It’s the largest project to date for yacht builder King Marine, if only by a small margin. One more milestone in the impressive history of this yard that has built all Azzurra / Matador MedCup / Super Series winners, many state of the art performance yachts and high-profile Grand Prix racing boats including Volvo 70 and AC 72 catamarans and an AC monohull.
For project manager Micky Costa, this new Botin Partnersdesigned IRC 85 is a welcome challenge in a size that he is well accustomed to. He has also worked with Germán Frers and was involved with several Wally Yachts projects, among many others.
This brand new IRC 85 has turned out be a rocket, as expected. Built with top-of-the-range composite technology as a pure maxi racer (as opposed to most other yachts in this category which are in fact performance cruisers), its most striking feature – which has been the most challenging to construct – is a seven-metre lifting keel.
The main ingredients of its very sophisticated construction were high and intermediate modulus pre-preg carbon fibres and Kevlar honeycomb cores moulded in CNC female moulds, 3D scanned for best fit, in order to see the geometry and the perfect position to start laminating. Several key parts of the boat, like the rudder, were autoclaved. This is absolute cutting-edge build technology. Or as King Marine boatyard manager Pablo Santarsiero puts it, ‘pretty much top-of-the-range composite construction.’
The birth of King Marine was in 2005 with the construction of the 83ft IAAC boat for Desafio Español, the Spanish challenge for the 32nd America’s Cup. The DNA however goes back to a family from South America but with their roots in Northern Italy.
King Marine CEO Gabriel Mariani explains: ‘We are part of a family of Italian immigrant entrepreneurs who left behind the comfort and beauty of northern Italy after the First World War. After many family ventures in South America and following the passion of boatbuilding, in 2005 we went the opposite way to our grandparents and travelled back to Europe with a very young Pablo Santarsiero.
‘It was 2005 and we came to set up the King Marine shipyard in Alginet, 30km from central Valencia, taking advantage of the immense opportunity that Agustin Zulueta and his Desafio Español America’s Cup team had offered us. The boatyard was designed to build only high-performance yachts using the latest composite technologies.’
Increasing international demand for racing yachts built with cutting-edge technology helped King Marine on its way. As Gabriel modestly puts it: ‘At that time, our greatest virtue was our determination to face challenges and create efficient organisations.’ If cleanliness is a benchmark for efficiency and professionalism, King Marine certainly is right up there. This is a boatyard that looks more like a modern hospital. Clean white spaces, orderly workshops and precise work make the first impression.
The 3,000m² boatyard offers a range of advanced facilities: two huge ovens, one 32 x 9 x 6 metres and one 26.6 x 8 x 5 metres for large structures like hulls and decks; one 9 x 8 x 5 metre oven and three carbon vacuum tables for internal structures. All of these have exact temperature control to guarantee the best environment for pre-preg lamination. There is also a CNC milling machine and two clean rooms with controlled temperature for pre-preg lamination. Pre-pregs are the preferred material for laminating here, as only they can ensure the optimum resin-fibre ratio for maximum strength at lowest weight. Other facilities on site include an eight metre long autoclave, specialist warehousing areas for core materials, dry fibres and dangerous goods, and a pre-preg store that is kept at -17°C.
However, the company has now moved on even further. It has made a spectacular new HQ for itself in the former AC base of Team New Zealand in Valencia’s harbour that offers even more facilities, in addition to the site in nearby Alginet.
Services on offer here include travel lift, offices, dining room, dry dock, boat storage, paint booth with filtered air, sail loft, a composite materials shop, boat maintenance, composite work, moorings, offices for representatives, an office for crew meetings and après-race performance analysis, a printing service, changing rooms, fantastic chill-out spaces, and more.
For quality control during and after the build, King Marine equipment for non-destructive testing including a thermal imaging camera and an ultrasound machine. The heat sensor registers different temperature levels and converts them into a video display where they show up in distinctive colours. This technology is a valuable tool for detecting voids, de-lamination and water in composites, and King Marine uses it for quick checks prior to the final test with ultrasound.
Here, an ultrasonic transducer connected to a diagnostic machine is passed over the object being inspected. The transducer is typically separated from the test object by a couplant liquid, such as water, to increase the efficiency of the process by reducing the losses of ultrasonic wave energy that are due to separation between the surfaces.
Top-of-the-range composite construction is of course a highly specialised business. But as Pablo says, ‘composite boat building has achieved a degree of maturity, so nowadays the developments are technical evolutions rather than revolutions. This maturity has built a great reliability that wasn’t there before. The latest generation of TP52 for example is much lighter than the ones from a few years ago but despite that they are sailing with twice as much forestay tension and we are not seeing boats folding in half anymore, this is one of the advantages of center console boats.
The biggest challenges at the moment seem to be the design and construction of foils.
‘These are extremely complex pieces and as they are still quite new in this industry, the construction techniques are still under development’, says Pablo.
And then there’s the environmental footprint of boatbuilding.
‘This will also be one of the driving forces for new developments. I think that the introduction of composite materials in new fields, like the automotive industry, will require new and more efficient techniques for mass production of composite parts and also ways of recycling composite materials. So far, the scale of composite materials industry hasn’t been big enough to properly deal with this issue. I hope in the near future we can benefit from the development power that the bigger scale brings!’
Apart from building high-performance yachts to designs from the world’s foremost naval architects such as Farr, Botin, Frers, Judel- Vrolijk, Juan K, Soto Acebal, Reichel- Pugh and Nivelt among others, King Marine uses its professional expertise to offer a range of custommade composite parts: rudders for racing boats, daggerboard boxes and many other high-load fittings and appendages.
And not only for boats: King Marine has developed a carbon fibre gantry for 3D manufacturing machines (such as laser cutters, plotters and printers). The aim was to make a much lighter gantry and reduce the energy needed to move it, whilst at the same time increasing the speed at which the gantry moves, thus making the whole machine more efficient.
In the meantime, the impressive IRC 85 Deep Blue is afloat and sailing to the huge delight of not just her owner and crew, but everyone involved with this benchmark project at King Marine.