The 239’ Predator spent several months cruising after leaving Holland last spring, allowing onlookers only a few glimpses of its surprising blue hull. We caught up with the yacht at its winter base off the Spanish coast where an informative tour of this stunning vessel revealed beauty that is much more than skin deep.
Story By Franck Van Espen and Cecile Gauert Photos By Feadship
Wherever Predator appears, everyone focuses on the unusual hull shape, with its knife-like bow entry. Dutch naval architecture firm De Voogt, which with De Vries and Royal Van Lent make up the famous superyacht triumvirate Feadship, designed the hull to scythe through even the roughest seas at speed and in comfort. The yacht’s innovative profile is indeed its most striking outward feature.
Few realize that it stems from a design that first appeared in the 19th century. In 2003, Feadship was asked to work on a large yacht project based on a radical “semi-submerged” concept. Designers and architects looked at axe-bow designs that had been tried in the late 1800s, and developed this theme as the basis for a modern hull. The project went as far as model tank testing at the Dutch MARIN Institute. Although that particular venture did not proceed at Feadship, the research was not done in vain. Only a year later, Predator’s future owner looked at several design options for his yacht. He first reviewed traditional flared-bow designs, but then was struck by the distinctive look and hydrodynamics of this new addition to the Feadship portfolio. He chose to take this less conventional route, and De Voogt’s chief designer, Jaap van Keulen, worked on refining the look. The owner added his own touch by selecting a red, white and blue paint scheme that helps enhance the yacht’s dramatic flair.
In fact the hull design, in some ways, was the easiest part of the project. The owner’s brief to De Vries shipyard was to construct a steel-hulled vessel able to achieve at least 25 knots using conventional power and propulsion. It was to be one of their greatest challenges.
Feadship describes the largest engine room it has built for any vessel to date as a “temple of technology.” In order to meet the 25 knot requirement without recourse to jet or gas turbine propulsion, De Vries opted for custom-made, controllable-pitch propellers by Rolls Royce. Two custom-designed gearboxes were built by Renk, a German commercial and military contractor, and connected up with four commercial grade MTU engines, all controlled by Rolls Royce software. This carefully engineered and well-ventilated system required a split-level engine room with a remarkable 14’ ceiling height to house it all.
The combined power of the massive MTUs provides 23,000 bhp, which allows Predator to reach a very aggressive top speed of 28 knots. But the yacht most frequently cruises using only two engines. Operating at 1,500 rpm, this allows a very comfortable 20 knots.
The yacht’s speed is also the result of a strict weight-control regimen during construction. High-tech and lightweight materials, including titanium and carbon, which De Vries used in the engine room and other selected areas, contributed to the overall weight reduction. “All of the interior furnishings, the wood, the marble, everything was designed to be as light as possible,” says Mark Hutchinson, the ship’s chief engineer. Everything, that is, except the hull itself.
As one might expect, Predator’s superstructure is made of aluminum with composite topsides, but the hull of this speedy but very large vessel is made of steel. “The strength of the hull was paramount,” Hutchinson says. “A comprehensive study identified all potential stress areas before the yacht was launched. And the design, essentially an Elongated Ship Concept, uses the yacht’s foredeck dodger as a breakwater, which makes the hull very effective in rough seas. We experienced gale force winds and nearly 10’ seas between the islands of Corsica and Palma de Mallorca recently. There were no other vessels anywhere, but we drove through, head on, at 17 knots all the way to Mallorca. There was no slamming, no jarring.”
One drawback of the design is that some space is lost in the forward part of the principal deck, which cannot be occupied when the yacht is under way. But perhaps that is a small price to pay for the performance gained. The designers in any case made up for most of this with creative solutions, such as installing a hydraulically-operated foremast, which allows clearance for a helicopter landing and taking off in case of emergencies. Another example of creative thinking is in the sprawling owner’s suite. Above the bed is a hydraulically-controlled skylight, built to comply with strict Lloyds standards on strength and water tightness. The unique hatch, which is sealed pneumatically, complements six nearly floor-to-ceiling oval portlights on each side of the master stateroom, which in itself is one of the largest owner’s suites ever featured in a Feadship.
Two exceptionally large VIP suites are also located on the principal deck, which is dedicated to owners and guests. The lower deck is the yacht’s working area, with nine crew cabins, a good crew mess, large galley with ample cooking and refrigeration space, a professional laundry room, the engine room, and finally a well-outfitted garage that provides a pleasant passage to the swim platform aft.
The garage houses custom-made tenders that look like mini-Predators, with raked bows to match the mother ship. An assortment of toys and state-of-the-art diving equipment is neatly stowed nearby.
De Voogt was responsible for the interior arrangement. The modern décor, which looks and feels substantial despite the use of lightweight materials, is by Bannenberg Design. The owner gave Dickie Bannenberg and his creative director Simon Rowell the freedom to create a really elegant interior. Light-hued karelian birch from northern Europe, for example, contributes to the yacht’s contemporary look, while high-gloss macassar ebony and zebrano were chosen to provide contrast.
Predator has much to offer, but the yacht’s awesome power is the highlight. “I don’t care how long you have been yachting,” Hutchinson says. “When you stand on the aft deck of this vessel, with four engines running at maximum power, and see a boiling caldron of sea out there, you can’t fail to be impressed. It is absolutely astounding.”
Mark Hutchinson gave Yachts International’s Contributing Editor Franck Van Espen an exclusive tour of the yacht’s impressive facilities. Here are a few excerpts from their conversation aboard Predator.
MARK R. HUTCHINSON PREDATOR’S CHIEF ENGINEER
YI: What was your role in the project?
MH: I was involved from the very start with our Captain Greg Drewes and surveyor Don Patton, of Patton Marine in Florida, who has a well-deserved reputation as a strict and stringent operator. We worked very closely with De Vries, and I spent almost two and a half years in Holland during the build. I think that together we succeeded in building something that is phenomenal, complex and unique. We tried to think of everything. We believe the vessel has the best possible electronics, propulsion, maneuvering and control systems. It is built like a small military vessel, and to the highest Lloyds standards.
YI: What do you oversee from your control room?
MH: I have a number of repeater screens, designed by Imtech, that allow me to make sure everything is working properly. For instance, I can oversee things like tank levels and transfers, and monitor engine temperatures all the way down to the gearbox. We probably have over 20,000 wired alarms on this vessel. Every time one comes up on a screen and remains there, we have to check systems until it is removed, so we have a complete alarm history. We have the ability, through satellite communications, to allow contractors to enter their systems and remotely fix problems. We also have sensors that tell us the exact fuel flow rate and temperature, trying to anticipate future legislation.
YI: How do you control pitch?
MH: It is done automatically. When you move the throttle forward, the Rolls Royce software determines electronically if you are in two-engine or four-engine mode, and then it uses complete algorithm to deliver just the right amount of fuel or just the right amount of pitch, so it gives you a perfect power curve at that setting.
YI: How do you switch from two to four engines?
MH: Normally we cruise at 20 knots with two engines at about 1,500 rpm. Before engaging the other two engines, we have to reduce speed a bit, say to 1,200 rpm. Then the Rolls Royce software, which has ultimate control of the propulsion system, engages the other two engines, which increases power to 23,000 bhp. The algorithm used to deliver fuel to the engines automatically changes from slow-speed setting to high-speed. Rolls Royce, MTU and Renk, the gearbox manufacturer, collaborated and built in all the safety and interlocking systems.
YI: Are these custom gearboxes?
MH: The gearboxes were designed specifically for these engines, and shaped to fit the hull of this vessel, so there are only two gearboxes in the world like them, They are incredibly strong and built to highest military specifications. Renk also designed a very special thrust bearing that basically has to handle 11,000 hp of thrust in an axial direction. It’s huge. And a Renk “thrust brain” controls a hydraulic system designed to avoid vibration. Electrically-driven pumps supply oil to lubricate the bearings and operate control systems on the gearbox before it is actually engaged in maneuvering mode. That’s programmed right into the starting control software. We had to get an agreement between MTU, Renk and Rolls Royce over who would have ultimate control of the propulsion system. In the end it was agreed Rolls Royce would handle it. We also have the ability to electrically turn the gears and the shaft when the vessel is in port, which is very helpful if we need to do maintenance, and we also have a shaft lock, which is needed in case of a malfunction on two of the engines, or one of the propellers.
YI: What kind of stabilizers do you have?
MH: We have four fins zero-speed stabilizers, which means that at anchor the vessel can compensate for waves that come into an anchorage, and we have dynamic positioning, which allows the vessel stability in a seaway. With the touch of a button you go into dynamic positioning mode, and the vessel uses thrusters and engine propulsion to hold it anywhere you ask it to, in any mode. If you have to wait for entry into a port, or for a helicopter to land, instead of constantly adjusting the yacht’s position and settings, now you can just engage the dynamic positioning mode and keep an eye out for any local hazards. It allows the captain to focus on other important tasks.
YI: Are there any special systems geared to environment protection?
MH: We do burn a lot of fuel from time to time, but the percentage of time we run on four engines was calculated to be note more than one to two percent of the vessel’s lifetime, so 98 percent of the time we will be running on two engines, as economically as possible. We have a converter, designed to take all soot from the exhaust of the generators. And we also have a zero-tolerance high-tech sewage plant. It is the sort of system that is retrofitted to all the cruise ships these days, allowing us to process all the sewage, both black and grey water, on board. Let’s say you travel to the Galapagos or the Seychelles, which have very strict rules about what you are able to pump over the side, we can actually stay with a full complement of crew and guests for about a month to six weeks before we need to pump anything but clean water out of the hull.
YI: How do you ensure everything is running properly?
MH: We have many systems that require a lot of maintenance. In addition, we do a lot of preventative maintenance. We use a software program that has all of the manufacturers’ service recommendations for every machine. Every day, the engineers have a list of jobs that need to be done, from simple oil changes to checking the hardness of the water. We also have on board a first engineer who spent four months at the yard purchasing spare parts and setting up an inventory of all that is required for these machines. In this way we have complete control over the inventory, and we can give the owner a print-out of what has been used and how much it costs, so again we are trying to be as thorough as we can to keep this vessel at the leading edge of the latest technology.
Beam max: 37’11”
Draft (loaded): 12’2”
Fuel: 48,340 U.S. Gal.
Fresh water: 10,200 U.S. Gal.
Cruising speed: 20 knots
Maximum speed: 28+ knots
Range: 5,000 nm@16 knots
Main engines: 4 x MTU 16V 595 TE90, 4320 kW
Power: 5,793 bhp each
Cylinders: 16 in V-configuration
Weight: 28,660 lbs.
Fuel consumption at cruising speed: 314 gph
Propellers: Rolls Royce Controllable pitch propellers
Propeller shaft: Rolls Royce
Reduction gears: Renk Stabilizers: four fins, Quantum non-retractable zero-speed stabilizers
Generators: 2 x Caterpillar C18
Air conditioning: Heinen & Hopman
Entertainment system: Van Bere Henegouwen
Tenders: 2 x custom-built tenders by Meyer, Germany;
Speed: 40 knots
Classification: Lloyd’s 100 A1, SSC, Yacht(P), HSC, Mono, G6, LMC, UMS, SCM, IWS and MCA
Naval architect: De Voogt Naval Architects
Exterior styling: De Voogt Naval Architects
Interior design: Bannenberg Designs Ltd.
Builder: Koninklijke De Vries Scheepsbouw Feadship, Holland 2008
Contact: François van Well, Feadship America
Phone: +1 954 761 1830