Orion Shuttleworth talks about designing the “Most Innovative Superyacht 2013”

I had the opportunity to talk to superyacht designer from UK, Orion Shuttleworth about his work and the award winning 42,5 M Trimaran Adastra.
Trimaran Adastra rendering

What is your background?

I remember spending weekends with my father in his design office building models and trying to mimic his drawings when I was about 7 years old, so I guess this is when I first started to design yachts. I then designed boats for my A-levels and during my BA in Product Design which I studied at Nottingham Trent University. After graduating in 2004 with a First Class Honours I went on to work for my father’s company John Shuttleworth Yacht Designs Limited. After one year I moved to work for power boat designers Bernard Olesinski Limited where I became the lead designer on a number of projects for British motor yacht company Princess Yachts. In 2010 I set up my own consultancy Orion Shuttleworth Design Limited, to work on the design of Superyacht Adastra and a number of other projects. Both John and I now work together under a collaborative company called Shuttleworth Design Limited.

What is the idea behind Adastra?

The owner had four key requirements for the design of Adastra – a large power trimaran which was seaworthy offshore, comfortable, economical and shallow-drafted.

The trimaran enabled the Polynesians to populate the Pacific Islands 50,000 years ago and the owner commissioned the design of Adastra with the aim of following their routes and exploring the Pacific, transiting the Panama Canal, and ending up years later in the Mediterranean.

We started talking about this yacht at least five years before we actually began the design proper. During those discussions, we began to get a feel for what sort of boat the owner wanted in terms of style and impact in addition to the practical requirements. He clearly wanted a ‘sexy boat’ with wow factor, and he loved the trimaran concept for efficiency and seakindliness from his experiences with “Mazinga”, a sailing yacht which my father had designed for him 24 years previously and which he still owns.

Superyacht design Awards finalist

How many hours did you spend to develop this?

The core design took about 2 years, although there was a development period of 1 to 2 years prior to this in which we carried out research and testing. The design process was longer than we would normally expect because of the developmental nature of the project. A repeat design of a similar type of vessel would now be much quicker.

What software tools did you use?

The design process for all our yachts starts with Maxsurf Pro and Hydromax Pro, specific hull design packages in which we model a preliminary hull shape. This model is imported into AutoCAD with which we develop a general arrangement and profile drawing. We also use Photoshop during this stage to help with styling the profile and ensuring that the proportions of the vessel are correct. The 2D plans and profile, and 3D hull are then imported into Siemens NX where we develop a preliminary 3D model. Keyshot rendering package is used at this stage to create photo real images of the concept and to help us further refine the styling. We also carry out preliminary structural analysis using finite element analysis software. Once a well developed concept is defined a full weight study is conducted using Microsoft Excel which enables us to estimate the vessel’s centre of gravity. We make the necessary adjustments to the hull in Maxsurf Pro to ensure the boat will float as intended and we analyse the stability and detailed hydrostatics using Hydromax Pro. Once the final hull is defined we re-import this into NX and create a fully detailed hull, deck and structural model suitable for CNC tool manufacturing. We carry out further detailed structural analysis for final construction and the completed model is imported back into Keyshot for the final presentation renderings. AutoCAD is used to create the final plans with which the shipyard can build the vessel.

What were the biggest challenges when creating Adastra?

Adastra takes the power trimaran concept further than has ever been attempted before, previous trimarans like "Earthrace" and "Cable and Wireless" were stripped out record breaking machines only. The challenge of turning this concept into a viable luxury yacht has led us to further research and develop new thinking on stability and comfort at sea for this type of craft. Extensive tank testing and radio controlled model tests in waves have been carried out to analyse stability and performance. Outrigger height has been optimised for ease of motion at sea, and a new outrigger shape has been developed to increase stability in waves. We have undertaken state of the art structural analysis of all the major components in the yacht in order to achieve the light weight required for very low fuel consumption.

Monitoring the weight was a huge part of this project as the vessel is very weight sensitive. About 18 months prior to the launch the decision was made to place load cells under the hull so that the weight could be monitored. This gave us a good idea of the centre of gravity so we were confident that she would float correctly. We also have fuel tanks along the length of the boat and can use the fuel to trim the vessel to optimise fuel consumption and speed. The extra tank capacity required to do this means that we can also carry a larger than usual fuel load for long distance trips without refuelling.

All aspects of the design had to be approached with a fresh and creative mind-set. Being the first luxury superyacht based on the concept of a low VCG fine entry trimaran we did not have the luxury of using previously tried and tested methods and as a result many of the design solutions we have found are innovative and original.

How big was the team?

Our design team for exterior design, naval architecture, structural design and interior layout comprised of 4 people, this included me, my father, my brother Sky and Richard Oliver of ASTA. There were however many more people that helped realise this ground breaking yacht, including the interior designer Inge Strompf Jepsen, lighting designers, systems engineers, project managers, a large array of suppliers and subcontractors and of course the team of talented builders at McConaghy Boats.

john orion sky launch

What happens to this work now?

I’m sure there are others who can benefit from what we have learnt on this project. The design of Adastra is available for a repeat build should a client desire the same vessel. Most of our clients however, have specific requirements and wish to customise the design to meet their needs and we are looking forward to designing more innovative power trimarans to meet this demand.

Where is yacht design heading? What are the future directions?

With regards to styling it’s always good to look at the car design industry as this now has a huge influence on yacht design. Many yacht design stylists working in the industry have come from a car design background. Our naval architecture and structural design is under constant development which will result in more efficient hull shapes and lighter stiffer structures. We believe fuel economy will become increasingly important in the future and we are well placed to offer excellent solutions to this demand.

What is required in order to create an excellent yacht design?

A clear brief is essential and we work with our clients at the early stage of any project to help them crystalise their vision so that all parties understand what is required. We offer a complete design solution that provides exterior design, interior design, structural design, naval architecture, outfit design and final detailing. By doing so we can provide a holistic design approach taking all aspects of the design into account from the outset and developing them in parallel rather than sequentially. This ensures the design is well balanced and cuts time out of the design process.

Is the yacht industry stagnated or conservative?

I think this is an exciting time for yacht design as we are seeing more and more cutting edge designs being realized. There will however, always be those who prefer the more traditional conservative approach.

Do you think people will value enough designs like Adastra?

Adastra stands out from the crowd and has been referred to by many as an iconic design, and a benchmark for futuristic yacht design. This will be attractive to some, but many will want to take a more conservative approach and for those people we are working on a more accessible version of this concept.

What are you working on at the moment?

The exact detail of our current projects are confidential however I can assure you that those interested in what we are doing will be able to see some exciting new designs from our office in the coming years.

Anything you would have done differently now that the yacht has been built?

Design is a process of evolution so by its very nature there will always be new ways of doing things next time around. Adastra was designed with very specific requirements in mind which allowed us to push the boundaries of this concept to the limit. Our aim now is to make this more accessible to a larger market.

Thank you very much for this interview and good luck with your future projects!

keyshot rendering


LOA - 42.5 m

Beam - 16 m

Hull draft - 1.12 m (1.6m to tip of rudder)

Main engine - 1x Caterpillar C18 -1150 hp @ 2300 rpm

Outrigger engines - 2x Yanmar 110hp @ 3200 rpm

Generators - 2 x 36 kw custom in the outriggers linked to 110 Hp Yanmar engines, and 1x 26 kw Northern Lights in main engine room

Owner and guests - 9

Crew - 5-6

Speed max - 23.2 knots

Range at 10.5 knots - 10,000 miles

More information about the superyacht

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