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Life of the ocean wave

Dr Thomas Bligh is one of those fortunate people who manages to combine work with the things they are most passionate about in life. With a name like Bligh, it is perhaps no wonder that his passions are involved with the sea and sailing (he is in fact a direct descendant of that famous Captain Bligh of the mutiny on the Bounty). For the last fifteen years, he and members of his research team in the Manufacturing Engineering Division have worked on software packages for ship design. "The design of ships has always been an iterative process," he explains. "Using conventional techniques it takes typically around ten years to design a warship, for instance. Working with KT Tan, we are aiming to cut the time it takes by half, simply by making some of the design decisions concurrent instead of sequential. This not only allows the process to be speeded up, but also allows the designer to run many more options, and thus give the customer more choice."

Well, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, as they say, so Dr Bligh just had to design and build a yacht. The end result, the Lady Bounty, is pictured here, shortly after her launch in July of this year. The real thing looks very like the computer image generated during the design process, and turns out to be a dream to sail, as well as a dream come true for the Bligh family.

Dr Bligh explains that the radical parts of the design are the underwater shape - the narrow hulls, the swept keel and the cannard boards, which are lowered towards the front of the hulls to provide a balancing of the lateral forces during any point of sail, something that normally has to be done using the rudder, with consequent inefficiency. Using these boards, the catamaran can easily be kept on course, even in relatively rough seas. This and the central positioning of the engine add to the seakindliness of the yacht - very important for Dr Bligh's wife Nigel, who is prone to seasickness.

Although the yacht sails so fast that it has yet to be overtaken, (top speed 17.5 knots, so far) the radical design has not compromised on comfort. The captain and crew can relax around a dining table that sits eight and then retire to the comfort of queen size bunks, to dream of a life on the ocean wave.

The boat's appearance above the water has also been subjected to careful design, presenting an efficient aerodynamic shape to be 'slippery' to cross winds. Even the bowsprit at the front is telescopic to allow for easier docking. Fully laden, the 14 metre boat is half the weight of conventional catamarans of the same length.

With all these design features, it is no wonder that the yacht caused a sensation at the last Southhampton Boat Show. Dr Bligh has given the design to the boat yard that built his boat, Multimarine Composites, and they are already halfway through building the next one, with potentially five more orders on the way.

For further information, please contact Dr Thomas Bligh: 01223 338198, e-mail: tpb@eng.cam.ac.uk.

number 8, December '99 back | contents | previous | next