A Boat Is Born, Part II
In part one of our exclusive five-part series ("A Boat Is Born"), the Makaira team took the first conceptual steps in creating its brand-new sportfisherman. This included selecting the Waveform variable-deadrise hull shape, a design the team hopes will help the vessel achieve speeds in excess of those of her peers in the 65-foot range while also supplying a bluewater-friendly ride. The team also decided that the combination of resin infusion and top-notch coring materials is the optimal choice for constructing this battlewagon and should produce the significant weight savings needed to achieve the target speed. Now it's time for the Makaira team and the designers from Applied Concepts Unleashed (ACU) to tackle the one feature that will really set this vessel apart from her peers: her exterior lines.
I'm learning more about the intense endeavor that is launching a new brand, and in the process I discover that though Makaira is a new brand, the build team aims to make her a new idea.
It wants her to stretch the design, performance, and construction boundaries in the sportfisherman genre. For example, while some builders are using resin infusion and top-notch coring materials, the team is trying to bring all of the boat's elements together to create a next-generation convertible that will set a benchmark.
And that's the feeling I get as I sit in Applied Concepts Unleashed's (ACU) Florida office and thumb through a plethora of potential exterior designs. The endless supply of images ranges from a somewhat-recognizable version of a modern convertible complete with a flowing, powderhorn sheerline to the you-must-be-kidding bubble-shape boat. While no angler I know would want to troll from a bubble boat, all of these were designed for a reason. ACU wanted to present Makaira's team with an initial set of concepts that ranged from "mild to wild" to light its imaginative fire and help it feel secure in letting go of tradition.
A boat's lines create her character; just think back to the famous Rybovich broken sheerline and the flying-bridge double caprail. The exterior design is the place to make the strongest, most easily understood statement to potential owners. Noting its importance, especially in the sportfisherman market, ACU started drawing this boat's lines in the traditional two-dimensional side view with a design program called CorelDRAW. But it also provided the Makaira team renderings in three-dimensional perspective so everyone could better understand the overall body design. These drawings were close to scale, but they weren't supposed to be spot-on. Once again the idea was to show what was possible.
This exercise also helped the team from ACU stretch its creative legs. Though these industrial designers had a lot of experience (almost 20 years) working with custom boats, even the successful artist types occasionally get bored making variations on existing themes, especially if that's all someone asks for. Once ACU took on the Makaira project, it engaged in a three-hour jam session to review the project scope and define a master vision before the initial assignments and deadlines were set. When I asked ACU's president, Steve French, why it was limited to three hours, he reminded me that if a designer is not given deadlines, the only thing that may get generated are more ideas.
The three-month concept-design phase of the Makaira project was like a tennis match, with ideas about all the potential ideas being volleyed back and forth via Web conferences and face-to-face meetings. From the original notebook of ideas, the builder's team decided on its likes and dislikes, its must-haves, and its giveaways. Eventually this cocnucopia of creativity was narrowed down to "only" 12 finalists (piece of cake, right?).
I saw a bunch of these drawings, some of which featured elements like a raked flying bridge with notes reading "Likes" or "OK, but...." And then there were others, with notes simply stating "No" (in red, of course). The smallest bits of detail received the same attention, too. Take, for instance, the last inch of a tapered side window that was marked with an X. Too meticulous? I don't think so. When you're looking to push boundaries, every one of this boat's 780 inches mattered.
With the 12 potential winners handed back over to ACU, Makaira's crew could take five. Eventually, ACU narrowed the dozen marked-up ideas down to two final designs, an organic whittling process it calls the "design spiral."
While the exterior was the focus of this process, the builder and ACU had to consider the interior in equal measure. For instance, the team knew it wanted a prominent flare for good head-sea performance, but this would mean reduced room for a fourth stateroom in the forepeak. Still wanting to make a fourth stateroom work, Makaira's team required a creative solution: raise the height of the whole forepeak suite, including the stateroom and head. Doing this enabled the suite's sole to reach farther outboard of the boat, which expanded the available floor space. And because of the boat's sizable freeboard forward, headroom wasn't compromised.
The builder calls this tweaking of vital elements the "iterative process." The idea is to make many small refinements on the way to achieving the final design—like playing chess, where you decide your next move but are also cognizant of the potential effects on the rest of the game. If at any point an area is not working in terms of form and function, adjustments must be made. Every move has a ripple effect on the whole. During the evolution of this boat's design, bulkheads were moved again and again and bunks were repositioned sometimes by only a fraction of an inch. Indeed, after all was said and done, about 30 different interior layouts were considered.
Makaira's exterior look was eventually fleshed out, but the devil is in the details. As the overall concept was entering its final stages, the ACU team also had to be mindful of the boat's technical and philosophical missions. For instance, the galley was set up during the concept phase, but the layout was deemed impractical for the final design. A less conventional arrangement was presented to Makaira's crew and became an instant favorite (a benefit of the iterative process). While it may seem inconvenient to not know this ahead of time, these designers said they don't start with the details for fear it may inhibit creativity. Oftentimes the two phases overlap, as was the case with Makaira, and it meant reconfiguring an area of the boat.
This same design philosophy was applied to the flying bridge, cockpit layout, tackle stowage, fishboxes, and rigging areas that sportfishermen are known for as well as amenities, such as a cockpit mezzanine. Function came first, but form also played a key role.
In our next installment, we'll see form and function fully embraced as Makaira's team prepares for final design and tooling and turns its wish list for tomorrow's sportfisherman one step closer into a tangible reality.
This article originally appeared in the July 2008 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.