Speed Dreamer Vlad Murnikov

When we get communications from Vlad Murnikov, I never know what I’ll find, but I count on being surprised. Murnikov, after all, is the bright mind behind the unorthodox 82 (25m) Fazisi maxiyacht that entered the 1989 Whitbread Round the World Race—the first and last yacht to represent the Soviet Union. Murni­kov appeared in the pages of PBB No. 141, with his entry in our powerboat Design Challenge. His solution for fuel efficiency “returned to the fast MX-Ray racing dinghy he developed in the 1990s—a 13 [4m] model that relied on a low-resistance wave-piercing hull for its speed.” Still hooked on wave-piercing hullforms, he next decided to design a 1,000-mile-a-day sailboat. As he told Brian Hancock, who described the SpeedDream project in PBB No. 141, if it took 20 years to improve a yacht’s longest day run by 50% (he was referring to the yacht Ericsson 4 in the 2008–2009 Volvo Race), in another 20 years 900 miles a day should be possible, but “why wait 20 years?” For creative minds like Murni­­kov’s, obstacles are made to be overcome. The future is now.

Golden 21 powerboatCourtesy MxDesign

The design career of Vlad Murnikov, posing in front of his Golden 21 (6.4m), has always focused on speed, whether sail or power. He first came to the attention of Western designers with his 82′ (25m) Fazisi maxi, the first and only Soviet Union entry in the Whitbread Round the World Race.

Which brings us to his correspondence of 2017 and the Golden 21. Today he’s thinking of a “future classic” to rival Riva and other iconic small powerboats. “The boat looks pure avant-garde,” he writes, “like nothing ever seen before, yet at the same time she evokes the classic runabout style of the 1930s and 1950s. With her reversed bow, elegantly curved sheerline, and swooping barrel-back stern, Golden 21 looks fast while standing still. Narrow hull and wave-piercing body add to great seaworthiness and comfortable ride, and sponsons on the back greatly enhance stability.”

The Golden 21 crossing a wake.Courtesy MxDesign

The prototype of Murnikov’s Golden 21 jumps a wake, showing its fine entry and wave-piercing hullform.

As with other slender hullforms with very fine entries, mention of the proverbial “wet ride” arises, to which Murnikov replies: “The ride in a chop is very smooth with barely noticeable pitching and no slamming. There is a bit of spray flying around, which only adds to the excitement. Some people who tried the boat have called her a jet ski for grown-ups, but the most common comment is ‘She looks like the next James Bond boat!’”

The prototype featured here was built in wood by Mark LeBlanc of IMX Composites: cold-molded with mahogany plywood frames, Douglas-fir stringers, okoume skin, and sheathed with a few layers of fiberglass. He hopes for production of limited-edition semi-custom boats, but he thinks big: “We could think of a multitude of applications, from runabouts to express cruisers and perhaps even super fast and seaworthy luxury yachts.”

The Golden 21 wood/epoxy constructionCourtesy MxDesign

The Golden 21 prototype was built of wood/epoxy by Mark LeBlanc. If a production run is in its future, construction would be in composites.

When asked about his apparent fascination with wave-piercing hullforms, he wrote: “I love innovation, and the tired old ideas are not for me. Evolution is great, but I prefer revolution. At the same time, I’m a great admirer of the classics. My all-time favorites are the schooner America among sailboats and Baby Bootlegger among powerboats [see page 62 in this issue—ed.]. Aesthetically, in my designs I’m trying to create a totally unique futuristic look that is based on the classic lines and proportions. Wave-piercing bow seems like a controversial idea—to let the boat cut through the waves instead of gliding over them. The truth is, though, that traditional fast boats, both sail and power, are not gliding over the waves; they are crushing through them, hitting hard, slamming, pitching, jumping into the air with the bow high up after hitting the crest of the wave, only to crush down into the trough. At the very least, this is very uncomfortable and it could be dangerous. The wave-piercing bow greatly reduces pitching, almost eliminates slamming, making the ride smooth and comfortable. It is also faster, as the boat doesn’t throw aside huge amounts of water. There is only a small amount of spray and mist flying around.”

Sketch of rotating ring keel.Courtesy MxDesign

Murnikov’s idea for a canting keel is to fix the keel fin and bulb to a rotating ring in the hull that can lift the entire appendage out of the water.

The SpeedDream project mentioned above is still prominent in his thoughts and plans. Always looking for a quantum leap forward, his thinking for a fast sailboat incorporates a long, skinny canting keel with a bulb that could be rotated entirely out of the water. In this position the carbon blade and bulb continue to act as a counterweight for stability, but also reduce drag. To facilitate tacking, why not attach the keel to a ring integral with the hull?

Murnikov filed for a patent on his Ring Keel in 2013. “Unlike a conventional canting keel,” he writes, “there is no large opening in the hull, and structural integrity is fully preserved. And with a modest internal motor you can rotate the ring and place the keel at any angle you want: 90 degrees, 120 degrees, anywhere you like.”

SpeedDream makes the Golden 21 look tame. Though spawned from the same fertile imagination, maybe it’s just time to focus (a little bit anyway) on a production boat. Maybe it’s just time to make a buck.

Principal specifications for the Golden 21: LOA 21.5 (6.6m), beam 5.5 (1.7m), displacement including driver and passenger 1,600 lbs (726 kg), outboard power 70 hp–115 hp (53 kW–86 kW), top speed 35–45 mph (56–72 kmh).

Contact: Vlad Murnikov, mxDesign, vlad@nullspeeddream.org, tel. 616–861–7184.