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Orion Shuttleworth co-designed Adastra, one of the world’s top superyachts. He spoke to SABBEX about his SA family connection and current work projects

You’re something of a superyacht expert, which has made me curious about your visit to Cape Town. Are you impressed with what you’ve seen here on the boatbuilding side?

Yes, very impressed.  Cape Town appears to have a thriving yacht building community with lots of experienced talent and a network of excellent suppliers. The build quality I have seen at all the yards I have visited has been very good and the cost of construction is competitive.

I believe you visited the Southern Wind yard.  We’re very proud of them here. How was the visit?

I really enjoyed the visit and was impressed by their build process. The semi-production approach to superyachts has enabled them to offer a refined, efficient and high-quality build in a very short time frame. It’s interesting to see that they are now branching out into multihulls, a market that has seen significant growth in recent years.

Cape Town is hoping to position itself as a service centre for superyachts, but we’re obviously hamstrung by our location and limited cruising conditions. How do you rate our chances of competing with other servicing centres?

For the new build and refit markets I am not sure I see the location as a huge problem since superyachts can easily be delivered long distances.  South Africa is also in a similar time zone to most of Europe (where many of the competitors and designers are based) making air travel to and from the country relatively easy.  The main thing is that the quality and cost remain competitive.

What are you able to say at this point about your reason for being in CT? Anything on the cards?

I am here to visit Two Oceans Marine who are building a vessel for one of our clients.


Superyacht Adastra entrenched team Shuttleworth at the top end of superyacht design. What would you say was the biggest lesson from that project?

The importance of a high level goal to which every member of the project team is aligned.  For the Adastra project this goal was “do everything we can to save weight”.  Motor yachts are not typically approached with the same rigorous weight saving philosophy one would follow for the build of a racing sailing yacht and this required a paradigm shift in thinking. The result was a phenomenally efficient and sea kindly vessel of 142 ft in length, built to a weight of just 52 tonnes.

Image: Adastra – 42m trimaran

That yacht in particular was an extraordinary design. Are you more interested in modern as opposed to classic-style boats/yachts?  What is your preference in that regard?

We do not really have a preference of style. Our main interest is in finding innovative ways of creating a vessel that meets the needs and wants of our client. The form then follows from these functional requirements and it is this creative process that is of most interest to us.  Carefully listening to, and understanding our client is core to our design principles and forms the basis for any of our projects.  While the design of Adastra may appear very futuristic, the shape evolved quite quickly from the requirements of the owner, which were quite simply, long (global) range, excellent fuel efficiency, shallow draft and accommodation for his family and six crew.   Our more recent 32 m trimaran was designed for an owner who wanted more accommodation in a shorter length and was willing to compromise slightly on overall efficiency.  These requirements led to the development of a yacht quite different in style to Adastra.

Image: Shuttleworth 32m trimaran

You’ve now moved on to another major project. Are you able to tell us anything about it? Sounds like it could be a game-changer?

We are working on a very interesting new project to integrate a suspension system that virtually eliminates all roll and heave motions, significantly improves vessel comfort and enables faster transit in rough conditions.  Several different designs have been developed and their application have the potential to be game-changing for both the commercial and leisure markets. Anyone interested in finding out more about this technology should get in touch with us directly. We are hoping to release more information about this in the near future so please also keep an eye on our website for updates.


I happen to know you have more than a few South African genes – your father John Shuttleworth was born and bred here. What does South Africa mean to you?

I have visited South Africa many times throughout my life both for work and to visit family, so I feel very comfortable and at home here. It’s an amazing part of the world with such beautiful landscape, wildlife and culture, and I am grateful each time I visit.

Your father’s early sailing experiences in the Eastern Cape were hugely influential in his life. Would you say the same is true for you, growing up ‘on the water’ on the Isle of Wight?

Absolutely. I spent the first year of my life living onboard a 39ft trimaran in the Caribbean, I have been surrounded by boats and loved sailing ever since.  In fact, I feel much more at home on the water than I do on dry land! The Isle of Wight is a great place for a huge variety of watersports and I practice as many different ones as I can from hydrofoil kitesurfing to offshore yacht racing.  Keeping in touch with the practical side of boating is very important to me as this way when I design it’s not all just based on theory learnt from sitting behind a desk.

Image: Orion aged five with an innovative hydro-foiling trimaran design by Simon Sanderson


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