Kamaxitha – a Performance Sailing Yacht Disguised as a Traditional Bristol Pilot Cutter
When in former times the fishermen in the Bristol Channel, in South Wales, were employed as pilots for larger ships, they figured they could generate more income with a purpose-built faster sailing boat than with their relatively heavy fishing vessels. In the late 19th century, this resulted in the design of the pilot cutter, considered by many as the finest sailing boat design ever. As the first pilot to arrive at a ship usually got the job, speed was essential, but the treacherous waters of the Bristol Channel made sea-kindliness a close second.
It is without a doubt the combination of the beautiful traditional looks and the reputation for performance which made the owner opt for the pilot cutter as a basis for his new sailing yacht to be designed by Dykstra Naval Architects. Having already decided on Royal Huisman as the builder, the team was further complemented with Rhoades Young for the interior design.
Erik Wassen, from Dykstra Naval Architects, explains: ”Initially, we were looking at more a J-class type of hull, but after the owner had visited Hetairos – Baltic Yachts -, sailing performance became an important factor and we modified the design towards the pilot cutter with its plumb bow and a high-performance underwater body. With the basic concept decided, we considered both a sloop-rigged and a ketch-rigged design. With a larger number of smaller sails, the ketch-rigged design was chosen both for her looks and easier handling. The vertical bow results in a longer waterline and better performance than a design with bow overhang with the same displacement.” The hull shape below the waterline belies the traditional looks above, as it is an advanced low wetted-surface-area hull combining fine canoe sections in the bow, with flatter sections in the aft. Sailing upwind, Kamaxitha easily reaches 14 knots, while downwind she easily reaches her theoretical hull speed. Notable is the fast acceleration after tacking, and her excellent behaviour in stormy weather. While a crew of seven is not many to handle Kamaxitha’s large sail wardrobe, their work is facilitated with remote controls, hydraulic reel winches and furlers.
The design is characterised by the traditional deckhouses, the overhanging stern with open bulwark and the absence of portholes in the topsides. A low bulwark with teak caprail surrounds the deck. The performance is ensured by the Alustar aluminium hull, carbon spars and the 62-ton bulb keel which can be lifted with a hydraulic system from Frans Brandjes Engineering. This reduces the draft from 6.75 metres to 4.5 metres to ensure access to a larger number of ports and anchorages. Even with ten degrees of heel, the keel can be raised or lowered. The sail handling is with a central hydraulic system powered by three hydraulic PTO pumps on the main engine (in total 240 kW), in addition to 65 kW by PTO pumps on the generators. Normal sail handling can be dealt with by the generator PTOs. For hoisting the sails, the power is derived from the PTOs on the main engine, which is anyway running when manoeuvring in or out of the harbour. Kamaxitha has retractable bow (103 kW) and stern (73 kW) thrusters, which are also powered by the central hydraulic system.
The main engine is a 600 kW MTU 12V2000 M60, which drives a 1,400 millimetre controllable pitch propeller from Hundested. The propulsion package is good for a range of 2,700 nautical miles at ten knots, of course to be extended without limits when the sails are used. The electrical system, installed by Alewijnse Marine, is powered by two Northern Lights generators of 67 kW each. Incorporated in the main switchboard is a power management and paralleling system. A 67 kVA shore converter ensures that Kamaxitha can be plugged into shore power worldwide, independent of local voltage and Hz specifications.
Access to the sea or to a tender is through a rigid, fold-out platform on the starboard side, which provides a more stable access point than a typical side boarding ladder. A small platform slides out of the hull at main deck level and a portable carbon-fibre ladder connects both platforms. Near the swim platform is a deck storage locker for the fenders and swim ladder, and a deck shower is conveniently integrated in the recess of the platform. When moored stern-to, access to the dock is via a passarelle from the stern. Kamaxitha’s two five-metre tenders are stowed on the foredeck and can be launched with a pole which can be connected to the main mast.
Because of the vertical bow sections and the bowsprit, a conventional anchoring system would not fit without distortion of the profile lines. Instead, Kamaxitha features a submarine anchor launching system. When fully retracted in its pocket, the anchor’s bottom plate becomes a part of the hull. To ensure proper alignment while weighing the anchor, a transverse pin on the anchor stock is forced through a corkscrew guide in the hawsepipe on the way in. A snubbing line can be attached to the anchor chain to bring the tension point further forward and avoid ‘sailing the anchor’, but experience in the first year of sailing has shown that this is generally unnecessary.
In the interior, the designers of Rhoades Young have created a peaceful atmosphere, perfectly in line with the traditional exterior. Instead of the customary spray painting, cabinet doors and ceilings were hand-painted, leaving the hand brushwork in view. The lack of portholes in the hull sides is very effectively compensated by the generous amount of skylights, deck prisms and deckhouses, flooding the interior with natural light. TVs are either mounted on slide-out mechanisms or hidden behind retractable paintings, rendering them completely invisible when not in use.
In the main deckhouse, the upper salon has windows all around, giving excellent views from the casual seating area on starboard or the dining table on port. A few steps down to the more private lower deck are a traditional bar and a casual seating area with an artificial, yet realistic, fireplace on portside. On starboard, a dining table seats eight to ten guests. The floors are with dark walnut planking, and the walls generally in Sweetania mahogany.
Aft of the engine room are two guest cabins: a double and a twin. Another twin guest cabin, the crew mess, galley and four crew cabins are located forward on the lower deck. The crew has a separate entrance from deck, but a sliding door between crew and guest areas provides for easy servicing. The forwardmost guest cabin can be easily converted to ensure wheelchair access, with steps that fold away and adaptable beds.
All the way aft is the owner’s stateroom, with a double bed on port and a seating area on starboard. A few steps up is a small office in the deckhouse, giving access to a private owner’s cockpit outside. The owner’s bathroom includes a steam cabin and just like all the guest bathrooms (and the captain’s) features electric floor heating. The entertainment system is based on the Apple system and integrates satellite TV. Lighting is controlled with three switches to achieve various moods. The effort to preserve the traditional look despite top-notch performance is exemplified in the helm stations. Their modern displays and controls neatly side away into the cockpit coamings when not in use.
Royal Huisman proved to be an ideal shipyard for this project, as the yard has all main skills covered in-house. The owner was very involved during the development and construction of his yacht, and made frequent visits to the yard to meet the building team. Even though it was his first yacht, there were no significant changes during the build. For the owner, the project was managed by Jens Cornelsen, who has decades of experience in the construction of large sailing yachts.
Wolf in sheep’s clothing
Her exhilarating performance combined with her classic looks has already earned Kamaxitha the nickname ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’. In the future, the owner considers to enlist Kamaxitha in sailing regattas. Royal Huisman has several yachts under construction including a 43 metre designed sloop by Germán Frers, as well as a 48 metre sloop and a 52 metre ketch, both designed by André Hoek. The yard is also increasingly involved in refit activities, with recently completed refits of Be Mine, Skat and the 93 metre Lürssen three-masted schooner Eos.