alex thomson invites konstantin grcic to design new hugo boss racing yacht

alex thomson invites konstantin grcic to design new hugo boss racing yacht


 the 60 foot ‘IMOCA’ racing yachts are one the world’s fastest modern racing monohulls. these boats are built using composite materials, keeping them as light as possible whilst still ensuring they are able to withstand the harsh conditions they will find racing across the oceans. as the first all-back hugo boss racing yacht, the hull is in a honeycomb pattern designed by renowned industrial designer konstantin grcic.

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the hugo boss racing yacht is featured in a black paint finish
image courtesy of mark lloyd




this new version is the second yacht built by the alex thomson racing team and is custom made for alex thomson. konstanin grcic worked to create the black aesthetic design and also assisted in the ergonomic interior design of the yacht, focusing on the navigation and sleeping area to ensure a maximum amount of comfort without sacrificing speed and weight.  

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the detailed hexagonal design of hugo boss racing yacht
image courtesy of cleo barnham




the brand new racing yacht, which has been two years in the making, is 5% lighter than the team’s previous racing yachts and includes a number of totally unique design features. the yacht build, which involved many of the same techniques and technologies applied in formula one, took place at green marine in southhampton, UK and had a team of 30 work full-time on the project. extensive hydrodynamic research and computational fled dynamics studies were carried out to determine the optimum dimensions of the yacht and its major parts. 

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alex thomson and konstantin grcic during the construction of hugo boss racing yacht
image courtesy of cleo barnham




the hugo boss yacht weighs approximately 7.5 tonnes, and has a top speed of 35 knots (65 km/h), includes 2.5 kilometers of rigging and a total of 633 meter squared of sail. the specification for these boats is that they must be able to withstand the strong downwind sailing the thomson  will experience in the southern ocean. featuring a one-design mast and keel as specified by the news rules of the IMOCA class, the boats first race is the 5000 mile transat jacques vabre from france to brazil starting on october 25, 2015. 


the british skipper alex thomson is a major talent in international yacht racing and has competed in many high-speed solo unassisted crosses around the globe. designboom spoke to alex thomson about collaborating with konstantin grcic, the challenges of designing a globe-trotting racing yacht, and his biggest fears while sailing.  

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alex thomson will be solo racing the hugo boss racing yacht
image courtesy of cleo barnham




desginboom: how did the collaboration with konstantin grcic come about?


alex thomson: designer konstantin grcic first met me in new york where he stepped onboard the current HUGO BOSS racing yacht. konstantin instantly understood the innovation and design aspects which make IMOCA 60 race yachts unique and able to race single handed around the words toughest oceans. with a mutual understanding and objective, konstantin has worked with me on two areas of the new HUGO BOSS yacht; firstly the aesthetic branding, creating a beautiful racing yacht which epitomizes the HUGO BOSS brand. the second area links konstantin’s expertise in creative design to produce the perfect navigation area and sleeping area onboard. both the navigation area and sleeping area are critical as I spend the majority of my time here when racing and ensuring my comfort and happiness enable an all-round better performance. with konstantin’s invaluable contribution to the design process, the new HUGO BOSS should be the most visually striking yet.



DB: what were key design elements that were considered for the IMOCA 60?


AT: there are a number of regulations when it comes to designing and building an IMOCA 60 racing yacht which all teams must adhere to, and therefore of course our design had to conform to those regulations and standards. the second and most important element that had to be considered when designing the boat was one of safety. offshore sailing, particularly solo, round-the-world sailing, is one of the biggest and most dangerous challenges in the world of sport. during the Vendee Globe, I will be on the boat for three months, completely on my own, thousands of miles away from land or assistance and therefore the boat has to be built with safety as the number one priority. however, of course the aim when taking part in races such as the vendee globe is to win, and therefore the other very important design consideration is that of speed. every element of the boat is built to be as aerodynamic and as light as possible, so that it is also as fast as possible, whilst not compromising on safety.  

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grcic and thomson discussing the interior
image courtesy of cleo barnham




 DB: what sets this vessel apart from the team’s previous racing yachts?


AT: this boat has been two years in the making and there are many unique features on the boat that are being used and implemented by the team for the first time. we can’t give all the details away because we don’t want to share the information with our competitors! but firstly, the boat looks a lot different, because for the first time ever, we have a black boat. previously it has been impossible to have a black boat because the color absorbs the heat from the sun making conditions on the boat too hot. this time, however, we have utilized specially developed paint that reflects the heat. this means that our boat certainly looks different to any boat we, or any other team, have ever had before. It is also 5% lighter than our previous boat, the navigational area – which is part of the boat that konstantin was involved in designing – has been adapted and we have some new and unique foils (foils being wing-like objects on the hull designed to help lift the boat further out of the water to help reduce drag). all of these new innovations have been implemented to make this boat faster than our last.

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a special film was layered to prevent the black hugo boss racing yacht from getting hot
image courtesy of cleo barnham




DB: are you going to have to change/adapted new sailing techniques with this yacht? 


AT: the new HUGO BOSS racing yacht will have foils. these are dagger boards which are curved which provides lift to the yacht, reducing drag. this will increase the speed when she is sailing. this is a new development in the IMOCA class and we will have to adapt our sailing techniques to understand the new design and maximize the speed of the new HUGO BOSS.


DB: is there a specific role you doing particular enjoy while sailing? 


AT: when sailing solo around the world, I have no team on-board with me, so am responsible for doing every job. as a very competitive person by nature, the parts of the job I like are the parts where I am extending my lead on, narrowing the gap between, myself and the other boats in the field.

alex thomson konstant grcic hugo boss racing yacht designboom
the crew layering the film
image courtesy of cleo barnham




DB: will you be sailing in a hugo boss suit? 


AT: I have sailed a number of times in a HUGO BOSS suit, however, when it comes to serious racing I am always kitted out fully in my HUGO BOSS team kit. the kit has been specially designed to withstand the extreme weather conditions that I face as I sail around the four corners of the globe. whilst it may look stylish, a HUGO BOSS suit isn’t really practical to be sailing the Southern Ocean in!


DB: being the youngest to ever skipper to win the round-the-world race, is there anything you might still fear while sailing? 


AT: being alone at sea is an incredibly humbling experience. when you are thousands of miles from land, you start to appreciate how small we are and how powerful the ocean is. you have to respect that power, and of course there are times when I have been fearful of it. but at those times I have to rely on all my many years of sailing experience, and have to draw upon the sessions with my sports psychologist which are designed to help me cope in situations like this. if you start to panic or if you let the fear overtake you, then you can start to make bad decisions and your safety will be compromised. it is therefore incredibly important to remain calm.

alex thomson konstant grcic hugo boss racing yacht designboom
each inch of the hull was hand layered
image courtesy of cleo barnham



  • @Marc – I agree it would be far more interesting to see the interior operating spaces…

    A long time ago I worked on a project to improve the ergonomics of galleys for use at sea. It’s a fascinating set of problems, quite different to life on land. It’s very hard to imagine the difficulty of basic tasks like opening a tin, pouring, eating etc until you have experienced it for real.

    I believe that designing solutions for these challenging environments, would give us excellent insights into designing for other situations, like people with disabilities – eventually ending up with better products for all.

    So you’re right, whilst it does look very cool, that’s literally a bit of surface gloss, when the really interesting design insight is deep inside! Sadly, like so many interesting innovations in sport, they have to remain secret till after the event!

    Andrew Redman
    Oct 27, 2015
  • Fine, but why is there no pictures of the navigational area ? The rest of Grcic work is basically decoration, this part part would be real design.

    Marc Sicard
    Oct 21, 2015

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