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Sea Sure 2020 - SHOCK-WBV - LEADERBOARD

Big Cats II.

by John Curnow, Global Editor, Powerboat.World 29 Oct 2021 01:00 PDT
StellarCAT AL25-2 © StellarCAT

Not too long after publishing The Big Cats, we received information on StellarCATs. Well. One could not help but have one's curiosity piqued with a name like that? No. Here was a company (StellarPM) known for yard management and project management of superyacht new builds and refits venturing into this most burgeoning of categories, but even this was not the main reason for our interest, either.

It was all down to the fact that they were going to do it in alloy. Yes it is light, but it comes with certain cost and maintenance considerations that just cannot be ignored. Equally, there are significant benefits to the material from mass to ecology, to speed of and ease of construction due to the sheets being simpler to move around, as they are alloy, not steel. So just which criterion were StellarCAT using to create their point of difference that they had made very sure was spelt out in their own communications? i.e. Stronger: Lighter: Safer: Faster, Further

Alas, it was time to find out more. So we did, and most specifically this meant talking with Paul Cave, the Commercial Director, who answered our questions.

Why alloy?

Specifically, the point is to expand on this in terms of stronger, lighter, safer, faster, and further. And also obviously there's a lower weight than GRP/FRP, but it's more expensive than composite.

"Our catch cry (Stronger: Lighter: Safer: Faster), comes from the material and effects of aluminium material, compared to the typical resin infused fibreglass, as used in yacht construction", said Cave

"When comparing the section modulus of an aluminium vessel to the cross-sectional strength of an FRP vessel, the FRP vessel would require significantly more fibreglass, resin, and a cored centre to meet the same strength requirements to comply with ABS rules and regulations." American Bureau of Shipping - Good rules that whilst they have not been updated in a long time, equally have not been superseded, hence their application, even today.

"Even considering the core fitting perfectly when a curved shape is required to limit excessive weight from the increased resin, this makes the aluminium vessel much LIGHTER." Note that balsa is often used in some of the trickiest and most curvaceous sections, as foam, honeycomb or sandwich just cannot form certain shapes and vectors.

"Should you make the cross-sectional area of a FRP vessel match the weight of the aluminium vessel then the FRP would not meet the strength requirements of ABS thus making the aluminium vessel STRONGER."

"The aluminium material is ductile and non-porous. If an unfortunate event happens, such as a collision with a semi-submerged container in the mid-Pacific, or hitting shallow rocks, the aluminium vessel hull would bend and distort, the material will not crack." Naturally, this is a within reason kind of statement, and not something you would deliberately go out and intend to do.

"An FRP vessel colliding with the same object at the same speed would likely crack, allowing water to pass into the porous material below the gelcoat. Now should the hull of an aluminium vessel be breached, another layer of aluminium is behind it with the integral storage tanks being in the hull, thus creating a double bottom hull. This results in the aluminium vessel being SAFER."

Cave then addressed the next point, "Due to the fact an aluminium vessel will be significantly lighter, an FRP vessel with the same propulsion horsepower would be slower, resulting in the aluminium vessel being FASTER."

"Since the fuel tanks are integral in aluminium vessels, the capacity to store more fuel is significantly greater, add this to the vessel being faster with the same propulsion horsepower, and the aluminium vessel will go FURTHER."

"As you have highlighted, the downside to aluminium is the material expenses compared to composite, some of which can be offset by the labour efficiencies we can achieve by building with aluminium."

Why those sizes first up?

StellarCATs are initially offered in 20 and 25m versions. They're big boats, especially when 12 to 16m is well, more approachable. Also, the sharper the end of the fleet you go, the fewer the buyers there are to take your product. All of that said, who have thought 30-40m powercats would have been on offer, even as close as a few years ago? So it is fair to say that it is likely that any additional StellarCAT models are going to be up range, not down.

Cave commented, "I would refer to the StellarPM principals background's having mainly been in the larger superyacht construction industry. The whole thinking behind StellarCATS is that they are designed and built as big yachts, with big yacht engineering principals running through every aspect of each model, and its design. There are efficiencies of time and scale whereby the incorporation of those systems and principles would not make offerings in smaller size categories as competitive as the ones we have introduced."

"We have to be realistic about the prices customers will pay. It has always been the intention for StellarCATS to be offered as superior metal constructions, with large yacht engineering, quality, and build standards, at production composite powercat prices.

Interior

Immediately, superyacht style comes to mind. That difference between nice, and well, stellar performance (Boom. Boom. Basil Brush.) So StellarPM are known for new builds, but also definitely refits. I mean who wants somebody else's version of style? It's a decent pedigree, so how do we deal with the fact that there will be a premium over something more production-model based?

Cave responded, "StellarPM and its principals have coordinated and project managed new-builds, complete refits, mechanical refits, cosmetic refits, and interior refits on yachts from 60/70ft production yachts, to 200ft+ superyachts, for approaching 30 years now. And also a wide range of commercial boats too. For the interiors of StellarCAT we have teamed up with World Superyacht Awards winner, Yacht Next, who will be offering customers of StellarCAT a full interior design service based on a selection of themes."

"The design and construction emphasis is on supreme quality yacht building with StellarCATs being built to ABS and CE Category A12 rules with our ProjectPerfect™ analytical construction tracking system, for precise calculation of construction performance and progress. This provides Owners, Captains, or Project Managers the most accurate, definitive, and immediate time, cost and progress tracking and reporting available throughout the build."

Which do you see as the popular layouts and why?

The concept of the main deck accommodation has been supremely well received. We would love to claim credit obviously, however, it is simply a layout option that has been offered in the superyacht market for many years, and one that is now considered as standard. We have borrowed from that, and for very good reason."

"That real estate at the forward part of the main deck is absolutely prime. Who wouldn't want to be getting up each morning to a wide panoramic vista, whether it be the pastel painted houses on the seafront of Portofino, or the truly breathtaking glacial mountainous coastlines of Alaska? That's got to be one of the very best reasons for owning a yacht. Right?"

"All StellarCAT models offer either a full beam forward main deck master, or two forward main deck duplex VIP suites. Both options with the most important staterooms on the yacht benefitting from those awe-inspiring views. That is a very popular concept."

Is hybrid planned?

"Yes most definitely. We are very conscious of the carbon footprint of yachts, which of course is yet another reason we build in metal."

"Where we can we are already offering engine packages across all models that match IMO Tier III. We are in discussions with select suppliers to the commercial markets with the intention of offering well-tested and proven hybrid/electric configurations that can offer an altogether stronger, and more eco-sensitive option for yachts than one which essentially just allows for manoeuvring under electric power into marinas."

"This is of course what many of the 'hybrid' offerings out there now seem to be. The proven technology is almost where it needs to be for us to offer a viable and attractive option, and we are excited at the prospect of announcing that not too far down the line."

How long to build/Where is the first one at?

Cave concluded with, "Construction times from the signing of a VCA are 16 months for the AL20-2, and 18 months for the AL25-2. Having only officially launched last week we do not have any currently in build. We did a soft pre-release to some carefully chosen customers, and we are at advance levels of discussion with some of those. We remain confident that Letters of Intention will be forthcoming very soon on several projects."

"Interestingly, we have a tri-deck model that we will shortly announce as an additional StellarCAT model, which has been developed as a direct result of one of those customers' requirements."

Box it up?

OK. Well clearly this is one space to watch, but as if we did not know already that the big cats are mesmerising, intriguing, captivating, and in demand. Funny it might seem to mention space just now; for it is one element the big cats are unchallengeable on. Looks like gargantuan just met behemoth. So rather than worry about a sequel to a movie about powercats, I am starting to feel something more akin to a shift in the paradigm. One thing is for sure; they'll have a very different feel about them. Could be time to break out the Astrophysics textbooks... Hhhhmmmm. Quantum leap anyone?

Yes. We got it!

The announcement for the partnership between Game & Leisure Boats and Short Marine came out with title, Best of Breed. No discussion required with either the McCloy or Short names in the marine sector. But have a look at the brands in the stable, and it is the full Lay Down Misère: Grady-White, Regal, Cabo, Hatteras, Caribbean, those splendid Capelli RIBs, Valhalla, and a personal favourite - Viking. Me likey the crew and the brands. Go get 'em gang.

OK. Today you will find that the site has an abundance of material from right across the globe, and if you cannot find something, just try the search button right up the top of the landing page, above our logo.

So as you see, there are stories, lessons, inspirations and history to regale yourself with. Please do savour... We're really enjoying bringing you the best stories from all over the globe. If you want to add to that, then please make contact with us via email.

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Finally. Please look after yourselves.

John Curnow
Global Editor, Powerboat.World

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