As part of an ongoing series of profiles of Dutch yacht designers and naval architects, we talked to Theo Werner of Werner Yacht Design
VOLENDAM – The year 2019 was a busy one. Theo Werner saw several of his designs launched and new ones plop into his lap. All will pad his varied portfolio stretching back 22 years. Ask Werner what he does for a living and he’ll tell you, “I draw honest boats. Not artsy, overly designed ones. But real boats.”
His portfolio contains trawlers, commuters, saloon boats, voyagers, (semi) classics, explorers and speedboats. His office brims with photos and scale models. Of a commuter yacht, for instance. A slim, fast craft that in the 1920s and 1930s ferried New York-area tycoons to and from work.
In July, Altena Yachting launched Sirena, a 15m (52ft), Werner-designed semi-displacement, aluminum motor yacht whose owner aired ambitious demands. He ordered a heavy craft with a 20+ knot top speed, a combination many designers shun.
“We spent a huge effort optimizing the hull design,” Werner remembers. “Perhaps my most complicated design ever! The yacht had to be fast, have 3 cabins, 3 wet cells and central steering. The latter complicated the guest cabins layout down below. Also, ventilation had to be forced into the yacht which required space for air ducts.”
Werner relishes a challenge. A few years back, he heard through the grapevine that an ex-client was looking for a new yacht. Unasked, he drew one based on what he recalled of the former client’s wish-list, way back when.
He made assumptions about weight, resistance, engine power and so on – all dicey factors, but it worked out OK. Werner gave the yacht a plumb bow and sharp, double spray rails and got the nod to complete the work begun. His design was put through a Computational Fluid Dynamics test. Half loaded, the design was no problem but fully loaded, the ship was difficult to push over its own wave.
“We adjusted the prop shafts and trim tabs to generate considerable lift,” he says. “That led to more resistance at low speeds, but generated enough lift at high speed putting the ship, even when fully loaded, flat on the water. Also the resistance dropped and the boat accelerates smoothly to about 20 knots.”
Then the client had new wishes: ceramic walls and floors in the bathrooms and on the saloon floor. And 2 spud poles. “We used wood for the saloon floor but installed ceramic tiles in the bathrooms and a simpler anchor compensated for the weight of the spud poles.
“I always start sketching by hand,” says Werner. “Computer work draws me into a pattern too fast. That shaping of lines is a fun, but unfortunately, small part of the job. Most of the work goes into calculations and drafts and a relentless search for solutions to the most diverse challenges.”
As a youngster, Werner knew he’d be working with boats, spent much time on his parents’ motorboat, opted for technical schooling and devoured yacht and ship building books. An early design of a 40ft sailing yacht gave him a job at Pieter Beeldsnijder whose studio has worked on 2,500 projects. He later moved to André Hoek Design and started his own studio in 1997.
His work includes the conversion of a 180ft sea tug into a yacht, the design of an 88-ft motor yacht in 1960s retro style and a sleek, modern 140ft. explorer. A recent assignment was the Delfino 67 from the De Alm yard. The 20m sea-going trawler is a rare mix of elegance and robustness that, despite its modest length, has a spacious, practical interior.
Werner is now working on the 26m ISA project. Construction of the steel/aluminum shell is being finalized. “Although it is a 26m yacht, its load-line is under 24m keeping it outside international regulations for large sea-going vessels which simplifies the commissioning and ownership of the yacht.