One problem for high performance yachts is to produce a light enough, strong enough structure. Modern fiberglass “composite” construction achieves this, but at substantial cost for the molds so fiberglass is expensive for limited construction. However, “composite” is a combination of any two materials. Before fiberglass, “composite” comprised wood planking over metal framing. Prince Edward’s, (King Edward VII) yacht Britannia was pine over steel and was a very successful racer. This system is used by a few builders of large, mainly “revival” design yachts, but it is feasible for many boat types and could reduce the cost and increase availability of limited run yachts.

Modern composite construction is enabled by CAD/CAM/CNC design and cutting, engineered wood, modern coatings and adhesives, non-metallic fastenings, welding, and even aluminum. The major framing structure is cut out of metal by plasma arc, water jet, or laser cutters using standard metal industry techniques and equipment. The shell is strip planking, cold molding, carvel or lap strake planking, or plywood. Planks or shell “plating” can even be CNC cut for additional labor reduction.

This method can be cost effective for a one-off or limited production boat compared to making a mold for a fiberglass boat or all wood construction. Finally, large heavy timbers are not required which not only reduces labor, but allows sustainable timber resources and sequesters the carbon in the tree in a form that hopefully will last for some decades.

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