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Boats

Slippery When Wet

If you've ever seen anything like this before, you've probably been doing something you shouldn't: either snooping round a couple of select UK shipyards or attracting the attention of British special forces.

But this one isn't secret. It's the first motoryacht built using "very slender vessel" (hence her VSV designation) wave-piercing principles and a patented hull shape drawn by naval architect Adrian Thompson, whose designs are also used by some of the more aggressive elements of the Royal Marines.

Viewed from any angle, the VSV is like nothing you've seen before.

Just under 74 feet long, she's a lightweight, long-range, high-speed cruising yacht. If she seems to lack something in the beam, your eyes deceive you: She's even narrower than she looks. Huge stabilizing chines that spread back from that cutthroat stem account for around a quarter of the boat's total beam at the stern. Below the chines the hull body itself, semicircular in section like a chopped-off canoe, measures just 8'9" at its widest.

Back in the days of steam, this was how you went fast: Make the hull long and thin to foil the wave-making resistance of conventional displacement shapes, and put a knife-edge bow on it. Queen Victoria's Navy was well stocked with destroyers boasting length-to-beam ratios of 11:1, emitting lots of smoke, and slipping through the water at better than 30 knots (34.5 mph) while creating hardly any wake.

But then hydroplanes were invented, and—some might say—small-boat naval architects entered a hundred-year-long blind alley, trying to design planing hulls that could skip over the tops of the waves without pounding themselves to pieces. They have gotten pretty good at it, but shouldn't they have been designing wave-piercing craft all along?

Richard and Mary Reddyhoff know all about the limitations of V-bottom hulls. Over the years they have cruised all around Europe from the Mediterranean to Orkney in open RIBs. In fine weather it was fast and fun, but plugging around a headland in eight-foot seas is another matter. They grew tired—not of cruising but of RIBs. "Its very wearing," says Mary. "You don't get very far very quickly."

So they acquired a Thompson-designed prototype VSV, 33 feet long but with just two tandem seats and a camping berth forward, and experimented with that for a few years. It wasn't ideal, but it showed them what the VSV concept could do. Thompson offered them a larger design, but it still wasn't quite what they wanted. "At 19 meters [62 feet] you couldn't get in a decent guest cabin and heads," Mary observes. "At 22 meters [72 feet], suddenly everything fit."

This article originally appeared in the August 2007 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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