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.
It is not unusual for engines to be soft-mounted to limit noise and vibration transfer to the hull structure, but Detroit Eagle‘s reduction gears are soft-mounted, as well. This is made possible by separate thrust bearings fitted abaft the gears. Hollow carbon-fiber shafting reduces weight forward of the tail shaft between the bearings, gears and engines. Resilient couplings at each point also help reduce vibration.
From the lathe-turned bulkhead panels on either side of the engineroom entrance to the details of the variable-geometry air intake on the turbine, there was just too much to absorb in the time allotted. There was a lot of dazzle, of course, but Detroit Eagle has one of the sweetest machinery packages I’ve seen in a long time.
Some features, including the cross-connected sea chests, are just good traditional design. Others are state-of-the-art, such as the infrared tank level sensors recessed above the tank top to prevent direct contact with fluid. Still other features are a blend of cutting-edge technology and common sense. Programmable logic circuits developed in cooperation with electronic giant Siemens monitor, but do not control, the engines. If the electronics crash, Detroit Eagle remains fully operational. With wry smiles, the crew shared that they had an opportunity to test the theory, with success.
Four blowers, two intake and two exhaust, are fitted to exchange the engineroom air. The exhaust blowers are reversible to supply the additional combustion air demanded when the gas turbine is operating. Two generators, powered by DDC 4-71 engines, are in a separate room abaft the main engineroom, allowing for extra sound and thermal insulation. Even the engineroom escape trunk to the side deck is innovative: Its ladder includes a “why didn’t I think of that? lift-and-slide mechanism so it can be stowed out of the way when loading machinery supplies.
Designer John Munford is perhaps best known for traditional interiors with lots of detailing, but Detroit Eagle gave him a chance to show the breadth of his talent with a look that is warm, but thoroughly clean and modern. After all, Penske’s collection of racing helmets and trophies would look a bit out of place in an Edwardian cabinet.
There was also the spatial challenge the machinery package posed. Large ducts penetrate the main and upper decks, bringing air in and exhausting gas from the engines through wings that support the radar arch. By angling the duct enclosures and fitting them with frosted glass doors, Munford divided the saloon from the dining room to create distinct spaces that can be combined or segregated.
The master stateroom is a full-beam space forward on the main deck that includes his-and-her baths and an arc of eight hanging lockers. Above it all, just forward of the pilothouse, is a tender garage with a hinged hatch that encloses the boat and davit.
Six guests are accommodated in three staterooms belowdecks. Twin staterooms are to port and starboard adjacent to the engineroom, and a VIP queen stateroom spans the hull’s full beam. Crew is forward, and the captain’s cabin is on the bridge deck.
Also on the bridge deck is Penske’s office. It is hard to imagine a more inviting and appropriate venue for a man whose life has revolved around speed and power. An array of Penske Racing Team helmets spreads across the after bulkhead. Trophies, photos and other racing memorabilia are displayed around the remainder of the room. If that’s not enough, consider the possibilities offered by the world beyond, which likely will include docking Detroit Eagle quayside in Monte Carlo, stepping onto the large open lounge area at the stern and watching Penske cars and drivers compete in the Grand Prix. Or maybe he’ll go up a deck and watch from the hot tub.
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