The Italian Solaris 47 is intended to meet both sides of the performance-cruiser equation – and reward the discerning sailor.
- Smooth and fast
- Luxuriously appointed
- Masses of space
- Joystick helming a breeze
- Massive range
- Huge range for ocean voyaging
Every new design from catamaran guru Roger Hill contains fascinating innovations. His latest vessel even has the wildlife talking.
In the distance over by the port of Tauranga is a black dot. I turn away to look at a blackbacked gull that is sitting on the water near the OC Tender that’s doubling as my photo boat. By the time I’ve turned back, the black dot has grown markedly and there is a faint humming, which is getting louder.
The black dot turns blue and appears to be going like the clappers, slightly elevated out of the water. It roars past with all the presence of a fighter-bomber strafing its target. Strangely, the black-backed gull does not move and after the boat has dwindled to a black dot again, I could have sworn I heard it say, “What the feck was that?”
Having spent far too much time around birds I felt it was only polite to reply: “That, my feathered friend, was the latest 18m foil-assisted power cat from the combined genius of Roger Hill Design and Dave Pachoud of Pachoud Yachts.” The gull seemed to think I was just a mad bloke in a nice dinghy and quietly paddled off, keeping a wary eye on me.
Souvenir is the second launching of a series of three of this highly innovative design. Her sister ship Voodoo certainly turned heads when she first hit the water, but Souvenir is set to raise the high-speed foiling luxury game a notch further.
Her design brief was as simple as it was hard to achieve: a planing hull power cat that could cruise at high speed, but also be a passage-maker capable of rapid relocation voyages from her home port of Hamilton Island to the Pacific Islands in the short weather windows that that are unique to winters in this part of the world.
To meet the brief required an unusually high degree of collaboration between builder and designer. Hill focussed on hull and deck design, the primary structural elements of the interior, hydrostatics, weight/LCG monitoring and the foil and appendage design and optimisation.
Pachoud and his team concentrated on the engineering details and systems design, finishing details, 3D modelling and construction of the fit-out. The fact they are still friends and have produced a boat of the quality of Souvenir says much.
To get the 30-knot cruising speed and fuel efficiency required for this sort of offshore work needed more than just horsepower and huge diesel tanks. It required some very clever hull design and the innovative use of a foil.
Like her sisters, Souvenir uses a chevron-shaped foil that spans between the lower chines of her asymmetric planing hulls. The pronounced vee in the foil means that it can remain fixed, which provides the stable flight critical to an offshore cat travelling at speed.
LOMOcean did the initial foil development for the first boat, Voodoo, but with Souvenir the refinement of this idea has been completed in-house by Italian foil wizard Giuseppe Musca.
A foil is much more efficient at raising the hull out of the water at speed and does not suffer the resulting high drag of traditional planing hulls. Unlike a true hydrofoil which lifts the boat completely out of the water, the foil-assisted design is a much more stable thing avoiding any potential for America’s Cup-style splash downs and wipe-outs.
Souvenir’s hull is epoxy composite using a high-density marine plywood core for strength and low noise transmission through the structure. Stiffness-critical members such as bulkheads are PVC-foam cored with E-glass and carbon-fibre additionals. Superstructure construction is similar, with extensive use of carbon-fibre in mullions and beams.
The foil structure and attachment are all-carbon affairs supporting approximately half the weight of the boat at cruising speed. It contributes towards the remarkably economical fuel burn figures – in the order of a 25-30 percent improvement over the same hulls without foil assistance.
Souvenir has more horses in her engine rooms than the Melbourne Cup. Her predecessor had twin S6 825 Caterpillar engines which were plenty powerful enough, but the Australian owner of Souvenir wanted to go faster! At great risk of using another tortured metaphor, the twin MTU V8 1,250hp engines give the boat more boogie than Michael Jackson.
All these horses are controlled by a MTU electronic throttle system, which governs and smooths out the acceleration to the vee shaft drives and the 30.5-inch x 49-inch pitch props.
At a cruising speed of 30 knots we were doing around 1,750rpm and burning around 7.5 litres per nautical mile. With an 8,200-litre fuel capacity, that gives Souvenir a 1,000-plus nautical mile range, putting her in a league of her own as a long-distance, high-speed cruiser.
One advantage of a boat on this scale is the huge forward cabin, which runs the full width of the vessel and even includes a separate en-suite bathroom. Storage is provided in a large forward locker and under the queen-size double berth and in drawers in the timber vanity.
There is a ‘hidden’ door in the bulkhead alongside the berth that opens to reveal a huge en suite, complete with a double-size shower cubicle, head and washbasin on the timber vanity. The vanity extends past the glass dividing shower panels right through to the forward bulkhead to enhance the sense of luxurious space.
Souvenir is a four-cabin boat with room to burn. Aft in the starboard hull are two cabins, one with upper and lower single berths, the other with twin singles, plus there is yet another cabin in the port hull with another double berth.
Storage is plentiful and there is no shortage of headroom in the cabins. Ablutions are accessed on the aft port hull or a further day head can be found on the starboard side of the aft deck for those who don’t want to miss any action.
Sitting at the helm feels more like the cockpit of an aircraft. All the navigation and ship management information is available on two large Garmin screens. Not having a wheel is slightly unnerving at first, until you adapt to the joy stick/toggle control. The two-seat set up is perfect for an extra set of eyes that is sometimes needed at speed in close quarters. Visibility is excellent.
Opposite the helm is the U-shaped settee on a raised platform, which can become an overflow sleeping area. Central is a coffee table and there is storage under all the seating. Plenty of concealed and ceiling lights radiate the mood through the saloon and, for gloomy days, central skylight windows can be used to achieve a light airy, pop-top kind of feel to the cabin.
Souvenir’s dining table straddles the cockpit and has retractable blinds to suit any amount of sun glare or weather. The transition from the cockpit through to the helm station is all one level which means everyone is included in the socialising while the ablutions and sleeping quarters have the privacy within the hulls.
Like most things on Souvenir, the galley is larger and better than the one in my house. It has excellent proximity to the social hub of the aft deck and contains plenty of storage. At the forward end of the aft deck where the galley meets the deck is a drinks locker, which contains no less than four fridge drawers to make sure you don’t go thirsty.
There is access either side of the central transom lounge to the hydraulic stern platform, which makes for easy swimming and a nifty way to retrieve and launch the OC Tender from its dedicated garage under the aft deck.
In raised mode the swim platform also doubles as the fishing deck and is fitted out with a bait station, fish storage space, bait freezer, salt water ice maker and of course, another beer fridge.
ON THE WATER
Stepping aboard with the designer and builder on vessel as impressive as Souvenir is a real privilege. Between them, Hill and Pachoud have perfected a design relationship over 20 years that shows in the detail and ride of Souvenir.
Even if this was a conventional planing cat she would be impressive. The sense of space – and the ability to keep everyone on board engaged – makes this the sort of boat that requires lots of friends and full fridges.
Manoeuvring out under the Tauranga Bridge, Pachoud has full control with the wide-spaced props and a bow-thruster. Free of the inner harbour, we appear to be doodling along until I look down at the Garmin screen and notice we are doing 30 knots! The speed is effortless and the only true way to tell how fast you are going is to stick your head out the sliding helmsman’s window and feel the gale in your face.
Pachoud appears not to be steering as we glide along until I notice his right hand resting on the 2-inch joystick. This and the rudder-angle screen give the boat fingertip control. It was about then that I noticed that we were up on the foil.
There is no roll-over sensation, only a slight lift of the nose at around 18 knots. From there the engines do not have to work hard at all and the speed comes in spades. By the time we have entered the western channel of Tauranga Harbour, next to Rangiwaea Island, we are belting along at 44 knots.
That is to say, it is an effortless and smooth 44 knots. I have to keep checking the speed to see if it is real as the wake is flat and wide, which makes a nice change from a monohull wake machine.
Dave kindly hands the controls over and rides shotgun next to me at the helm station. We roll back down the channel at a sedate 30 knots and it is then that I notice it feels more like flying.
The channel markers whizz by like lamp posts on a motorway and the two blokes fishing mid-channel in a tinny become a navigation hazard which requires a decision well in advance of their rapid arrival. It keeps me on my toes and I am constantly scanning the chart-plotter and way ahead trying to anticipate a rapidly-moving scene.
A short sortie out to sea and we get a taste of Souvenir’s offshore capability. A slight left-over swell proves that the foil lets us down easy instead of slamming. Down swell the same applies with no decelerations as she overtakes the wave ahead. The Zip Wake trim system works well in conjunction with the foil to make high speed offshore work a possibility.It is not until later in the afternoon when I am left bobbing along in the OC Tender ready to take photos, that I realise just how impressive this craft is. Being buzzed by an 18m work of art going like the clappers is enough to give you a glimpse of the future.
It’s also enough to get you talking to a potty-mouthed black-backed gull.