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Distancia 60

These two design concepts herald the next generation of power and sail.

October 4, 2007
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German brain-work-nearly 10,500 hours of it-produced the Distancia 60. Thinking about all that effort gives me a migraine, but oh my, the results are clever and handsome. Her simple good looks stopped me in my tracks, never mind the tandem canting keels. And the polars-the Distancia promises great speed for a cruising yacht. Although her speed potential is impressive, she does not achieve it at the expense of safety and ease of handling.

The Distancia owes her existence to the marvelous Open 60s that rocket around the world in the Vendée Globe Challenge and Around Alone races. Ultralight and shaped in plan view like a wedge of cheese, the Open 60s have spawned a sail bag full of innovations, many of which sailors hope will trickle down to the masses. Few of us could have imagined five years ago that we would see a cruising version of an Open 60-a fast, luxurious yacht that could teach a thing or two about safety to the racing crowd.

Distancia places a premium on safety. The 60 has four watertight bulkheads and 12 foam-filled compartments, a crash box in the bow and a highly impact-resistant laminate of E-glass, Kevlar and carbon fiber over a Corecell foam core. She’ll float relatively high in the water even if a substantial portion of her bottom has been holed. Almost as important is her unsinkable nature: The propulsion engines and generators will continue to function when the boat floods, allowing some maneuverability and all communications.

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Many of the Distancia’s design elements are derived from the Open 60s of the solo around-the-world races. Her hull in the section view, though similar, has easier bilges, more flare in the after sections and higher freeboard, all of which increase the Distancia’s range of positive stability.

Early Open 60s were enormously stable up to the limit of positive stability and able to carry huge rigs. Driven hard in rough seas, some of them capsized and showed a remarkable ability to remain upside down, in part because of the extreme beam but also because the broad flat deck seemed glued to the surface. The doghouse wasn’t large enough or buoyant enough to break this seal, and shifting the canting keel and water ballast often didn’t help.

The Distancia 60’s smaller rig and more conservative hull considerably reduce the tendency to capsize. Her cambered deck and substantial house, plus the canting keels, make her very unstable upside down, so shifting the keels ought to right her in seconds.

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Twin rudders as they appear on the Distancia also came from the Open 60s. These eliminate the loss of steering response, and often control, experienced when a single centerline rudder lifts from the water, losing its grip. The leeward member of the twins always stays submerged and benefits fully from the end-plate effect of the hull. The safety of redundancy, too, figured into the choice. The steering setup lets each of the Distancia’s rudders operate independently.

Distancia’s designers were wise to concentrate the weighty stuff over the center of buoyancy, and to keep the ends of the boat nearly empty and very light. The forepeak houses the gennaker and its furling gear, the stern only a relatively lightweight tender. Anchor chain is in a dedicated locker under the berth in the master stateroom, quite a distance from the forepeak. All of these elements reduce the boat’s pitching moment, and when you reduce pitching you reduce the sail plan’s loss of drive as it carves useless arcs in the wind.

Instead of the customary single diesel auxiliary with a shaft and strut or saildrive, the Distancia has a pair of electric drives that retract into the hull near amidships to leave a perfectly fair bottom. A pair of Fischer Panda asynchronous generators supplies current to the three-phase 30kW motors. Each prop spins within a nozzle, which also contains the stator-a tidy design.

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The rig is conventional and designed for short-handed sailing. Three sets of sweptback spreaders preclude the need for running backstays, and a curved traveler makes the jib self-tending. The jib and gennaker set on roller-furling gear, and the mainsail furls and reefs on a Leisure furl in-boom system.

The idea of a single canting keel isn’t new, having appeared on the Dyna 40, Wally 88 Tiketitan and other custom yachts. Twin tandem canting keels are new but may take some time to endear themselves to conservative yachtsmen.

Contact: Distancia Innovative Yachts, (011) 49 2173 964719; fax (011) 49 2173 964736; [email protected].

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