The superyacht industry may be small to some, but it is filled with a range of experts and professionals from around the world. In this series, we shine a light on some of the specialists working within the different segments of the industry to learn more about what they do for the sector.
As Principal Mechanical Engineer for Lateral, Simon Brealey looks after “anything that has a pipe attached to it.” With Lateral having helped coordinate many luxury superyacht projects this year, there have been plenty of pipes for Simon and his mechanical engineering team to work on. With the team working closely with the company’s group of naval architects, structural and outfit engineers, Lateral has become “one big team, and we are all specialists within our field.” Here, Simon sheds some light on what he thinks the future holds for the world of yachting. How do you think the industry perceives Lateral?
There is a lack of visibility of what we do at Lateral. For years and years, we have been doing interesting and innovative things. I was blown away by some of the projects we’ve been involved in when I joined the company back when Lateral was just a yacht division under BMT Nigel Gee, working on some of the best yachts in the fleet and many prestigious owners.
Nobody knows every project we have done, and it is very hard to publicise this when you’re part of a bigger company that is doing other things such as wind farm and military projects. These are all interesting aspects - but it's a confusing image to portray if you’re saying “on the one hand we’re doing high-speed ferries and wind farm support vessels, and on the other, we are creating high-end bespoke 100m+ yachts.” This is one of the reasons it was so important for us to launch a brand with its own image. Photo: Lateral Naval ArchitectsNaval architecture is not commonly seen as the sexy side of yachting, do you think this is because nobody understands the technicalities of it?
I think it's because the focus is always on design, and rightly so. These guys spark the imagination of the client who builds the project. You can’t survive without designers, but equally, you can't survive without naval architects. As well as the traditional designer-led approach some of our clients like a technically lead design, which allows them to go to a shipyard or a designer with a solid workable framework backed up by somebody who can advise where the limits of the design are.
One of the things about Lateral is that we like to apply creative engineering, so we bring new ideas of technology to designers and owners to improve their design. The Lateral eHybrid system is an example of how we use our knowledge in technology to optimise a yacht for silent battery-only operation, something that a lot of clients want in a yacht. We like to go out and look at options, be intelligent, smart and creative in how we apply technology. Some of the great yachts we’ve been involved with use existing technology but are successful because of the way this technology is integrated and thought about. Sailing yacht Black Pearl is an excellent example of how this technology can create a fantastic effect.Photo: Lateral Naval ArchitectsFor people who are not technical, what are the benefits of investing in this technology? Are people not put off by the cost of hybrid?
Hybrid propulsion can make a yacht much easier to operate, can reduce the size of the engine room and of course can improve the environmental impact of a yacht. Black Pearl is showing the world the benefits of the dynarig sail system, stored energy and hybrid propulsion. Having the potential to cross the Atlantic not using any fuel is amazing! An equivalently sized yacht would use tons of fuel - but nobody wants to be seen to be driving around in a gas-guzzling car, and it’s the same with yachts. We have an environmental focus in our designs, and in doing so, we make our systems intelligent and smaller. This can be seen in our Balance concept, where hybrid propulsion is combined with intelligent naval architecture to both improve efficiency and create more luxury area on the yacht.Photo: Lateral Naval ArchitectsThere is however still a market for a well-done conventionally powered yacht. I would say that 50% of the yachts we do are like this, and it is great to create a conventional yacht well and get the best out of traditional technology. The other half are hybrid, diesel, electric or innovative in other ways. The results of using eco-friendly technology will depend on the kind of owners you have at the time and how they use their yacht. Everyone is individual and wants something different from their yacht, so we will respond to what the owner wants. Most of us in the office are practical people; having worked in shipyards building yachts so we understand that there is no point selling an owner a technology without briefing them on the risk and cost. We use a TRL (Technology Readiness Level) scale, which is a technique used in aerospace to evaluate how risky and difficult something is. Photo: Sinot Yacht Architecture & DesignDo you think the world of yachting can reposition itself as being better for the environment than everybody thinks?
The more test cases there are of advanced yachts pushing the envelope of efficiency and design the more likely eco-friendly technology will be adopted in other areas of shipping. So I think one of the best things the world of yachting can do is to serve as a hot lab for all this technology. We are in the ideal position to be at the forefront of technology and showing what’s possible. The push to decarbonise shipping is an exciting challenge, which the superyacht industry and owners of yachts will need to rise to in order for us to make sure that we are doing our best now and in the future.
What do you think yachts will look like in 25 years time?
This is difficult to predict, but I think we will have a better idea in four years time when the IMO will determine what, as a global industry, we are going to do in order to operate with fewer greenhouse gases. To reach the IMO target by 2050 a lot of things have to happen. A large proportion of commercial shipping will have to decarbonise and move away from diesel. What we are not sure of is how this is going to be enforced, perhaps through energy indexes for large yacht projects. It is quite possible legislation combined with public opinion will force us to change technology, which will change the shape of yachts. Right now we must prepare for the fact we will probably have to start to change our ways in the next five to six years, which is only one new build generation away.
I imagine in 25 years, there will be yachts that look exactly like what we have now, and there will be yachts that look like they belong to a different world with designs based around brand new architectural designs and ship design concepts. Underneath the skin, I am sure we will be using alternative fuels and energy sources with intelligent adaptable systems using AI and machine learning to optimise efficiency and safety!
SuperYacht Times - The State of Yachting 2020
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