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Thinking Big: Enter the Unsailboat

Michael Schulze

“The most useful tool for any designer is the eraser,” French designer Philippe Briand has said, and he has taken that minimalist philosophy to extraordinary lengths in a superyacht concept for Lürssen Yachts. Briand introduced his vision for the 180-foot, energy-efficient motor yacht Vitruvius, named after a Roman architect of the first century B.C., at the Monaco Yacht Show in 2005, and it has since attracted two European buyers. Lürssen expects to deliver both boats in 2010.

Briand, who has raced sailboats since he was a boy, is best known for his sailboat designs, including the 140-foot Mari-Cha IV, the world’s fastest sailing monohull when she emerged from the JMV boatyard in Cherbourg, France, in 2003. “What I wanted to do with Vitruvius,” Briand says, “is optimize the lines for efficiency, bringing the same kind of philosophy to a motor yacht as one would to a racing sailboat.” Indeed, with its hydrodynamic delta shape and flush deck, Vitruvius has been described in the boating press as a “sailboat without a mast” and an “unsailboat.” Other commentators, less kind, have compared the vessel’s appearance to that of a submarine or rowboat. But the yacht, if it meets its specifications, should deliver extraordinary performance, consuming about half the fuel required by a conventional motor yacht of similar size, even as it reaches a top speed of more than 23 mph.

Most of the criticism of Vitruvius seems directed at the empty expanse of hull shown in the initial renderings. Briand’s firm reports that, as requested by the owners, the cabins in the two boats scheduled for 2010 will have plenty of windows. No one has taken issue with the visibility above the main deck: The spacious salon features windows on all sides, and the flying bridge provides a 360-degree view.

The yacht’s low center of gravity will minimize roll, and passengers will have easy access to the sea. Vitruvius, which is valued at about $54 million, will accommodate as many as 10 guests and a crew of 11.

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