Ethereal , the 58m performance ketch by Royal Huisman Shipyard

A beautiful 58m ketch that will set the standard - possibly for decades to come – in ”greener” yacht design, construction and operation.

Every project that comes to The Royal Huisman Shipyard is, by its nature, unique, individual and exclusive. But some, it has to be said, are that much more individual than anything that has gone before. In the case of Ethereal, this individuality springs from an extraordinary level of commitment by her owners to energy-efficiency and environmentally-friendly operation.

A different kind of brief
The origins of the Ethereal project were in Juliet, the fine 43m ketch created by the “dream team” of Ron Holland Design, Pieter Beeldsnijder and the Royal Huisman yard in 1993. Ethereal's owner wanted a larger yacht, on similar lines, from the same team. But there the similarities stopped and the new challenges began. The brief was to push the edges of current knowledge and working practice (and to push them hard) to create a yacht that could operate independently and energy-efficiently for extended periods.This aspect of the brief is all-pervasive – it covers, with equal vigour, the demand and the supply sides of the energy equation. It concerns itself not just with the “big consumers” of power but with every detail, however trivial, that can contribute to a more energy-coherent whole.

Progressive thinking into practice
Perhaps the most-talked-about feature of this project is the hybrid electromechanical propulsion system that allows the yacht, under sail, to charge its technically-advanced bank of lithium polymer batteries instead of using generators. This energy bank, in turn, is the alternative power plant, enabling Ethereal to raise anchor, motor, hoist sails and run ship’s systems, all under stored electrical power for hours at a time.

Some examples of demand-side management are:
-Windows and hatches manufactured from exotic glass laminates designed to become increasingly opaque as infrared heat increases; or programmed to maintain constant light and comfort levels below; thereby reducing demand for heating or air conditioning.
-To contain heated or cooled air, insulation has been taken to extraordinary lengths. In addition to the use of lightweight Glass and Rockwool insulation, Transfloor (a pourable material) is used beneath the teak deck, adding further insulation whilst obviating the need for a heavy plywood sub-deck. A new composite – light, highly insulating, yet stiff enough to support great weight – is used for interior floors. The galley is encapsulated in composite panels adapted from refrigeration-dependent industries. Ethereal’s interior will be a beautiful and stylish energy-saving cocoon.
-Throughout the interior, LED bulbs will be used: they convert nearly all the supplied energy to light, with little wasted heat output. They draw only a fraction of the power of more traditional bulbs, so thinner wiring can be used, saving weight – a significant factor in the mainmast where we are installing LED navigation lights, saving kilos of wire aloft and enhancing stability.

Another day, another challenge
The story of the building of Ethereal is not so much one of “design and build” as of “design, evolve, test, improve, test and build” (repeated ad infinitum) across a huge inventory of applications. Batteries are fire-protected by a system adapted from the aircraft industry using argonite, an environmentally friendly inert gas that leaves no harmful residue; a chemical back-up is also installed. The use of counter-levers and balanced structures in place of hydraulics for the side gangway is another example of energy-saving thinking. Ethereal is scheduled for launch in August 2008 and there is a great deal more technological innovation to report on before that date.



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