A fleet I was very, very keen on visiting during this year´s edition of the Cannes Yachting Festival have been the three Solaris yacht mooring at the pontoon. It was not just after my interview of Solaris designer legend Javier Soto Acebal (read it here) and my visit to the Solaris yard in Aquileia in Italy that I have been a great fan of these wonderful boats. And again, when I was greeted by the yacht´s staff at the jetty it took me just seconds to be re-assured: Solaris yachts are from my point of view the most sexy and tempting production boats out there!
Although I think that of the current fleet the Solaris 50 is the boat that really got me, I was excited to see the “small” Solaris 44 mooring at the jetty. I quickly remembered what I was talking about with Javier Soto Acebal and some other naval architects when speaking about yacht design and so I decided not to do the usual walkthrough with you, dear reader, but to try to undergo the process of imagining a yacht in the designer´s brain by comparing a yard´s mock-up and the real boat.
Comparing the interior design mock-up with the real sailing yacht
We can do this because Solaris is one of the few boat builders that is doing 1:1 mock-ups of the interior of a new boat before building it. I have seen some other brands doing it as well, among them Nautor´s Swan, but I also know that – especially big production companies – nowadays refrain from making these extensive models.
Back in the yard I did some of the shots I was now capable of re-doing in the real boat. Let´s start with the Solaris 44 salon, which is a pretty classy layout with galley right next to the companionway on port side, a large furniture suite adjoining with the dining table and a 2-seater vis-à-vis. As Solaris boats are performers under sails for sure, the mast is stepped: One can clearly see in the picture of the mock-up that the mast shoe is suggested in the mock-up.
What can also clearly be seen is that in the mock-up the designers have been able to really get a feeling for the size and dimensions of the product. For example, is it convenient to pass between 2-seater and the table to reach the door to the owner´s cabin? Or take a look at the nice detail of the rear-facing nav-station: Down below the chart table where the feet of the skipper will rest a part of the hull is see: Here the designers could sit down an have a look by themselves if it´s really convenient to be sitting there doing chartwork.
Same with the large suite around the dining table: Is the height of the cushion suitable for having a dinner in a nice manner and being able to use the sofa for relaxing after a hard day out steering the boat through choppy seas? What amazed me about the mock-up had been the accuracy of the dimensions and the efforts which went into making the mock-up: Look at the angles of the roofing and other details: It is completely the same as later to be found in the real boat. On the other hand – I was wondering why they did not choose to include the porthole windows in the mock-up …?
3D design aid vs. mock-up
Most designers I was talking to, such as German Frers, Marc Lombard or even naval architects of very small brands such as Stefan Qviberg of Arcona Yachts admitted that they mostly work with computer aided design. Frers and Magnus Rassy occasionally exchange some pencil-drawn sketches about general ideas in new projects, but even the champions of naval architecture almost solely work with bits and bytes when it comes to new yachts.
In this matter it seems odd that a yard such as Solaris still invests so much money, time and space (yes, there was a second mock-up but I am still not allowed to talk about this one …) in making real life sized mock-ups of boats. But I can see the point here very clearly: In wandering through the cabins of the Solaris 44-model I was able to experience the boat before it was even there, before a mould was cast (which is the most expensive part of a new boat-project), before a jig was built to make the furniture and before anything really expensive has been done.
I can imagine that altering a real production has been set to start is not only very, very expensive (if not unfeasable), it might also be a PR-desaster for the brand, for example, if a certain boat should be known for “having no space for the feet below the chart table” or anything like this. In this case, especially for a design-oriented brand like Solaris that has chosen a very distinct way of making their product stand out from the rest of the other brands it seems absolutely logical to invest in things like mock-ups.
As I was standing in both the model as well as in the real life owner´s cabin of the Solaris 44 I could vividly imagine the interior designers talking to the yard´s staff, trying out how to lay down in the bed, how convenient it is to get up with placing the feet out of the island bed, how much standing height there would be and if the height of the stowage in the lockers. Amazing!
Loads of things to conceive for the industrialized product
I found it really enlightening to getting the chance of taking a look at these mock-ups in the Solaris yards: Although the actual building process of a boat in Aquileia was interesting too, I found this little detail to most interesting one. It really showed the passion of the yard and the designers to find optimum solutions, to try things out, to play with ideas and to get a chance to really set a foot into a “real” boat to breath its character and to try to imagine how life aboard would really be.
This is something no computer can actually substitute, no matter how elaborate the graphics and renderings might be and no matter how advanced and immersive any new technology like virtual reality might be getting: Touching real matter, walking through a real door and standing in a real (model-)galley cannot be substituted by zeros and ones. Thanks Solaris for this intimate insight!
You may also like to read:
At the Solaris Yard in Aquileia/Italy
How a boat is designed: Talking to Marc Lombard