To design a sailing boat is not an easy task as there are many parameters that designers have to take into account to ensure the boat’s safety without losing the comfort and maneuverability.
For better insights in the boat and yacht design, aBoatTime interviewed one of the most important naval architects on the international level, Alex Simonis. Dutch in his origins, Alex is the director of the company Simonis & Voogd, the design authors of many well known boat models, like the Dehler 44, Dehler 60 or the Max Fun 35. Currently, Alex Simonis is in charge of changing the brand image of the Polish shipbuilder Delphia, and is also working ondesigning a boat for the Team Shosholoza in the America’s Cup, doubtlessly one of the most exciting challenges for any naval designer.
How did you start designing boats?
From a young age, I was sailing in Holland, where I also studied naval architecture, but it was Cape Town where I found my first job in this field as there was a shipyard that needed a designer. We began repairing aluminum boats of the former Whitbread. My first design was a 53-feet aluminum boat, after that in 1985 we designed a 42 feet composite and later we started to focus on multihulls as I sailed them a lot.
You live in South Africa. What are the benefits of the yachting industry in this country?
If we focus on the city of Cape Town, we can find many shipyards, sail lofts, factories of both the aluminum and the carbon masts just in 20 km radius. Thus the marine industry is very flexible and offer a competitive product as you can get everything necessary for building a boat in a very short period. You have all suppliers on hand, and it is easy to organize your work: you can deal with your suppliers one day, next day try the boat sailing and the next day make the necessary material adjustments.
What is your greatest challenge?
Certainly the America’s Cup is a big challenge, it is the world’s top in terms of the boat design. In this profession there are designers who simply design boats and the ones who do it for the America’s Cup. This race is the only place where to research and develop the boat’s design.
Which is your favorite design?
My favorite boat is the 70-feet BroomStick that beat the record of the Cape Town-Rio race. Another great one is the 90 feet Nicorette, the winner of the Sydney-Hobart.
Which boats do you like design more?
Certainly the fastest ones. Not so long ago we had a chance to design really fast boats for Dehler, such as the Dehler 44 and the 60. I like that my boats are ahead in the race. I also like designing boats that are different in some way, the more different they are, the more I enjoy, as, for instance, monohulls with two rudders.
What are your current projects?
I am currently working on the boat design of the South African brand Pacer Yachts, like the model 376 or the 42, and we are also preparing a brand new range of yachts for the Delphia. It is a very exciting project that takes a long time because it involves designing a whole range of boats with very different lengths. Besides that, I haven’t lost a touch with the German shipbuilder Dehler.
What factors do you consider when designing a cruise boat for a charter?
A charter boat has to offer comfort, the highest safety and be able to accommodate many people on board. The deposits of both water and fuel have to be highly optimized as well. Finally, the maneuverability should be optimal since they will not be skippered by professionals in many cases.