I got my first hint of Roger Penske's new 153-foot Feadship, Detroit Eagle, in mid-1998 when Penske's captain, Marc Greichen, mentioned he was headed to Holland. He piqued my interest, but offered no details. Later that summer, as we cruised together toward Newport, Greichen acknowledged that Feadship was building a new boat for Penske. Again, he shared nothing further.
Industry rumors continued to whet my gearhead interest, but it was not until I visited Feadship's De Vries yard in May 2000 that I got a full picture of this remarkable showcase of speed and power. Construction was well under way, with the metalwork largely completed, the propulsion package in place and systems installation proceeding quickly. The timing was fortuitous, for only in such an open condition can the incredible complexity of such a modern motoryacht be fully grasped.
Detroit Eagle is a mirror-perfect reflection of Penske's life and career. He first found fame as a race driver, and later found fortune in business. Detroit Diesel Corporation, one of his many acquisitions, is now under the Daimler Chrysler corporate umbrella, but Penske is still involved with the company and its products. One is Detroit Eagle's engines, which DDC developed with now-sister MTU.
Built entirely of aluminum, Detroit Eagle is powered by two of DDC/MTU's largest marine diesels, the 16-cylinder 4000 series, which put out 3,650 hp each. The engines drive Lips fixed-pitch propellers partially recessed into tunnels. The tunnels have large fixed wedges at their after end to lift the stern and reduce running trim.
The diesels push the yacht to an easy, all-day cruise speed of 23 knots at 1850 rpm, but occasionally Penske wants a little more. That's when the centerline surprise, a Lycoming TF-50 gas turbine, kicks in to contribute an additional 5,600 hp. For the combined diesel and gas turbine package, fuel burn at full power is nearly 750 gph. Long-range cruising at 14 knots consumes a much more reasonable 65 gph.
According to Greichen, turbine-boosted speed climbs to 32 knots when Detroit Eagle is fully loaded and approaches 35 knots in lighter conditions. That is not the 50-plus knots of some earlier turbine-powered pleasure craft, but Detroit Eagle is not a stripped-out speedboat masquerading as a yacht. Aluminum construction and cored joinery help reduce weight, but this is still a sizable yacht. She is fully outfitted with all the detail and quality for which Feadship is known, built for uncompromised cruising with an occasional burst of speed.
After Detroit Eagle's completion, I visited her at New York's Chelsea Piers and watched highly capable chief engineer Dave Wilder supervise refueling from a tank barge. The procedures for high-speed, high-volume fuel transfer at 50 psi rival those of a well-trained pit crew. Wilder connected and rechecked 2-inch Cam-Loc hose fittings and scupper plugs to ensure no diesel sheen would stain the decks or the water around Detroit Eagle.
Almost everything in the engineroom, other than the 16V4000 diesels and the TF-50 turbine, is behind removable white panels that sport a red-and-black racing stripe. The engines are bright red with a lot of polished stainless ducting, piping, railings and trim; the sole is jet black. Wilder keeps it all spotless, and the effect is just as intended: The engineroom is a breathtaking showcase for Penske's DDC/MTU products and the company's capabilities.
Greichen is an all-too-rare combination of expertise, personality and humility. I know firsthand how much of himself he put into Detroit Eagle's design and construction, but his talk was of the contributions of Wilder and Dave Parry of Penske Power, who served as technical consultants for the machinery and its control and monitoring systems. Special mention also was made of supplier Cincinnati Gear, whose custom-built epicyclic gearbox, connecting the turbine to a Lips waterjet, has performed flawlessly.