News

13
Apr

Blog: Digitisation and hybrid sailing: the future of the yachting industry

Placed on 13/04/2018

While the shape and dimensions of yachts used to be determined by analogue information, this is now very much a task for computers. Auke van der Werff, director of the yachtbuilding yard Volharding in Stavoren (in the Dutch province of Friesland), which celebrates its centennial this year, has been part of this development from the outset: “The whole design process has become highly innovative, and digitisation is the key word.”

In the 1990s, the building of steel motoryachts was largely a question of manual craftsmanship and analogue information. Those times are well and truly over and it is impossible to discuss innovation today without coming across the term ‘digitisation’. This development has been brought on by a series of factors, not least the increasing size of vessels. “Where average length in the 1970s and 1980s used to be somewhere between 10 and 12 metres, it is now more like 15 to 20,” Auke van der Werff points out. Buyers have also become much more demanding in terms of luxury and comfort.
 
Van der Werff took over the family business in 1996 as the third-generation owner-operator and decided to focus entirely on luxury motoryachts, made in steel under the new brand name Sturiër Yachts. “The fact that the steel for the boats arrives at our site in the form of complete building kits can rightly be called a revolution. The data is delivered directly to the company which cuts the steel to prepare it for our use. Other matters, ranging from the CNC milling of the interior and the technical systems to design elements such as the upholstery, are all taken care of in-house.”

Hybrid solutions
According to Van der Werff, a major benefit of digitisation is the possibility for owners to virtually walk through a 3D digital model and see how their wishes have been met as well as any undesirable elements. “Before digitisation, the information in drawings was less detailed, which meant errors were more common, and making changes was often very labour intensive. With the 3D models, clients can see in detail what the end result will be as well as the consequences of any possible changes. This ability for both parties to see exactly what they’re talking about is a major advantage of digitisation.”

Another innovation regards hybrid sailing, such as diesel/electric or battery/electric powertrains. While Van der Werff is pretty sure that he is close to selling his first vessel with hybrid propulsion, he prefers not to speculate about the exact date. “You have to remember that a hybrid powertrain considerably increases the price tag of a vessel. And we’re not talking about a few euros – a hybrid vessel costs an average of 10-15% more than one with a conventional powertrain. There is potentially a role for governments in promoting hybrid solutions through more subsidies: this could really lead to top-of-the-line innovations.”

 

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