It didn’t happen in South Africa, Great Britain, China or even Australia, all countries known for constructing cutting-edge catamarans. Instead, likely the world’s fastest cruising catamaran – with the potential to hit 30 knots – was built in the Caribbean, specifically at Gold Coast Yachts in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. The 27-year-old company located at historic Salt River has built 112-plus state-of-the-art sail and power multihulls and with it a reputation that brought the company its most recent potentially record-setting project.
“It certainly has to do with years of hard work, though it certainly does have something to do with luck,” explains Gold Coast’s chief designer and engineer, Roger Hatfield, of landing the job to build Fujin. “A dear friend who sails with Paul Bieker (the naval architect credited with engineering the winning foils on both Oracles America Cup winning yachts sung my praises, as I sing his), so we ended up on the designer’s, and then owner’s short list.”
The key points that make Fujin, named for the Japanese Wind God, so phenomenally fast, says Hatfield, was a ‘no expense spared along with attention to every detail’ attitude. From inception to the finish every detail was carefully considered by Bieker’s team and the owner. For example, state-of-the-art computer modeling was done of the hulls in waves in order to optimize hull forms, predict power requirements and determine the pressure loadings on the vessel. Then, the 3-D structural model was put through these same wave loads, which highlights the low and high stress areas that can then modified before the structure is built.
This was followed by another burst of energy in which the Gold Coast team invested in testing carbon materials and inventing ways to infuse and/or wet bag all of the parts in order to make them as light and strong as possible. Many small parts that could have been bought in stainless steel were made by hand using carbon fiber to save weight.
The only concessions to weight are the owner’s desire for some cruiser comforts that may hurt its ability to grab line honors on the Caribbean racing circuit, that it might otherwise be capable of doing. There is a private owner’s cabin to starboard with a queen bunk and a small desk area with storage. To port there is another queen bunk and a shower changing room with a full head aft for all guests to share. The saloon is built comfortably with the standard catamaran seating for eight- sleep-two-style table, a six-foot counter to port including sink, stove and drawer stowage and another six-foot counter to starboard with freezer, fridge and navigation station. All of these parts where built as light as possible.
After months of testing, the Gold Coast team started Fujin’s $3.5 million build in late November 2014. She went for the first sea trials on June 8th and 9th. Fujin sailed 21 knots in 12 knots of wind, flying her windward hull as she was designed to do.
“We were forced by timing to deliver the completed boat to its owner in St. Martin in a particularly narrow window, the same in which Tropical Storm Erika marched right at us. She survived the 50-plus knot gusts on the dock that Thursday eve but as the St. Croix airport was still shut down Friday morning we had to deliver one of the crew to St. Thomas for his flight back. We went charging across in two hours sliding down the backs of a couple good sized waves (they said 12 feet). The problem at this point was that St. Martin was even further away, on the wrong side of the wind line exposing us to the waves that were still coming out of the east-southeast and that we had just ridden!”
Hatfield and his delivery team took a short detour through the somewhat calmer waters of Drake’s Passage. Except for the detour, Fujin was safe in St. Martin fifteen hours later after jumping waves that tested the vessel to the max with hundreds of hard slams and bangs; there was not the slighted sign of a crack anywhere.
“We hope that we are helping to keep the U.S. Virgin Islands in particular, and the Caribbean as a whole a top sailing spot. We are not the only builder that has produced some cool boats and the names of top races and racers abound. That is because we probably get to sail and play in one of the best locations in the world!” says Hatfield.