2. FeatherlightTM program

An approach aimed at saving weight and contributing to improved performance and lower fuel consumption.

The FeatherlightTM program was cleverly developed by the shipyard’s inhouse R&D team, backed up by 60 years of experience with aluminum construction. FeatherlightTM combines the best of both worlds: performance and luxury.

FeatherlightTM ‘s strongpoints

  • Saving weight – compared to a conventional aluminum construction, FeatherlightTM secures a 10 – 15% weight reduction.
  • Speed – high performance and maximum comfort for sailing yachts in the 40 – 55m / 130 – 180ft LOA range.
  • Saving expense – if “lightweight” is a must but the added expenditure for a composite hull is not, a FeatherlightTM-designed aluminum yacht saves building expense.
  • Sustainability – keeping the yacht’s eco-footprint as low as possible by using recyclable aluminum

The structural optimization tool and foam-cored interior that Royal Huisman developed for Project 405 (Nilaya) are great examples of the program.

“To combine comfort and safety to explore the world
with an extremely lightweight yacht
to be competitive to carbon composite
superyachts in regattas
wasn’t an easy task.”

Mario Pedol, Nauta Design


Mario Pedol continues: “Our early intuition was that an aluminium construction sailing yacht could be much lighter than the existing aluminium fleet. Royal Huisman supported this vision with enthusiasm and accepted the challenge. Extensive research work and calculations, confirmed our initial thought.”

Summer 2022 update by owners’ representative Nigel Ingram of MCM Newport:

”From the outset of the project the owner made it clear that achieving the weight goals was of paramount importance. ‘Lightweight’ became the keyword. Not just for the hull, but for all on-board systems, the interior, the rig and even the deck equipment challenging the shipyard’s engineers in all fields to employ even more ingenuity than their already high standards require.

This project is the perfect candidate for the new FeatherlightTM program, combining the comfort of a structurally optimized aluminum yacht with the performance gains of the best carbon composite build techniques.”

Cornerstones of the FeatherlightTM program

1. An integrated multi-disciplinairy design focussing on weight reduction

  • The FeatherlightTM program employs ESA air space technology and digital FEM strength analyses (Finite Element Method) and Parametric Modelling to engineer exactly the right volume of material for exactly the right location. This facilitates for example optimized, machined Alustar parts, custom thickness plating and the smart positioning of frames, which in turn ensures that materials and masses are only there where they are needed.
  • The FeatherlightTM program uses the latest in glue techniques to bond aluminium with components, deck equipment and construction elements, without the added weight of fastening materials
  • The FeatherlightTM program tailors the best of each: lightweight Alustar® aluminum completed with composite stuctural elements for the hull (keel trunk, bulkheads, plate stiffners, and composite for the superstructure) – all in combination with adaptability during the development and build process.

2. Continuous weight monitoring
A dedicated weight engineer is allocated to each project to ensure meticulous processing from the start to the delivery

3. Hybrid structures combining aluminium and carbon fibre in the right place

  • Various lightweight aluminium alloys are used, with tensile strengths up to 20% higher than conventional aluminium
  • Lightweight interior panels
  • 3D printed components (synthetic and composite materials)

4. Combining comfort and performance

  • Excellent, fast, and stable sail handling, facilitated by optimized design
  • Silent luxury
  • More space available for an expansive interior configuration, as less machinery is needed (less power requirement equals less energy consumption)

5. Combining safety and sustainability

  • Aluminium is safe: it has great structural integrity upon impact. Aluminium will bend rather than break, and is easy to repair
  • Aluminium is 100% recyclable
  • Sustainable energy & propulsion system

6. Classification
The hull is constructed in compliance with Class requirements, so meets all applicable safety standards. Not just for the hull, but also for the yacht’s outfitting

7. Conceptual energy regeneration
Yacht owners are ready for hybrid wind and solar electric systems – Royal Huisman and FeatherlightTM are ready to respond to this demand, appreciating that innovative yachts really can make a difference to our environment

Weight reduced with 11%

The hull of project 405 is a high-grade mix of aluminum and carbon composite, utilizing a semi-automated structural optimization process. During sixteen reviews that are part of the shipyard’s new construction method, the structural weight of this project was reduced with an admirable 11% compared to conventional methods. This did not affect the stiffness of the hull, nor her structural integrity.

The “FeatherlightTM” concept does not just involve a lightweight hull constructed in compliance with Class requirements. Lightweight materials and components are used throughout the yacht’s interior and in various board systems.

Not just a lightweight hull

A perfect fit: installing the deckhouse and guest cockpit onboard project 405. The 17.5m / 57ft carbon composite structure as well as the carbon trunk for the retractable keel have been manufactured “next door” at Rondal, the shipyard’s sister company. Project 405 is constructed in compliance with Class requirements. Note the carbon keel trunk: ultra-light and very slim and therefore appealing for both the naval and interior architects.

Optimizing carbon… and more

Ensuring the optimization of all the carbon components, Rondal’s own engineers also supported the “FeatherlightTM” process throughout. Working alongside the sailmaker and naval architect on mast and rig development is a logical and efficient process. For Project 405 (Nilaya), the methodology brought product innovations such as a runner arrangement that saves 1,200kg / 2,646lbs and a new generation hybrid captive winch that saved half the weight of previously available captive winches.

Tapering to top of the mast on all four sides and eliminating a headboard lock in favor of a unique hook to capture and hold the mainsail are innovations that saved 150kg / 331lbs in a position that made a big positive impact on impact on the yacht’s center of gravity.

Beyond sailing performance

Another positive result of Featherlight™ means that the yacht needs less power for motoring, a factor that leaves more space to the interior accommodation. In Nilaya’s case, the team developed a ”tribrid” propulsion system (link) for project 405 saving 2,000kg / 4,409lbs. Its battery pack has the added benefit of allowing the yacht to operate silently in no-carbon areas. Similarly, a critical look at the HVAC system and selecting direct expansion and fan coils for each room, shaved another 600kg / 1,323lbs from systems weight.

Spring 2023 update upon delivery:

“For such a large yacht, the acceleration is exciting as she rapidly reaches high speeds. Twin rudders and the light, positive steering give superb maneuverability and she has reached all her project targets with ease. Rondal’s sailing systems enable fingertip control of the massive loads involved.

Below decks, life is as comfortable and quiet as one would expect of the latest performance cruiser from Royal Huisman. The builder’s efforts toward building a light and stiff structure have paid off.”

Owners’ representative Nigel Ingram of MCM Newport

Mario Pedol, co-founder of Nauta Design, adds following his overall experience during sail trials:


“Nilaya is not good… She is superb.”

First truly composite superyacht


While many aluminum vessels have some composite parts, Royal Huisman project 405 is much more a hybrid: Nilaya is possibly the first truly composite superyacht of the modern era.

FeatherlightTM: the right balance between price and value. If you would like  to know more, please contact the team of Royal Huisman for a tailor-made presentation.