Arcadia Yachts' green approach to the business of superyachting is striking a chord with owners worldwide
You don’t have to wander for long through a gallery of Renaissance painting to come across repeated references to Arcadia, an actual Greek province transformed into a Utopian vision of life as a natural paradise – a kind of Eden, a simple and bountiful wilderness untouched by messy, corrupted human types. It’s a wonderful metaphor for artists and poets, but at first glance an unusual name for a superyacht builder. And yet for Arcadia Yachts, based in Naples, the name is a bold and entirely fitting statement of intent.
Founded in 2007 by president and owner Ugo Pellegrino, and chief engineer and designer Francesco Guida, Arcadia Yachts has taken the idea of green boating much further than any other superyacht builder. “There are two types of ecological superyacht,” says Francesco. “There are those that are really green, and those that are – as we say in Italy – ‘smoke in the eyes’!” The first 26-metre Arcadia 85 launched in 2009, a speculative build that sold early in 2010 at the Düsseldorf Boat Show. To date, ten 85s have been delivered to owners throughout the world. The 35-metre 115 debuted at the Monaco Yacht Show in 2012, with four yachts now sold. A new 100 is in build. Each of those yachts is in GRP, but last year the yard unveiled two steel and aluminium concepts, a 44-metre 145 and a 55-metre 180. Unveiled at the Düsseldorf show in January was the latest GRP offering, the quirky 16-metre Sherpa dayboat-cum-support-vessel (a second hull is in build).
This is something of a success story for a brand whose distinctive offering dares to be different. So where are the owners of Arcadia’s yachts coming from? “There is no precise typology of a client. Some are young, some are old. They might have previously owned a fast boat or a sailing boat,” says Francesco. “And they come from all over the world. The sensibility we have developed is very international. Look at our owners – we have one Italian, one Spaniard, one German, one French, one Turkish, one Lebanese, one Peruvian, one Romanian, an owner from Hong Kong, one British, one Polish. Some clients come to visit us after initially searching on Google for ‘ecological yacht’.”
It was owners, indeed, who provided Francesco with the first impetus to create the green blueprint that became Arcadia. “I love the sea, and of course yacht owners love the sea, and whoever loves the sea doesn’t want to destroy it,” he says. With 30 years of superyacht building behind him, Francesco has spent a lot of time chatting with owners and reflecting on how they use their yachts. “I would meet clients buying boats that went 30 knots. But when they took delivery and actually went out to sea they didn’t go above about 14 knots because it was more comfortable or they had their families on board. Real-life cruising isn’t done at maximum speed, but the trouble is that planing hulls at this reduced speed are not efficient, not comfortable and not eco-friendly. I then started thinking about a yacht that had comfort as the first principle, rather than speed,” he says.
“Volume was another key issue. I didn’t want a yacht that copied the lines of a car as too many modern yachts do. Such a design can look curvaceous but it reduces the size of the windows and has an oppressive feel. It is not sensible. Owners want to enjoy a sense of freedom, the panorama.” One thing that did not impress Francesco was the solution for hybrid propulsion. “I studied hybrid propulsion for many years, and I realised that it came to market too early. Clients were being asked to pay a lot of money for something that wasn’t really very green and didn’t offer them more than a couple of hours’ low-speed cruising. Electric propulsion will only work when batteries are smaller and lighter. An owner doesn’t want a boat full of batteries and electronic boxes! It’s not the best solution for the client,” he says.
So after listening to owners and incorporating his own ideas, Francesco had his wishlist – relatively small engines to power an efficient hull, low fuel consumption and a big cockpit. These are key elements that can be seen in the DNA of the yachts in the range today, but the first step was finding a suitable hull shape. From his days studying naval architecture, he remembered the distinctive semi-planing NPL hull, named after the National Physical Laboratory in the London suburb of Teddington, where tests were conducted to discover the most hydrodynamically efficient hull for commercial and coastguard use in the 1960s. The NPL studied this hull in great detail, finding that it delivered good seakeeping with relatively small engines driving it.
“They did all the tank tests and experimented with the ratios until they got it right. It was used in commercial sectors, but it struck me that the length:beam ratio is perfect for yachting. The form had been very well used in lot of different conditions, so there was plenty of data about it,” he says. The design needed just a few tweaks – spray rails to keep water off the topsides, modifying the accentuated knee to increase stability under way, and a modification at the stern to optimise longitudinal trim – but basically it offered what he wanted. The reinforced glassfibre shape came with the best of all worlds and it has proved a very practical solution up and down the Arcadia range.
“At the particular speeds it will be cruised at, it is a highly efficient yacht, and the fuel consumption is good. It’s a very ecological mix,” he says. And it’s not just the eco benefits that appeal: great seakeeping and noise reduction throughout are other pluses.
A distinctive feature of an Arcadia yacht is the extensive use of solar panelling throughout. Clinging to the architectural form of the superstructure, it makes for a striking exterior, but inside too there is a dramatic play of light and shadow. And it’s no bolt-on, but rather an integral part of the design of the yacht. “We worked with the University of Naples to develop the technology, which is unique to Arcadia. The problem created by using glass with solar panelling is that a lot of very useful heat is lost. We use a double-glazing system with krypton gas in between,” he says. Managing the electricity produced by the solar power was another innovation, reducing the time a generator needs to be run.
The aspect of the Arcadia range that he is most proud of is the feeling of the main salon – a huge, dramatic space. “There’s 2.7 metres headroom even on the 85 – it’s unique! The thick glass means you don’t get any noise when it’s raining. You get the panorama, and it’s a great place to be on the water.” Black-water and grey-water treatment systems are also part of Arcadia’s all-encompassing approach.
Francesco is always on the look-out for interesting technologies that he can incorporate. “The car sector is changing very quickly. They are offering lighter, smaller technologies, and there are some amazing things in development. Tesla has been responsible for pushing this and encouraging competitors to match what they have.” He confesses he is working on a system for propulsion that is “the next step, revolutionary but simple, low maintenance and easy to manage”.
The new Sherpa – a tigerish-looking tug of a vessel, and as quirky a dayboat as you’re ever likely to see – is still a representative of Arcadia thinking. “I wanted to create the biggest area on deck. It’s very safe for kids. Interest has come from existing clients, owners of big superyachts, and those new to boats this size. The best selling point will be when we have one on the water and people will realise how good their connection is with the sea. Sit on the aft deck and you will think you are on the beach!” he says.
The future is looking good for Arcadia, and for the values of eco boating at the core of its yachts. “We will see fewer and fewer planing hulls,” says Francesco. “There are so many available on brokerage, and they are very cheap. No one wants to spend all that money on burning fuel for an uncomfortable cruising experience.”
Francesco attributes Arcadia’s success to a keep-it-simple approach. “There is not one solution to a green boat, but it’s about using the technologies together. When I was at Sanlorenzo, the old owner used to say to me ‘In the sea, what there isn’t doesn’t work!’ The idea is to keep things simple at all times,” he says. “We are very proud to be different. It may not to be everyone’s taste but we offer a very distinctive yacht, with its own character.” And an increasing number of owners are finding that Arcadia offers not only the best of all worlds, but a more responsible attitude to our own.
• a version of this story appeared in Issue 47 Jan/Feb 2016 of SuperYacht World