The World According to Ludo van Well
MIDDELBURG _ When Ludo van Well _ self-described ‘nautical visionary’ _ speaks of “the most challenging sailing craft on the water today” he is not talking about America’s Cup cats ripping across San Francisco Bay, but his own designs. Van Well has a passion for ecological boat building. His fast, unsinkable, lightweight ZeeZilt (Sea Salt) sailing and motor yachts feature composite materials and an alternative hull shape.
No, business is not brilliant these days, says Van Well. But he’s been here before. “I began as a naval designer in 1977 and have been hit over the head several times by economic downturns. Business withered in the 1979-83 slump.”
In The World According to Van Well, slack times become creative thinking times. “So that when the economy returns you are not trailing behind everyone else,” says Van Well. His company, Van Well Design, pursues maximum performance in sail and motor yachts using lightweight materials and alternative, seaworthy below-the-waterline hull shapes.
In 2011, he unveiled a ZeeZilt30 motor yacht based on a sound rationale. The ZeeZilt’s racy, hydrodynamic hull renders a top speed of 11 knots from a 37HP engine, generates solar and wind power and uses fuel sparingly. Tests proved the brand to be safe and comfortable. Van Well designed a boat that can handle waves across long distances. He made it super safe by installing two wings with foam material just above the water line for buoyancy. He gave up on hybrid engines as ‘’too uncertain, for the time being” and opoted for diesel-electric engines in which electrical power is generated by diesel-based fuel. “A no-headache engine for any skipper,” says Van Well. “And that’s important.” 2012 and 2013 boat shows generated positive feedback. By now Van Well has also designed 25, 35, 40 and 45ft versions. The longer ones were developed to provide more comfort on long voyages. Potential buyers are stalling, however. “I have 4 or 5 good prospects,” says Van Well. “But in this economic climate, buying a ZeeZilt is just not an impulse purchase.”
Van Well is a man bursting with ideas. He is staying the course. “I have been experimenting with alternative materials. For instance, a wood and flax composite hull. That turns out to be 1.5 times stronger than laminate with fiberglass. It makes the hull light and stronger.” For the ZeeZilt40, Van Well offers a kite that will generate 6 knots of speed without help from the engine.