Captain Courageous

Captain Courageous

With a transatlantic crossing under her hull and many more miles to go, Man of Steel would make the famed superhero proud.

By Diane M. Byrne — June 2006

Courtesy of Heesen Yachts

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Although she wasn’t named after Superman, this 121-foot Heesen would make an excellent addition to the resources of the Justice League of America.

That’s because Man of Steel (named for her owner’s business interests in the steel industry) not only made it through a delivery from Holland to the Canary Islands in weather that was, to say the least, awful, but also did a transatlantic crossing on her own bottom immediately thereafter. All with nary a mechanical failure or damage (outside of normal wear from people aboard).

None of this elicits so much as a blink from Capt. Nigel Jenkins, master of Man of Steel, or Thom Conboy, head of Heesen Yachts of North America. It reveals the confidence they each had—and continue to have—in the all-aluminum, semidisplacement yacht, the fourth launch in Heesen’s 3700 Series. It also reveals how Heesen, a yard that has earned a reputation for delivering speedy megayachts, puts a priority on other aspects of performance and takes a bit of a different approach than some yards to series construction.

Take the delivery cruise, for example. Even though Heesen had performed tank testing on a scale model before introducing the series, and even though the first three launches in the series had performed as expected by the time Man of Steel was ready for her handover in October of last year, the wheel remained firmly in the hands of James Hurley, Heesen’s corporate captain and after-sales representative. After all, as he puts it, “We know the boat, so it makes more sense to do it this way.” The Heesen team is intimately familiar with the yacht, he explains, and can therefore quickly isolate a problem if one happens to arise—much quicker than the owner’s captain and crew, though they are given on-site training, so to speak, during the delivery.

And boy, what training they got on this trip. As Hurley reported to the yard, “The yacht left on Saturday 16 October, and the forecast was unfavorable. When we were underway we decided to go via the Bay of Biscay because of the bad weather and wait in La Coruna for it to pass. As far as Brest we had bow waves of [six and a half to eight feet]. After Brest they were even higher, but because they weren’t presenting the yacht with any problems, we decided not to stop in La Coruna and just carry on.”

Even with the lack of problems, the decision to have Man of Steel do the transatlantic crossing wasn’t taken lightly. The original idea was to put the 121-footer on a yacht-transport ship. But Jenkins realized close to delivery time that the ship’s schedule wouldn’t get the yacht to Florida in time for the owner’s planned cruise. Wisely enough, well before the delivery date, he had inquired with the yard’s representatives as to whether a worst-case scenario of an Atlantic crossing would be feasible. The information he was given was reassuring: While Man of Steel was intended for a maximum speed of 32 knots, throttled back to 10 knots, the yacht (135 tons at light displacement) would see a range of 3,200 miles. This, of course, is the advantage of building a semidisplacement yacht—granting the ability to vary speeds within a broad range to maximize efficiency (and even to outrun storms, if any were to arise). The throttled-back speed and resulting range would allow Man of Steel to reach refueling stops comfortably.

Next page > Part 2: Captain Courageous > Page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

This article originally appeared in the July 2006 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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