The Dutch take a pragmatic approach to life, probably because of their centuries-old battle to prevent the sea from invading their land. Their yacht designs tend to be pure, with not a line or shape wasted.
Dick Boon, the founder of Vripack, personified the Dutch approach to yachtbuilding. He’s called “the father of the trawler yacht” because the Doggersbank he drew in 1968 changed motoryacht design. It was a sound yacht built in steel, one whose styling appealed to traditional seamen—it just plain looked like it could roam the oceans and come home safely. More than 500 have since been built in various lengths and materials, including composites since 1977.
Boon’s Vripack design firm grew along with the Doggersbank brand, and today is known the world over for interior and exterior yacht design of all kinds, including refits and rebuilds. Vripack’s award-winning creations now extend well beyond the Doggersbank range to include designs built at numerous yards, such as the 122-foot Heesen Alumerica and the 137-foot Kingship Ocean’s Seven. The 151-foot Palmer Johnson Turmoil, a Vripack design now known as Pioneer, launched in 1996 and became the first yacht to navigate the Northwest Passage—not only with brawn, but also with ruggedly beautiful looks.
“An expedition yacht needn’t necessarily look like one as long as her throbbing heart is that of an explorer,” says Bart Bouwhuis, a senior partner at Vripack.
The way the firm designs yachts today has evolved from Boon’s days with a pencil and paper at a drafting table. In 1994, Vripack reportedly became the first to work with computer-assisted design and manufacturing software, creating a vessel’s shape in 3-D along with coding that let robots use CNC machines when cutting metal for construction. Today’s staff of more than 70 people includes engineers, naval architects and interior designers. They’ve produced more than 7,300 designs.
“Much of the focus now is on the superyacht designs that we work on,” Bouwhuis says. “However, we have produced some very successful production boat designs and even yacht tenders. Everything is done by computer these days, and now we are embracing virtual reality to give our clients a better picture of what the design will be like.”
The firm also works with advanced technologies when it comes to the yachts themselves. For instance, Vripack designed the Wajer 38, which was the first European boat with Volvo Penta’s IPS pod drives, requiring numerous hull drawings to get the specifications right. And the Slide Hull, a patented Vripack design, reportedly is 15 percent more efficient than traditional designs at fast displacement speeds.
“The realization of this invention is as unique as its outstanding performance,” Bouwhuis says of the Slide Hull. “The client had chopped and changed his existing hull over many years to optimize its performance at sea—literally cutting the hull and reshaping it, over and over again, for nearly a decade.”
That client shared his trial-and-error discoveries with Vripack naval architect Peter Bouma, and the team spent hundreds of hours of research and sea trials to improve even further on the ideas. The Slide Hull emerged as a moderate-vee planing hull with a 17-degree deadrise. When seen afloat, the hull looks conventional, with a relatively fine entry and a lower chine line that keeps low at the bow. Modifications to the lower chine line, though, give the Slide Hull its unique characteristics. Just below the waterline toward the bow, the lower chine adopts a reverse angle. Normally, a chine is horizontal to generate lift and deflect water away from the hull. On the Slide Hull, the chine is angled downward and then narrowed at its forward end.
“This hull arrangement generates considerable lift, which accounts for the efficiency of the Slide Hull without having a negative effect on the seakeeping,” Bouma says, adding that several builders are considering the concept. And what the Vripack team learned on the Slide Hull project about reducing pitch motion came in handy, Bouma says, as they designed Fairline’s Targa 63 GTO.
A lot of what makes Vripack’s designs so sought-after among builders is invisible to the consumer, buried within technical specifications and engineering plans.
“This is the part that the owner does not see, but we know from experience that subtle change to hull shape and weight distribution can make a considerable difference to comfort on board,” Bouma says.
Vripack also takes each client’s wishes to heart, Bouwhuis says: “It is a different matter for the styling and the interior, where the emphasis is on meeting the client’s needs, and their satisfaction is a priority at the heart of the design.”
And sometimes, he adds, a client’s desires lead to serendipitous opportunities: “It was a chance comment that led Vripack to designing the interior of the latest Nordhavn 80, a project that seems likely to change the face of trawler yacht design in the future.”
The Vripack team was working on a project in Turkey, and a Nordhavn agent mentioned a client who wanted a Nordhavn, but with a more modern interior. Bouwhuis contacted Nordhavn, which, like Vripack, has a reputation for designing go-anywhere yachts with expedition styling.
“We found that we had a lot in common with the Nordhavn team,” Bouwhuis says, “and we think and hope that this could be the start of a long and lasting partnership.”
With the Nordhavn project, as with all its modern designs, Vripack applied what it calls its holistic approach: underpinning design with naval architecture and engineering, to view every project as a whole. While a naval architect may be drafting the curve of the hull at the point where it meets the waterline, a designer will already be contemplating the interior layout that might best suit the inside of that curve.
Vripack’s latest design to emerge from this approach is Rock, a 78-foot, steel-hull, fast displacement SUV Class motoryacht that Evadne Yachts in Turkey launched in 2018. The design epitomizes the history and future of the Dutch firm, combining explorer capabilities with modern styling.
“The life of the boat designer is a nonstop learning process, creating new ideas and analyzing them until reaching the optimum result,” Bouwhuis says. “At Vripack, we have accumulated a wealth of experience, but we try not to let that cloud innovation, and our holistic approach hopefully enables us to develop perfectly balanced yacht designs that appeal to owners when out at sea.”