Full details of Elan Yachts’ next-generation flagship model, the Elan GT6, have been revealed at the world’s biggest boat show, Boot Düsseldorf. The prototype GT6 is still in build at Elan’s shipyard in Slovenia, but high-resolution renders show the elegant new design – the first ever yacht designed by Studio F. A. Porsche – from every angle and reveal full details of the yacht’s interior.
Marko Škrbin, head of the Elan Yachts shipyard, hosted a launch party at the show and unveiled an ultra-rare 1973 Porsche 911 RS from the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart. Like the interior and exterior of the Elan GT6, this iconic classic sports car was designed and styled by Studio F. A. Porsche.
Also at the launch party, the renown ed naval architect Rob Humphreys spoke about his 26-year design partnership with Elan, which spans three generations of yachts leading up to the new GT6. Working closely with Studio F. A. Porsche and Elan’s in-house team, Humphreys Yacht Design has drawn a high-performance hull and sailplan to give the GT6 a unique combination of performance, comfort and style.
Studio F. A. Porsche has produced a strikingly modern yet also classic design for the deck, cockpit and interior of the Elan GT6. A true grand tourer in all respects, this 49ft (15m) luxury cruiser is optimised for easy handling and fast, medium-range short-handed voyaging. A natural evolution from Elan’s widely acclaimed GT5, the new GT6 represents a big step up in onboard luxury while preserving the brand’s sporty DNA. ‘The fundamental idea is to create a modern and unique sailing experience that unifies nature and technology while traveling the high seas,’ says Christian Schwamkrug, design director at Studio F. A. Porsche. ‘The yacht’s exterior focus is on combining minimalism with dynamics, while bringing water sports closer to nature. The result is a stunning cockpit composed of sculptured volumes inspired by aerodynamic elements used in sports cars. The elaborately curved surfaces allow for beautiful flares of light as well as the reflections of sky and sea.’
One notable feature, rarely seen on a yacht of this size is the deck profile: completely flush forward of the mast with a subtle, elegantly streamlined deck saloon further aft. The cockpit layout is a blend of Studio F. A. Porsche’s minimalist style and renowned ergonomics with Elan’s 70 years of craftsmanship and boatbuilding know-how. ‘The twin wheels are inspired by the shape and lightness of a Formula 1 car’s suspension,’ Schwamkrug explains. ‘The steering pillars and the floating stern of the yacht take their design approach from nature itself – resembling spread seagull wings and stingray fins. The design of the hull represents a well balanced combination of sharp and distinctive lines and soft, almost sculptured surfaces.’
The partnership with Porsche is an exciting new direction for Elan Yachts but the hull form of the GT6 is the latest chapter in a design evolution that spans three decades and includes game-changing boats such as the quick, stiff and seaworthy 333, now considered a modern classic and the seminal 350, one of the first production cruiser-racers with genuine planing performance, which has evolved into the current Elan E4. The GT line of crossover yachts – a concept that aims to deliver the full power of a racing yacht with all the comforts and easy handling of a cruiser, rather than the compromise of a cruiser-racer – is the fourth generation of Humphreys Elan designs.
‘Performance is about more than just speed,’ says Tom Humphreys, a highly esteemed yacht designer who worked on the GT6 with his father Rob. ’It’s also about good manners: being easy to operate for a shorthanded crew, family or couple. Our work on the GT6 has been inspired by our work on short-handed ocean racing boats and we’ve always felt that there’s a lot of synergy between the two.’
A key aspect of the Humphreys design philosophy is balancing raw power and outright speed with control, good handling characteristics and the ability to easily sustain maximum performance for the duration of a long passage in a wide range of wind and sea conditions while minimising the effort required by the yacht’s autopilot and crew. ‘Cruising efficiency is also about performance,’ Rob Humphreys says. ‘Getting from A to B, avoiding bad weather… there are lots of benefits of having a fast yacht and I can’t think of any benefits of having a slow boat. People think performance is scary but that’s not the
case. We look at the aspects of performance that make life easier and better.’
Elan was among the first production boatbuilders to fit twin rudders to its cruising yachts, which enabled other race-derived features to work effectively. ‘One of the key aspects is the control you get when the boat is pressed so reefing is not super critical,’ Rob Humphreys says. ‘And the twin rudders allowed other things to happen – it’s an integrated package that is optimised together. The hull form can become more powerful, creating a bigger righting lever to supplement the stability you get from the keel.’ Full, powerful aft sections give a lot more interior volume for cruising accommodation and stowage but twin rudders are essential to avoid the problem of a single rudder ventilating as the yacht heels, causing it to round up into the wind with a complete loss of control. The next step in Elan’s hull form evolution was the use of hard-chined aft quarters. ‘It’s a function of the form stability and the section shapes that we put into the hull. ’That’s how we’ve been able to move the performance on from earlier generations of Elan yachts,’ Tom Humphreys says.
Inside the GT6 is an unusual but practical layout with the galley at the forward end of the saloon, right on top of the keel where the yacht’s motion is most stable and U-shaped for safe use at sea. Bringing the saloon further aft maximises the useful space on board. The owner’s suite is the forecabin with a king-size island double bed facing aft and a good view out through the large through-hull windows on both sides. There’s ample stowage in smart, unobtrusive eye-level lockers throughout the saloon, galley and forecabin. Raised hardwood fiddles that flow around the edges of the furniture tops serve as useful handholds as well as stopping loose items from sliding onto the cabin sole. ‘The whole interior bears Studio F. A. Porsche’s unique and recognisable design DNA, combining a minimalistic design approach with the idea of enhanced functionality,’Schwamkrug explains. ‘The main features of the interior design are the flowing lines and the architectural element of a “belt”, which connects the entire interior. This forms a connection between the living area and galley as well as the balance between functionality and cosiness achieved by carefully developed colour and trim details. ‘Additionally the use of transformable furniture, such as the saloon table turning into a coffee table, allows for a perfect use of space. The colour and trim concept represents the sophisticated approach of the Studio F. A. Porsche design philosophy by using high-quality materials and subtle colours blending perfectly into the overall concept.’
Beneath the beautiful skin of the GT6 is a strong, stiff and lightweight composite structure. Elan was an early adopter of vacuum infusion technology and continues to refine its own process to stay ahead of the curve. ‘Elan’s 3D VAIL system gives better quality lamination control and more reliable weights,’ Rob Humphreys says, ‘and we can design for that.’ But there’s more to Elan’s build quality than modern composite technology. Equally important is the fine craftsmanship of the interior. To maximise the impact of Studio F. A. Porsche’s design, the interior fit-out of the GT6 includes solid hardwood and thick veneers, exclusive fabrics and sophisticated systems to make life on board more luxurious. ‘Our powerful new flagship model is a game-changing gran turismo yacht that offers all the benefits of Elan build quality, technology and craftsmanship with the design flair of Studio F. A. Porsche and the performance and handling of a Humphreys hull that’s optimised for fast short-handed cruising,’ says Elan Yachts’ Marko Škrbin. ‘The GT6 is the perfect package to start your grand tour.’