptional rig package is the result of the evolution of knowledge and expertise from more than 85 grand prix racing and superyacht projects. "Utilising all our technology and design skills was one thing, but at the heart of the matter was the requirement for the main mast to fit under the Suez Canal bridge," says Southern Spars' director Mark Hauser from the company's head office and custom projects base in Auckland, New Zealand. So with the main mast's stepped height of 67.9m, the yacht can safely negotiate the Suez Canal as specified. Together with the 62.4m mizzen mast, they carry a massive 5,037sq m sail plan. 

"The masts form one of the most dynamic components of a yacht like Vertigo. They are designed to cope with a multitude of loads while performing in any conditions, so like Philippe Briand, our design team utilised computer modelling to ensure we met our own four key principles: reliability, performance, style and function," says Hauser. "Our EC6 carbon fibre technology is well-proven on the race course and superyacht designers are increasingly recognising the benefits of having a known tensile strength and stiffness for each shroud, which enables the cables to be customised for each yacht's loads," he adds. "Less weight aloft in the rigging means more stability while sailing and less motion at anchor. This extends into more flexibility for the designer in terms of ballasting and displacement and extended service periods for the yacht overall."

The Southern Spars team, working with sail-makers North Sails, designed and tested the rig and sail packages through the two companies' complementary proprietary software packages, RigCalc and Membrain. The powerful software packages integrate to ensure the rig and sails work in unison to deliver the optimum strength required to safely manage the expected loadings. The Southern Spars team developed running backstays, rather than the usual permanent backstay used on most superyachts.

"Usually only racing yachts have running backstays so, again, this development demonstrated the innovation our team helped bring to the project to ensure Philippe Briand's design sailed as well as he intended," Hauser says. "As Philippe noted, the loads on the masts and rigging are immense. The V1, for example – the first stay that goes from the deck to the first spreader – can sustain a load of up to 163 tonnes which is certainly one of the highest rigging loads we have ever had to design and manufacture for. Our team designed a new mainsail track and batten car system specifically for Vertigo to take her roached mainsail."

Vertigo also carries a Southern Spars' patented Southern Furl Boom on each mast. These feature an in-boom furling system with a hydraulic drive located in the in-board end of the boom, a unique flexi-feeder system and an internal hydraulic outhaul adjustment. The rig also features Reckmann furlers fitted to both the inner and outer forestays, with real-time adjusters to tension the stays hydraulically. Both the outer headstay and inner headstay have halyard locks with tack Cunningham systems. More than 5,500m of cables are carried within the two masts and booms, requiring accurate and careful assembly dock-side. The entire job of stepping both masts was completed in just one day in March 2011.


North Sails' New Zealand loft utilised their Kevlar carbon 3DL technology in the design and production of Vertigo's array of sails. Both the mainsail and mizzen sail feature a roach, an uncommon design for superyacht sail packages, and they develop a larger driving force than that of conventional triangular sails.

The scale of the sails made 3DL 960SY – a Kevlar Carbon 3DL superyacht product with double taffetas – the ideal cloth, according to the company's head sail designer and director Burns Fallow.

"This is a well proven product that we use a lot with superyachts," says Fallow. "It is the strongest-for-weight product that you can buy, and it is the only cloth that is strong enough to cope with the loads a boat like this will generate, while being flexible enough to furl within an in-boom system, and extremely durable."

Fallow says that while North Sails is accustomed to such vast scale projects, the size and weight of each sail when it's in one piece meant that it was the only project that could be worked on in the loft until each one was completed. "Six sail-makers were needed to move the biggest sails around the loft and feed it through the machine, day and night."

Vertigo's sail wardrobe includes a 680sq m mainsail, which weighs in at 873kg (plus 150kg for battens), and a 566sq m mizzen which weighs 719kg and has a luff length of approximately 52m. The 875sqm genoa, the biggest genoa that North Sails has built, weighs 555kg, and has a luff length of 62.5m, and the blade jib is 545sqm with a luff length of 58.5m. The main mast gennaker – the mizzen mast also carries one – is 1700sq m.

"It was an honour to be involved with the single largest yacht project ever to be built in New Zealand," says Fallow. "We have manufactured a style of sail which has never been seen or used on yachts of this size previously. We broke new ground by having a roach on main and mizzen sails of this size and working that into Southern Spars' furling boom and new car system. There were definite technical, design and logistical challenges, but now that Vertigo is complete, it's apparent how well the complete rig and sail package is operating and how smoothly the commissioning went.

"Vertigo is a beautiful, challenging boat that pushes boundaries, and we were excited to be part of such a terrific project."

Interior design

The interior aesthetics, functionality and comfort were entrusted to French design house Christian Liaigre and represented the first time the Liaigre design team had undertaken a superyacht project from the outset. The design brief: the boat must feel 'urban at sea'.

The design studio and shipbuilder collaborated to successfully negotiate structural issues to achieve the stunning overall result. Christian Liaigre designer Guillaume Rolland notes that the interior design team was advised that the owner and family plan to stay onboard for long periods. 

"They want to feel as if they were in a light atmosphere instead of on a vessel with a more traditional 'nautical signature'. We opted for a palette of materials and hues dominated by white lacquered surfaces, coordinated in a harmonious combination with tinted walnut and black sandblasted woods."

Brushed oak, leather and stainless steel are also used, and the custom-designed, incredibly comfortable furniture complements the colour palette, perfectly capturing the simple, 'sport chic' spirit of the yacht. The design studio and shipbuilder collaborated to successfully negotiate structural issues to achieve key interior elements such as views extending from the aft cockpit all the way forward to the raked windscreen of the wheelhouse. The perfect integration of deck, saloon and cockpit create a seamless living area 30m long.

"The boat's longitudinal lines can be read all along the internal spaces because many partition walls are stopped before they connect to the hull," says Rolland.

With Vertigo herself regarded by her owners as a work of art, just two small sculptures feature in strategically-placed alcoves in the massive main saloon. Divans, coffee tables, settees, multimedia systems, bar and dining area form highly-useable spaces within the saloon – all flooded with natural light – separated by glass panels and doors equipped with liquid crystal displays – the flick of a switch turns the panels from transparent to opaque.

Interior technology & entertainment systems

The complexity of the integrated audiovisual and lighting systems aboard Vertigo is another awe-inspiring aspect of this vessel. You could get lost in the level of detail, but at the heart of it all is a custom-built system that offers incredible quality sound, vision and lighting to delight the yacht's occupants.

New Zealand firm Liquid Automation has delivered many über-cool technologies such as the custom Google Earth interface where, onscreen, a 3D model of the yacht follows Vertigo's exact location. Using the AMX touch panels located in each room, the user can disable tracking mode to investigate other points of interest on Google Earth then, with a touch of a button, sweep back to the current position of the yacht. Onscreen information can also highlight key navigation instrumentation such as boat speed, wind speed and direction, and water temperature.

The screens in each cabin are flush-mounted Aquavision televisions which also act as the computer screens, allowing access to the internet and media-on-demand websites. These computers can be controlled using the cabin's iPad, allowing it to become a touchpad and a keyboard for navigating the web. A custom weather interface was made for the AMX touch panels, showing a five day forecast for preset areas, or the 'local' option uses the yacht's current GPS location to link to the closest weather station and provide a local weather forecast. The touch panels also provide integrated controls for the motorized blinds and lighting. 

Two media servers – one for the crew area and one for the guest area – allows movies and music to be shared around the yacht through a network of Apple TVs. Guests may also download and watch the latest episodes of their favourite TV shows or new movies. The use of fibre optics throughout the yacht ensures the system is future proofed.

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Pablo Ferrero

Pablo Ferrero is the leader at the Navis Writing Team, other writers are Naty Frúmboli, Matt Thompson and Mechi di Paola. Our team has extensive experience in writing yacht reviews, articles for travel and sailing magazines and in the general yachting world. In Navis Luxury Yachts Magazine, we combine our knowledge and our love for sailing.