A colleague of mine first brought the name Rafnar to my attention back in 2016, and I was intrigued from the start. On Friday I made a short but very worthwhile trip to Iceland to take one for a test drive.
First a little background. Rafnar has been developed by an experienced large-yacht owner who has invested about € 50 million, not in a business necessarily to turn a substantial profit, but rather more to solve a perennial problem. For anyone who is not familiar with the Rafnar hull design it’s potentially revolutionary. The basic concept is that it dramatically reduces the hull slamming into the sea making for a much more comfortable and safer ride.
Without getting too technical, the hull generates a low-pressure zone between itself and the water that effectively sucks it back down onto the water as opposed to bouncing up and down on it, whilst the same low pressure allows for speed and efficiency better than that of a traditional displacement hull.
“Stefnir”, the vessel we went out on was one of the original prototypes and was built for the Icelandic SAR service. It is 11m with 2x Yamaha 250 outboards.
The first thing that becomes immediately apparent as you accelerate, is that the bow does not rise in any significant way. Right from the start the hull is being drawn back down which eliminates the annoying issue of reduced visibility at the time when a more-conventional RIB would start to come up onto the plane. The hull does not plane in the conventional sense, but remains flat and level throughout the transition from displacement to high speed.
We got up to well over 30 knots and then started to do some very hard manoeuvres, helm hard over. There was no slip whatsoever and the feeling of unprecedented control at these speeds was very reassuring. We were still in relatively sheltered waters at this point so we headed out into the swell to put her through more-challenging conditions. Here I started to experience the most unusual characteristic of the hull design. We were going into the swell and what happened was that as the hull navigated the undulations it would noticeably slow down where a conventional hull would just bounce uncomfortably over the crests and troughs.
Remember that the hull is drawing itself back to the water regardless of the liquid’s profile. I actually found it somewhat reassuring. It’s almost as if the hull is reminding you to be a little cautious and is responding accordingly to the dynamic shifts. It should be noted that this particular characteristic is somewhat more pronounced when going with the swell as we experienced on our way back into port, but this can be easily managed with the use of engine trim.
Once we were out on some more significant swell I put her through her manoeuvring paces again and she performed flawlessly, making sharp turns at well over 30 knots.
Another point that will be of interest to yacht owners is that the hull dispersed water very well making her a dry boat in that respect.
I have driven countless large tenders/RIBS aimed at the Superyacht market and almost all have been found wanting in terms of their seakeeping capabilities.
The Rafnar hull stands out from the crowd in a very significant way. For any owner considering an expedition yacht that will need its tenders to be more capable and have better seakeeping qualities, the Rafnar hull has got to be your first choice. Its performance is truly amazing, unlike, and way ahead of any other large RIB I have ever been in.
The intellectual property for the hull design has been sparingly licensed and you can now have a Rafnar hull constructed through the exclusive UK franchisee, Rafnar UK. The specific requirements can be customised on top of the basic hull shape / size so as to create a custom tender of superlative handling and seakeeping characteristics but fitted as such to be appropriate for any large yacht.
A couple of Rafnars have done some intrepid voyages e.g. circumnavigating Iceland and from Iceland to Sweden, quite an accomplishment in a RIB, and one that I’d never have attempted in any previous RIB I’ve ever been in, except that I can now say I’d do it in a Rafnar.
This is a stunning product in terms of its technical design and capability, and I would encourage all large-yacht owners to consider them when shopping for a new tender. This is a genuine game changer.
My thanks are to the Icelandic SAR service for providing the boat for review.
For further information, Rafnar UK Limited are based at Northshore Shipyard on the banks of Chichester Harbour.