"Rabbit" is all these things, says Shannon Yachts owner Walter Schulz — and great looking too. The Shannon crew is wrapping up work on the Irish green Shannon 38 SRD at the Bristol shop and will launch the unique boat for trials soon.

Above water, the 38-footer is a design blend of traditional New England lobster boat and European motoryacht. But it's what is below the waterline that sets this boat apart.

SRD stands for Schulz Reverse Deadline, a three-word description for a hull shape like no other. A much condensed (and contorted) version of Mr. Schulz's enthusiastic description of his patented design goes like this: The bow starts out with a sharp deep-vee entry to cut cleanly through waves but then takes off in unfamiliar directions.

A third of the way back from the bow, the hull begins to twist, a shape that Mr. Schulz said creates turbulence. That "positive turbulence" prevents suction as it passes beneath the concave stern.

It is that stern section, that reverse deadline, that really sets the design apart. Working with a CAD computer design system using both marine and aircraft wing ideas, he came up with a design the computer insisted should produce phenomenal results.

"Every since the Phoenicians about 5,000 years ago they've been building them the other way (convex)," he said. "But the concave shape gives the stern tremendous lift and that makes all the difference."

He felt that difference for the first time when he took the prototype SRD out for a test run several years ago

"I hadn't slept for a night or two, I was exhausted and I was scared ... We had so much invested in this thing and I had only this computer to tell me it would work."

Out in the harbor, he nudged the throttle up and the most extraordinary thing happened. Unlike every power boat he had ever known, including many he had built, the bow didn't rise and the stern sink — the whole boat rose easily together.

"It got up to a plane at a ridiculously low speed without the ass end dragging that a boat is supposed to do," he said. "It was the most amazing moment of my life though I was too worn out to appreciate it at that moment."

So much lift and so little drag produce startling fuel economy, more than a quarter better than can be expected from a traditional hull of that size.

It worked well on the calm bay but how would it perform on rougher seas? To find out, Shannon went on storm watch.

"We were looking for really ferocious conditions," and they found them — an April nor'easter off Sakonnet Point with 30-knot winds and big confused seas.

The idea was to video the trial from a chase boat but that didn't work so well.

"The guys in the chase boat — and it was a good-sized boat — were getting pounded to pieces," at one point dropping the camera. As bits of video show, however, the SRD rode easily over and through the waves.

These days, Mr. Schulz said he judges a boat's ride by his knees — "and this one was easy on the knees — after the beating they've taken over the years, that's important."

The boat is powered by a pair of 160 h.p. Yanmar diesels. It cruises at 18 knots and has a top speed of about 21 knots. Features include a top-of-the-line Bose sound system, flat panel TV and dual outlets for both U.S. and European plugs. Shannon's work with sailboats is evident in the clean, open foredeck and wide sidedecks, but unlike sailboats this 38-footer draws only two feet. The cockpit opens to a big swim platform area.

Vice President Bill Ramos said that one of the joys of building a boat in Bristol is the fact that top-notch suppliers and sub-contractors are right around the corner. For this job Bristol Cushion of Warren did the upholstery, Luther's Welding of Bristol provided hardware, St. Angelo Hardwoods supplied the wood (the boat has a custom cherry interior), and Composite 1 provided laminates and resins.

As a lawyer in the 1970s, Mr. Beach listed the band Queen among his clients and then was persuaded to manage the band which he has done ever since. Now a resident of Switzerland, he has also produced a number of movies including "The Hotel New Hampshire," "The Krays," and "Final Cut," and theatrical productions including Monty Python.

On one visit to the Shannon shop, he asked if there were any Queen fans among the crew — a lot of hands went up. He got the lot of them — enough to fill a bus — second row tickets to a Queen concert in Worcester.

This isn't the first time Mr. Beach looked to Bristol for a boat. He also owns a Herreshoff H28 sailboat.

Rabbit is SRD 38 hull number four. Shannon also builds the boat in 35, 39, 45, 46 and 52-foot versions.

By Bruce Burdett

Shannon Yachts builds a boat fit for a Queen

The first Shannon SRD cruises out of Bristol Harbor.

Jim Beach wanted a lot from a powerboat. He needed a vessel that could travel anywhere — just as he does as manager of the rock band Queen for over three decades and as a movie producer. It should have very shallow draft to enable voyages up the rivers and canals of France. But it should also be seaworthy, able to travel safely from a home port in Scotland across the stormy North Sea to those rivers and canals of Europe. And it should be fuel efficient, comfortable and pack a killer sound system

Reprint from EastBayRI Newpapers, Tuesday, January 23, 2007