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SpeedDream 27: An Assemblage of Ideas

The SpeedDream 27 takes all the go-fast accoutrements of modern yacht design and blends them into one radical concept. Tech Review from our November/December 2012 issue.

November 9, 2012
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SpeedDream

SpeedDream

“Fine tuning on the edge” is how SpeedDream project promoter Brian Hancock describes the development of the radical 27-foot prototype. Noteworthy features include a pronounced wave-piercing bow, hard-stepped hull, deep canting keel, and high-powered sailplan. Courtesy SpeedDream

The SpeedDream 27 would not be out of place chasing the Dark Side in a galaxy far, far away. Nor would its brainchild, Vladislav Murnikov, known for creating uninhibited designs. Several years ago, when Murnikov and a growing band of believers announced plans to build an audacious 100-footer that both defied and embraced high-tech sailing trends, they were greeted with widespread skepticism. But what has emerged from Murnikov’s mind is quite a piece of ingenuity and panache. It’s not quite 100-feet yet, but the scaled-down prototype is undoubtedly a strong first shot in legitimizing the SpeedDream concept.

Murnikov and marketing guru Brian Hancock, emphasize that SpeedDream is a concept. The 27-footer is just the initial stage in an envisioned range of simple, stable, and speedy boats unencumbered by preconceived notions of what a boat should look like. And as Murnikov notes, there really was no one design software program that they used to get to where they’re at today. Instead, they’ve modeled different concepts across a variety of different design programs because there isn’t a boat, or software, that incorporates all they are trying to do. Rodger Martin Design was a fresh set of eyes as the design evolved, and experts from composites manufacturer Gurit, Doyle Sails, and others have assisted along the way, looking for flaws and developing the shape. Even Cam Lewis, a self-described speed maestro, has had a hand in it and will be its first pilot. “The boat is well beyond what any software can predict,” says Murnikov, “and CFD modeling is still only a tool. It is the interpretation that is important.”

The 27-footer had a hull weight of approximately 400 pounds before the clear coat and non-skid were applied, and there is a canting foil with a lead bulb of nearly the same weight. Added to this are design concepts that are not necessarily new: a keel canting module, a stepped hull, hard chines, a wave-piercing bow, and an extremely raked spar with a square-top mainsail. What is new is incorporating all these elements and making them work in harmony, on a single platform.

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SpeedDream 27 flies the keel during sail trials off Rockland, Maine in late October.

As its name implies, speed is fundamental to the concept’s success, as SpeedDream requires a high rate of it to get the design characteristics into play. A boat that sails on top of the water will always go faster than a boat that sails through the water, friction being the ultimate enemy. In order to get up on top of the water, a boat needs to be as light as possible, with as much sail power as possible, and stay on top of the water, so every part that comes in contact with the water needs attention. Hydrofoil designs are certainly fast, as proven by the latest generation of foiling craft. But staying upright and at speed in a monohull, Murnikov believes, ultimately requires ballast to work with the power of the sail plan.

SpeedDream’s steering foils are twin rudders hung off the transom, and there are twin retractable daggerboards in the middle of the boat, their trailing edges just forward of a pronounced step in the hull. The design logic is that these foils will work together to create all the necessary lift, so the deep keel foil, with a lead bulb at the bottom, can be canted to windward nearly 80 degrees using an electric-driven motor. The hull shape’s optimum heel angle is around 12 to 15 degrees, allowing the keel to fly above the surface, which eliminates friction and puts the weight in an optimum location for massive righting moment. Conceptually, only two crewmembers will be required to sail the boat.

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Which brings us to the stepped hull just aft of center. The theory here is that friction created by water running along the hull is split into two at the step, thereby reducing drag. However, the step also creates turbulence, which adds drag. To overcome this requires speed—Murnikov estimates at least 15 to 20 knots is required. Another way to detach flow running along the planing hull is hard chines. As with the step, a chine is a hard angle, which is located along the side of the hull; water can’t flow evenly around the chines, so it detaches (again only when the hull is moving fast).

With strong wind comes unfavorable sea states, and thus, the SpeedDream incorporates a wave-piercing bow. This concept is quite common on multihulls, and in general works best on a narrow hull. In fact the entire front half of the hull, including the deck, is a rounded shape, which helps to keep heavy water off the boat, and provides buoyancy forward to help counter all the forces driving down the bow.

The sail plan is very powerful for a 27-foot boat. Doyle Sails produced a massive square-top mainsail, small jib, and a gennaker that dwarfs both of them. The rig is stepped in the middle of the boat, with a significant rake similar to that of an iceboat. With the rig so far aft, and the spectra eye for the gennaker tack as far forward as possible, the bow is in essence the bow pole.

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The deck layout is strikingly simple, with only two Harken winches, a long traveler bridging the transom, and an adjustable eye lead for the jib. The deck-stepped carbon rig has single swept-back spreaders, alleviating the need for runners or a backstay.

First rolled from its build shed and into the light of day in August, the boat, as of late September, had yet to clear the Marine Travelift at Lyman Morse, where it was built. With many moving parts and a keel that draws nearly 10 feet, careful progress was the team’s modus operandi. “The boat commands respect due to its enormous proportions, even trying to assemble it in the shed,” says Murnikov half in jest, but likely quite serious. Clearly great ideas take time and involve delays, but the level of interest from the design world and the industry has surprised even Murnikov. It will be a very challenging work up with many concepts to validate, but as with many dreams, this one will likely carry on well past its first REM twitch.

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SpeedDream skipper Cam Lewis shows off the boat during sail trials in late October.

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Read Tim Zimmermann’s blog on SpeedDream.

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