Slow and fuel efficient yachts with maximum living volume

Displacement Yachts

Slow and fuel efficient yachts with maximum living volume

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At full speed, the nose of a displacement yacht stays in the water; its hull doesn't rise out of the water at speed the way a planing hull does. On the contrary, it pierces through waves, displacing water.

All ocean-crossing yachts have displacement-type hulls because of the fuel efficiency and long range that they give. The other side of the coin is a very moderate maximum speed of 10-14 knots, on average.

Other important factors are that displacement yachts have better seakeeping characteristics than planing yachts, and that displacement hulls are wider than planing ones, giving you more living space onboard.

The Fast-Displacement Hull Form (FDHF) is a variation of the displacement-type hull with a focus on performance. An FDHF-hulled yacht combines the advantages of displacement and semi-displacement vessels. It can go in the so-called transitional mode as a semi-displacement yacht and achieve speeds of around 20 knots, while in the displacement mode, an FDHF hull boasts fuel economy on par with a full displacement vessel. The FDHF is patented to its developers Van Oossanen, a leading naval architecture firm.

All cruising sailing yachts have full-displacement hulls. In the motor yacht world, the displacement hull form is very popular in the 60 - 100 ft segment, and most 100+ ft superyachts also have displacement hulls.

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How are displacement boats built?

Building a new yacht always starts with the design process, where naval architects make 3D models of the hull using CAD software. After that, a CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) analysis is done to evaluate the drag coefficient (basically, resistance) of the hull in water.

At top speeds, wave-making accounts for up to 80% of a displacement hull's drag. A long and thin hull shape reduces drag. Also, the longer the waterline of a displacement yacht is, the higher is her maximum speed. That’s why naval architects always look for ways to lengthen the waterline of a displacement hull. In many cases, a reversed (axe) bow is used for this purpose.

Large displacement yachts are often built from steel and aluminum. The hull is made from steel to guarantee strength and durability even in the most demanding seas. The superstructure, in turn, is made from aluminum to save weight and put more of it down below to lower the center of gravity for better seakeeping. Steel hulls also have a longer life.

Smaller, trawler-like expedition yachts are also built from steel. Steel has its own disadvantages, though. It is more expensive than plastic fibers, needs anodes to prevent corrosion, and has to be regularly repainted.

New developments in the manufacturing process, such as sandwich construction and vacuum resin, have led to increased strength of composite boat hulls. Also, with fiber reinforced plastic, you can shape some rather sophisticated hull forms. Composites are lighter than steel, so GRP and FRP boats don't need large, maintenance-intensive motors to be fast. That’s why a lot of new "pocket explorer" yacht models with displacement hulls are built from FRP.

What types of engines are used on displacement boats?

inboard diesel engines with shaft drives are commonly used on the displacement yachts. Easy maintenance, reliability and fuel economy are main advantages of shaft drives. In the case of displacement boats the arrangement of motors is also critical. On a boat with shaft drives the engine room is located amidships, adding to the center of gravity. On a boat with pod drives or stern drives engines are located at the stern, which is ineffective for a displacement hull. 

On many modern yachts diesel engines are supplemented by an electric engine and  a set of li-ion batteries. Hybrid yachts can cruise in electric mode at low speed with no emissions and in silence. In traditional diesel mode the main diesel engine recharges batteries under way. At anchor electric engines can be used to power all appliances and climate control systems.