Elan’s new flagship is the first sailing yacht styled by Studio F. A. Porsche
Have you ever wondered what a sailing yacht designed by Studio F. A. Porsche might look like? The answer is revealed in the pictures on these pages. The famous design studio founded by Professor Ferdinand Alexander Porsche – the man who drew the curves of the iconic Porsche 911 – has just designed its first-ever sailing yacht, working alongside Humphreys Yacht Design to give Elan’s new flagship model, the GT6, a unique combination of performance, comfort and style.
Commissioned by Elan to bring its signature design values to the world of offshore sailing, Studio F. A. Porsche has produced a strikingly modern yet also classic design for the deck, cockpit and interior of the Elan GT6 that is guaranteed to turn heads in any harbour. A true grand tourer in all respects, the 49ft (15m) GT6 is optimised for fast, medium- range short-handed cruising. A natural evolution from Elan’s widely acclaimed GT5, the new GT6 is a big step up in onboard luxury from Elan’s previous models but it preserves the brand’s sporty DNA.
‘The fundamental idea is to create a modern and unique sailing experience that unifies nature and technology while traveling the high seas,’ says Christian Schwamkrug, design director at Studio F. A. Porsche. ‘The yacht’s exterior focus is on combining minimalism with dynamics, while bringing watersports closer to nature. The result is a stunning cockpit composed of sculptured volumes inspired by aerodynamic elements used in sports cars. The elaborately curved surfaces allow for beautiful flares of light as well as the reflections of sky and sea.’
One notable feature of this design that is rarely seen on a yacht of this size is the deck profile: completely flush forward of the mast with a subtly raised, elegantly streamlined deck saloon further aft. The cockpit layout is an interesting blend of Studio F. A. Porsche’s minimalist style and renowned ergonomics with Elan’s 60 years of craftsmanship and boatbuilding know-how.
‘The twin wheels are inspired by the shape and lightness of a Formula 1 car’s suspension,’ explains Schwamkrug. ‘The steering pillars and the floating stern of the yacht take their design approach from nature itself – resembling spread seagull wings and stingray fins. The design of the hull represents a well- balanced combination of sharp and distinctive lines and soft, almost sculptured surfaces.’
The partnership with Studio F. A. Porsche is an exciting new direction for Elan but the hull form of the GT6 is the latest chapter in a 25-year evolution of Elan yachts drawn by Humphreys Yacht Design – a lineage that includes some game-changing boats such as the quick, stiff and seaworthy 333, now a sought-after modern classic (and for many years Rob Humphreys’ own choice of family yacht) and more recently the seminal 350, one of the first production cruiser-racers with genuine planing performance, which has evolved into the current Elan E4. The GT line of crossover yachts – a concept that aims to deliver the features of a racing yacht with all the comforts and easy handling of a cruiser, rather than the middle-of-the-road compromise of a cruiser-racer – is effectively the fourth generation of Humphreys Elan designs.
‘Performance is about more than just speed,’ says Tom Humphreys. ’It’s also about good manners: being easy to operate for a shorthanded crew, family or couple. Our work on the GT6 has been inspired by some of the work we’ve been doing in parallel on short-handed offshore and ocean racing boats and we’ve always felt that there’s a lot of synergy between the two.’ Indeed, a key aspect of the Humphreys design philosophy that has remained constant from the firm’s early IOR and Whitbread winners through its more recent Imoca and Volvo Ocean Race yachts to its current Class 40 designs is balancing raw power and outright speed with control, good handling characteristics and the ability to easily sustain maximum performance for the duration of a long ocean passage in a wide range of wind and sea conditions without exhausting the crew. For a fast cruising yacht sailing under autopilot, the synergy is obvious.
‘Cruising efficiency is very much about performance,’ Rob Humphreys says. ‘Getting from A to B, avoiding bad weather... there are lots of benefits of having a fast yacht and I can’t think of any benefits of having a slow boat. People think performance is scary but that’s not the case. We look at the aspects of performance that make life easier and better.’
Elan was among the first major production boatbuilders to fit twin rudders to its cruising yachts, which enabled other race-derived features to work effectively. ‘One of the key aspects is the control you get when the boat is pressed, so reefing is not super critical,’ Rob Humphreys says. ‘And the twin rudders allowed other things to happen – it’s an integrated package that is optimised together. The hull form can become more powerful so as the boat heels you have a bigger transverse shift of the centre of buoyancy which creates a bigger righting lever to supplement the stability you get from the keel.’ Full, powerful aft sections give a lot more interior volume for cruising accommodation and stowage but twin rudders are essential to avoid the problem of a single rudder ventilating as the yacht heels, causing it to round up into the wind with a complete loss of control.
The next step in Elan’s hull form evolution was the use of hard-chined aft quarters. ‘It’s a way to restrict the overall beam of the boat from a practical point of view but it’s a function of the form stability and the section shapes that we put into the hull,’ Tom Humphreys says. ‘That’s how we’ve been able to move the performance of the Elan models on from the earlier generations. We’re carrying that much more form stability and along with gains in structural weight we’ve been able to take a bit of ballast weight out of the keel so the displacement weight has come down and there’s real planing potential downwind, which is pretty rare in a production yacht.’
Descending the companionway steps you’ll find an unusual but practical layout with the galley at the forward end of the saloon, right on top of the keel where the yacht’s motion is most stable and U-shaped for safe use at sea. Bringing the saloon seating further aft maximises the useful space on board.
The owner’s suite is the forecabin with a king-size island double bed facing aft and a good view out through the large through-hull windows on both sides. There’s ample stowage in smart, unobtrusive eye-level lockers throughout the saloon, galley and forecabin. Raised hardwood fiddles that flow around the edges of the furniture tops serve as useful handholds as well as stopping loose items from sliding onto the cabin sole.
‘The whole interior bears Studio F. A. Porsche’s unique, recognisable design DNA, which combines a minimalistic design approach with the idea of enhanced functionality,’ continues Schwamkrug. ‘The main features of the interior design are the flowing lines and the architectural element of a “belt”, which connects the entire interior. This forms a connection between the living area and galley as well as the balance between functionality and cosiness that is achieved by carefully developed colour and trim details.
‘Additionally, the ability to convert the saloon dining table into a smaller coffee table allows for a perfect use of space and more comfortable lounging. The colour and trim concept represents the sophisticated approach of the Studio F. A. Porsche design philosophy by using high-quality materials and subtle colours blending perfectly into the overall concept.’
Beneath the beautiful skin of the GT6 is a strong, stiff and lightweight composite structure. Elan was an early adopter of vacuum infusion technology and continues to refine its own patented process to stay ahead of the curve. ‘Monitoring the weight schedule is very important,’ Rob Humphreys says. ‘Elan’s 3D VAIL system gives better quality lamination control and more reliable weights – and we can design for that.’ Higher-quality resin brings benefits too: ’The adoption of a vinylester resin system has enabled significant weight reductions in laminate structures,’ Tom Humphreys adds.
But there’s more to Elan’s build quality than modern composite technology. Equally important from an owner’s point of view is the fine craftsmanship of the interior. As befits an upscale evolution from previous models, the deck hardware and sail control systems are high- quality kit and to maximise the impact of Studio F. A. Porsche’s design the interior fit-out of the GT6 includes more solid hardwood and thicker veneers, exclusive fabrics and sophisticated systems to make life on board more luxurious.
‘Our powerful new flagship model is a game-changing gran turismo yacht that offers discerning sailors all the benefits of Elan build quality, technology and craftsmanship with the design flair of Studio F. A. Porsche and the performance and handling of a Humphreys hull that’s optimised for fast short-handed cruising,’ says Marko Škrbin, director of marine division at Elan. ‘With the GT6 you have the perfect package to start your grand tour.’
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