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Mitigating Risk in a Remote Explorer Yacht Build

Updated: Apr 17, 2023

An Explorer Yacht is not a “production yacht” with all systems pre-specified or, at a maximum, the option for relatively minor customization. Therein lies the trap of believing the specification will develop itself and integration will magically materialize during the yacht build process. It won’t. The specification for Vanguard explorer yacht is currently running at 500 plus lines of spreadsheet and growing. But its not that complex!

Steering around risks is simple navigation.

There is no optimum way to do this. Yacht hull XPM-001 is to an owner specification where the owner became the project manager and the system integrator. Our circumstance is different with Hull XPM-002 Vanguard. We neither have the time and, in part, the expertise to do that. We need to handle the build remotely and mostly at arm’s length.

What you can do is develop ways to handle and reduce the risks in this process. Our strategy here is to understand the Yard is NOT omnipotent. We developed a specification that puts possible problems into the hands of those most capable of defining the solutions; the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer).

Risk and project cost are often a balancing act.

With that in mind, as we developed the specification, there was a constant thread of consolidation, bringing a more limited number of suppliers to the table – each OEM with increased scope and budget. We thereby improved our chances of accessing their expertise, gaining and keeping their attention in a busy market place. I think the primary example of this will be Praxis Automation.

The initial scope of supply from Praxis was just the Hybrid drive system. In this, they competed against four other potential suppliers (see Blog). However, as that conversation developed, we realized that their scope could be more comprehensive. They also manufacture mainly commercial marine Type Approved equipment that complimented our design philosophy. So now their supply includes:

  1. Hybrid Drive (motors, the mechanical drive comes from Esco

  2. Power batteries and battery management charging systems

  3. Power and energy management systems, including transformers, inverters, shore isolation.

  4. MFD navigation displays, Time Zero Navigation software and radar integration. Furuno will supply the rest and is compatible with TZ software that they also market.

  5. MFD Displays for MIMIC diagrams, automation, and control inc Nav light auto-switching, fire detection, security and steering controls.

  6. User controls for the Dynamic Positioning system, the engines and the hybrid drives.

“Buy cheap buy twice” often resonates.

We will approve the Praxis package integration during a FAT (Factory Acceptance Test) at their facilities in the Netherlands and before final shipment for installation. Any issues can be addressed and remedied at that point. All our propulsion and power management systems and, importantly, every related scenario that is likely to be problematic during integration and commissioning is now under a single supply and authority.

Moving on from that example. In a similar vein, we have been looking to place our first propulsion equipment orders. Esco supply the Parallel Hybrid Transmission (PHT) and Twindisc gearbox systems. Our order includes assembly of twin drives before shipment with again a FAT. What that has flushed out additional to equipment in the quotation is:

  1. SAE output PHT drive flange specification

  2. Fitted bolts for the SAE Flange

  3. Torsional calculations for the EV drives and vibration calculations for the mounting rubbers.

Coupling between PHT and EV Drive Motor.

  1. Electronic 24VDC Gearbox actuation in conjunction with 24VDC engine/gearbox clutch.

  2. Compatible speed, temp, and oil level signals for the MIMIC displays

There no additional cost here as we would have had to make this happen at some point in the build process. The benefit is the problem is now with the OEM, who can respond appropriately. What we hope to avoid is an unnecessary “Blame Game” between the parties during commissioning. Notwithstanding that, we all have the same successful goal in mind.

Yacht Equipment Installation

Next step was to consider the complexity of the installation. I have sight of the full I/O (Input/Output) schedules for a well known yacht manufacturer who makes their designs in series production. This is a well researched and time honed machine with an I/O that runs to 2300 lines! We do not need to handle, or document 2300 different inputs and outputs in order to operate Vanguard yacht. We need only the information that requires to be acted upon and additionally, we do not need all that information in a. single unified system. So Webasto for example has their Blue Cool control system that looks after HVAC and potable water heating. Victron with their Cerbo system that provides control and information on all hotel electrical, battery and solar inputs. Wills Ridley have details alarms for the steering gear butt he helm station only an indication of Run, Angle and "alarm". Every other I/O can be kept local to the actual system which is also where one needs to be to diagnose and correct an issue. Oh Lord that has made things so much more simpleton design and probably operate.

Lastly, we have employed a well qualified local surveyor to work with the yard, inspecting progress and helping them overcome some of the quite onerous requirements of our UKMCA Certification Authority (MGN280 yachts <24M in commercial use). they are not "standing by" in the traditional sense as budgets do not allow but they are part of periodical inspections.


  • Add complexity only where it provided demonstrable benefit

  • Allocate technical risks to the responsible authority

  • Trust but verify with independent inspection

  • Sleep well at night knowing its all under control!

Chris Leigh-Jones

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