As part of an ongoing series of profiles of Dutch yacht designers and naval architects, we talked to Rene van der Velden.
AMERSFOORT _ Don’t be misled by that old drawing board in Rene van der Velden’s office. It is just a nod to his salad days in naval architecture and design. Since the 1980s, having fully embraced digital, he has crafted a massive footprint in the consumer and super yachts markets.
Love of boats, rooted in his childhood, led Van der Velden to jobs at legacy studios (De Voogt/Feadship, Peter Beeldsnijder and De Vries Lentsch). He went solo in 1994, doing design and naval architecture for motor yachts. Today, he eschews a distinct signature.
“It is imperative that we can work with different styles,” Van der Velden tells DutchYachtBuilding. “Each yard that we work for must be able to give its yachts their own signature. That’s why listening is so important in this job. To fully get what a client wants and translate someone’s wishes.”
That approach worked wonders in 1999 when Van der Velden won a Moonen Yachts design contest. The yard said Van der Velden understood Moonen best. He has remained loyal to Moonen which premiered its 36.3m Brigadoon at Monaco in 2018 and has since started a sister ship.
Brigadoon is a cross between a displacement and semi-glider boat. “Its acute foreship makes the yacht go a few knots over its hull speed,” says Van der Velden. “That requires a good spray rail or the bow wave will rise too high. The rail’s location and width led to much CFD work.” He kept Brigadoon, a 50m Moonen in the yard’s Monito series, within the 500GT limit. Using a high-tensile steel hull saved 15% in weight. Next up is a 44m Moonen, the Marquis.
Van der Velden’s Sturiër DME for the De Volharding yard consumed extensive consultations. Van der Velden explains: “I have to understand how a yard functions. I spent 3 months on the DME design. The customer must be happy. And I must be happy.” The DME 80 has a plumb bow. “That is a style element that appeals to many people,” says Van der Velden. “But it also lengthens the water line and that benefits speed and sailing qualities.”
He ranges across an impressive spectrum. His work on the 135ft expedition yacht CaryAli won international acclaim for exterior design, frugal use of fuel and good sailing qualities. His 1997 design of the 18.5m (60.9ft.) Jules Verne is truly iconic and inspired by those fast American commuter craft. He has drawn a 5.5m tender for Interboat, a Dutch brokerage, and an 18m cabin cruiser for Van den Hoven Yachtbuilding. That design will be marketed in a range of cruisers of up to 24m). Van der Velden’s portfolio also includes a 38m catamaran.
The market, he says, can force builders into projects they, instinctively, dislike.
“Take large glass surfaces. From a seaworthiness point of view, you don’t want that. But there is demand for more light inside, for cionnecting inside to outside. Demand is up for explorer vessels. But to what extent is a superyacht ‘green’?”
Yet the drive for sustainability, says Van der Velden, has yielded progress. “Much has been realized in the areas of upgrading engine efficiency, construction materials and reducing emissions.”