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DESIGNER Q&A


David Schmidt


Juan Kouyoumdjian First Cruisers


To say his boats are fast is an understatement, designing some of the fastest yachts on the planet. Now, Juan K has turned his formidable yacht-design skills towards production “racer/cruisers.


By David Schmidt


For the past five years, Juan Kouyoumdjian has been designing some of the world’s most successful raceboats, most notably ABN Amro One and Ericsson 4, winners of the last two Volvo Ocean Races. Additionally, “Juan K” has also designed successful Stars, TP52s, Open 60s, 100-foot Super Maxis, America’s Cup boats, as well as some out-there, one-off, custom cruising yachts. Across the board, Juan K’s boats push the envelope of progressive thinking in cutting-edge design. For example, ABN Amro I and ABN Amro II—Juan K-designed Volvo Open 70s—were the first boats of their class to feature hard chines and dual rudders; when other Volvo 70s whimped out, these boats always seemed to have an extra gear. A quick jog down memory lane reveals that ABN Amro I handily won the overall event, while “the kids” on ABN Amro II set a 24-hour distance record for monohulls that stood until Ericsson 4 (a fourth-generation Juan K-designed VO70) broke it during the 2008/2009 event. To say his boats are fast is an understatement, but now Juan K has started to turn his formidable yacht- 48° NORTH, FEBRUARY 2011 PAGE 44


design skills towards production “cruiser/racers”, starting with the all- new Beneteau First 30. I caught up with Kouyoumdjian at the Annapolis Boat Show to learn more.


What was your biggest challenge


designing the First 30? Have you designed racer/cruisers before? I’d never designed racer/cruisers


before, so in essence that was the biggest challenge. For your first “cruiser/racer” to be the First 30 is a lot of pressure as you’re replacing probably the most mythical boat that Beneteau ever built.


The First 30 is one of the first


production cruiser/racers to feature chines. Can you explain, in layman’s terms, what they do? The reasons that you put chines on


the back of the boat is quite different than the reasons you put them on the front. From the moment you start allowing yourself to design a boat with dual rudders, the constraints of the shape of the back of the boat go away. For a given beam, you want to keep the boat as wide and as flat as possible. The chine has a secondary effect as well: It works a little bit like a skeg or


an emergency rudder, so that when the boat wipes out or looses control, the chine bears the boat away and brings you back on track. On the front, the chines help to break the spray away from the hull, as the spray is worse for creating drag than wetted surface area.


How much was the First 30


influenced by your work designing Volvo 70’s? Quite a lot! The brief for the boat was


to be able to sail fast and comfortably offshore by a reduced amount of crew, which is, in essence, what you end up doing in the Volvo, so I think there is an intrinsic link there. Since we spent so much time researching the Volvo Open 70’s, it was natural for us to apply hull shapes that are coming from that philosophy of boat to the First 30.


Is it a lot different designing a production boat than a one-off? The relationship worked really


well between Beneteau and ourselves, but—in hindsight—it could have been a disaster simply because we come from such opposite ends. That was very well handled. You certainly never get into the level of refinement with a


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