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Not a movie. (As yet…)

by John Curnow, Global Editor, Powerboat.World 9 Nov 15:00 PST
Little horsepower means even less fuel and you're still doing 15 to 25 knots - Inception 24 © Bury Design

Inception was a very good flick, indeed... However, our target today is the Inception 24 from Bury Design. You may think Monaco, London or Miami would be the point of origin for a gigayacht tender parked on the back of said yacht's shadow boat, an overnighter, eco-sightseer, or super-swank dayboat. Perhaps it was because the vessel's 'home port' is the very humble, yet totally delightful Gippsland Lakes that caused this ditty to be commenced?

Yet upon reflection, the very point of it all was that Inception 24's genesis was really a Volvo Ocean 70. Why so? Well, you probably already know that we love sail and power. We don't discriminate in that way here at the 'world' sites. We also love the VO70, for they shook the round the world crewed yacht race by the shoulders.

Their combination of brutal power, and superior strength saw the class hold the 24-hour passage monohull record for some time, in an era when canting keel and daggerboard design re-wrote the rulebook with a new chapter called supersleds. 500m2 spinnakers at the end of long bowsprits not only provided said power, but also gave the legend the photographic presence that simply sealed the deal.

Paul Bury is no stranger to high performance racing yacht design, having commenced his career with Scott Jutson, thence on to the class re-defining daysailers by Wally Yachts, and ultimately a tenure with the great Bill Tripp as that studio's principal naval architect. All of that will go a long way to explaining why there is a distinct yachting feel to this most slippery of motor yacht.

Bury commented, "It's where my passion and my experience is. I speak to people, and they can't believe ocean racing yachts do 25 knots under sail, whilst powerboats are struggling to keep up. What's the deal? Why can't somebody design a high efficiency powerboat that can utilise those hull forms to an advantage, because there's not that much power in a sail plan?"

Here's the thing.

Even when sailing downwind, a yacht is not flat. There is always an angle of heel. That's OK when sailing, but not so great with motor yachts. You tend to spill the Champagne. Also, bow out back to the leading edge of the keel fin makes for great footage of sailing, but it is neither efficient, nor comfortable when used as a flat-bottomed powerboat.

The upside, which is huge, is that you have an extremely flat running angle, as you must keep the prow in the water. No pointing skywards here just waiting for the JATO rockets to fire before you get airborne. You have incredible vision from low down, which is why Inception 24 can look the way she does: Part E-Type Shooting Brake, and part stunt plane. You also have a certain level of inherent stability, and as mentioned, incredible efficiency due to the slippery nature of her form derived from racing yachts.

What that all means is you can build a lighter structure, but still strong via resin infusion, require less horsepower to move her along, so less mass all around, achieve reasonable speeds, and offer significant range.

Clearly a boat of this style needs to be way cool on the inside as well. Hybrid is her initial form, not something designed in later. Diesel would maybe let you achieve 15-25 knots, but the size (read mass) of engine and her fuel would make the whole project somewhat of an oxymoron.

By making her a Diesel-Electric, you get sufficient service speed, even being able to run at 15 knots for an hour on battery alone. You can also then slip new technologies into the drive train as and when they become available. But above all, you do need to extract every pony from her on board horsepower, and with a motor yacht, that means her screw or jet.

Speed, power, and efficiency.

Shrouded props have been on riverboats for ages, where a nozzle effect has been proven, whereas on outboards, the performance outcome is quite catastrophic. The best way I have been able to describe what the shroud does is by likening it to the winglets on jetliners (or Gulfstreamer if you have one). They stopped the disturbance at the wing tip, allowing the whole length to be used for lift. The shroud catches the water shooting off the blade as it rotates, and directs it into thrust instead.

"We have been exploring ideas around this drive train for a long time. Basically we're trying to put the power into the water in the most inefficient and vibration-free way. You've got to convert that bad turbulent flow coming off the propeller, straighten it and recover the thrust out of that flow."

"So it's all about energy recovery with propeller systems and Voith have been doing a lot of work on their ducted propeller system, the Linear Jet. It's great in that moderate speed range of 15-25 knots. If you want to go above that then water jets is a good place to be, and below that the open propeller is the answer. The open propeller, controllable pitch open propeller would be good as well, but we think the vibration characteristic of the shrouded propeller will deliver a particularly smooth drive."

At her nominated cruise of 15 knots, there is an impressive 750nm on offer from her 2000l bunkers. No doubt aided by an 18 metric tonne dry mass or 23,825kg mass when laden. A 300kW variable frequency drive/generator, running inline with a 350hp VW V8 Diesel through a 3:1 gearbox to a variable pitch screw means you can run it as a complete Diesel/electric hybrid, Diesel only and charge the battery bank, or electric only for stealth mode.

"The Diesel engine, I think, is a short-term fix. I'd hope that in five years' time people are not really putting diesel engines in boats anymore. There are better alternatives, other solutions out there. It gives you the best of all worlds, but allows for advancements in battery technology and hydrogen fuel cells and all these sort of things to plug straight into that drive line as and when they occur."

Did someone say Hydrogen?

"We've done a lot of work with a major automotive fuel cell manufacturer on marinizing their systems. The problem is not so much the fuel cell, and the storage of the fuel per se, it's the ultra-high pressure involved. It's something like three times what you have in a SCUBA tank. Hydrogen also has a very small molecular size, so the hydrogen can leak through tanks."

"Now you do have storage problems in terms of location, for you cannot store it below deck, if you want certification from any agencies, such as DNV/GL (Det Norske Veritas/Germanischer Lloyd), or any of those major players. They just won't let you store hydrogen below deck."

Now you could store it on the roof, which is OK if you're a ferry, but clearly not in the mix in terms of a boat like Inception. Naturally, over time this situation will change, but it doesn't work right now. Bury is clear that Inception can be built right now with all the latest gear, and be somewhat future-proofed for things that are just around the corner. This boat is not really anything groundbreaking in its isolated elements, it's just the way it's all combined that makes it so incredibly unique and appealing.

World of possibilities

Now 750 nautical miles at the cruise speed of 15 knots certainly puts the exclamation mark after the word efficiency. That's Sydney all the way through to the Whitsundays, in the one go. So that then raises the question, just how and where to use Inception? That's a long delivery, and you would probably not see the operator doing that themselves, although there is sleeping for four and two crew on board.

What you might see is Monaco to Sardinia in a day, which is something more approachable in the 150-200nm type bracket. Clearly Inception can fill many roles, from tender to the 120m+ mothership, to a weeklong stay right in the heart of St Tropez, which the big girl can never do, or for the person who goes into Villefranche-sur-Mer, just to get a cup of coffee. You may want to take guests from your house at Cap d'Antibes to the boat at anchor off Portofino? Here a foil-borne, jetty-to-swim platform express ride may not beat the chopper, but it will deliver one amazing alternative.

Structurally she is very capable of crossing nearly any sea, but you may choose your weather windows to account for the huge areas of retractable glazing - yes those windows slide down car style!

To foil or not to foil?

Well we did just let that cat out of the bag... I mean, why have something that looks like this, and then limit her to say 18 knots service speed. Why not put 40-50 knots on the table? In a way, it is sort of like the Disco Volante.

"It's not particularly hard getting a boat to foil; it's all about integration of that system to make it practical, because you can't have foils that hang out two meters from each side of the boat, as you can't come up to a jetty or the mothership that easily. We've trialled a number of different foils systems, from vertically retracting, to the folding arms style that recess into the side of the boat. There are a number of different configurations, but just as you cant have it all hanging off the side, equally you cannot ruin the interior of the boat by having massive cases that go through it", said Bury.

"So it's the integration that will take the work really. The low-rider version of Inception will have an adjustable aft foil at any rate, so as to eliminate any tendency to squat, and thereby ensure she stays incredibly efficient." Remember, with a hull form like this, it is imperative that the prow stays in the water.

The full foiler will have a completely different set up to be efficient at the higher speed range, and a different electric drive system to get the power into the water. That technology is with us now, by the way. "Smaller engines that integrate with your foil system as part of the full digital controls. We've looked at a number of different options, and it's still on our desk now to configure a way that is going to work best in this particular vessel. It's the integration of it into the function and the aesthetic of the boat that will take the work."

So give me the essence.

Well. Inception is a statement boat. She can do eco-warrior, dealmaker with her biz-jet style main saloon, party barge like no other, with pop up speakers, awnings, and various accoutrement. To that end, her 12 as a day trip or four for short stays is the correct format.

I think it could be a very slippery and slinky gin palace to slide into Piran in Slovenia for the afternoon with 12 people on board before you go back to the yacht or shadow boat. There are a lot of 24m vessels around that can sleep 10 and do the best part of 40 knots or more, but they're more like 50 tonnes, and need at least 2000hp, a side, in order to do it. Bury sums it up nicely, "Inception is a different sort of thing. She's like a Ferrari versus a people mover."

Inception is a collection of all the right on-trend ideas that can be delivered now, not so much ideas that have not been applied before, if that makes sense. No crazy, impossible to build renderings, just existing technology used in a way that hasn't been seen before.

Speaking of seeing, Inception makes an arrival into a marina, just like a movie star into a restaurant. Inception is for the person can create whatever they want, and understands being more environmentally responsible and sustainable is now critical, not just fashionable.

If you go down the path that you cannot beat the stored energy in a litre of Diesel right now, especially with boats as they consume power to move through the water, then only when batteries can store deeper or denser charge at say half the cost will you be in the zone. The beauty of Inception is that you will be able to apply that into the system. In that way, watching whales in Alaska under silent electric drive is virtually upon us... Will you build Inception for your new gigaexplorer craft?

Having a huge vessel with surface drives and massive MTUs will deliver top end, but just how often do you use it? A centre console with 2400hp on the transom and capable of 60 knots+ sounds awesome, but often the conditions, especially offshore, do not allow for it, and a pounding should be at the hands of you masseuse, not the smashing of a hull over waves.

Ponder a vessel that can run hull borne and silently for ages on batteries at moderate speeds, but then deploy her foils for express trips and require perhaps just 10% of the normal horsepower used at those speeds, and the overall picture is quite compelling. If you accept that it is time for something different; something that can be a Ferrari for both show and go; but be a Tesla for when you are going to the shops to get a carton of milk; only then will you see what is on offer with Inception. In that way, she could well be the new Daytona - elegant, timeless, and so utterly inviting.

"It can't just be this looks amazing, who cares how we build it or how much it costs, if it doesn't fly. In my experience there are very few clients that will accept that sort of approach to problem solving in boat design", said Bury in closing.

So yes. I do think we're bound to see Inception 24 in a movie, as soon as someone builds her. It could be gliding into Cala di Volpe on foils, or ferrying around Sir David Attenborough in full eco-mode, as he does a special on the Pacific Northwest. Let's just hope it's soon. For all our sakes...

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Finally. Please look after yourselves.

John Curnow
Global Editor, Powerboat.World

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