Gyroscopic stabilizers are in high demand as consumers discover the vast improvement in comfort that comes with eliminating the rolling motion that can lead to seasickness. It’s a comfort that people are willing to invest in — Seakeeper’s prodcuts range from $15,900 for the Seakeeper 1 model for boats as small as 23 feet to more than $243,000 for boats over 85 feet, plus installation — and two Italy-based companies have come out with their own products to challenge the market leader.
Quick S.p.A. has been around for more than three decades and is best known for windlasses, thrusters and other products. It introduced its MC2 stabilizers in 2017. Smartgyro was founded in 2014 by a group of engineers who had their own ideas about how to produce a gyroscopic stabilizer. The company was acquired by Yanmar in 2020 and attended its first boat show in 2021.
No Water Needed
“Boatbuilders are more and more interested in designing a boat that can be fitted with a stabilizer because the demand is growing,” says Paolo Berni, managing director at Quick USA, with stateside operations based in Linthicum, Md.
The company offers 16 stabilizers for boats 15 feet to 100 feet, with 10 models in the AC-powered series and six new DC units intended for smaller boats. While Seakeepers have flywheels that spin in a vacuum and are water-cooled, Quick’s MC2 series has a flywheel that rotates on a horizontal axis and has fixed vertical sides. Perhaps the most noteworthy feature, however, is the cooling system.
“We don’t need a water-cooling system,” Berni says. “We have an air-cooled system, which is a big advantage because you don’t need to put a hole in your boat.”
Air cooling also reduces the amount of required maintenance and significantly cuts back on potential corrosion in a salt or brackish environment. Quick says its gyroscope powers up to full rpm in 25 minutes, but stabilization begins at 80 percent of maximum rpm in less than 20 minutes.
“We try to explain to the customer the quality of our product, reliability and that we were able to deliver a sophisticated but simple system,” Berni says.
The Quick gyro’s horizontal-axis design lets the weight of the rotating sphere be distributed over several bearings instead of one. This design permits the use of a larger flywheel and decreased rotation speed, which in turn reduces the heat that the unit produces. The unit can be installed in a space where temperatures don’t exceed 131 F. If temperatures exceed that figure, the system has integrated overheat protection that de-rates the unit to 80 percent of maximum rpm.
Quick stabilizers can be retrofitted on existing boats, and smaller models require as few as eight bolts for installation. The company started working on the products in 2015 and sold its first unit in 2017. The initial AC-powered lineup of seven gyros was targeted at boats from 35 to 70 feet. Companies that Quick has worked with include Invincible, Solas, Sunseeker and Pardo.
“The system is designed for fishing or leisure powerboats,” Berni says. “It’s about selecting the proper unit for your boat.”
As of this year, he estimates that the company has sold about 600 units worldwide and that sales have been evenly distributed across the model range.
At its Ravenna, Italy, headquarters, Quick has 230 employees, with added manufacturing and testing facilities dedicated to its stabilizers. “We are thinking the stabilizer market will be fast-growing,” Berni says. “Our company made a big investment not only on machinery but on the spaces.”
The New Guys
While Seakeeper’s vacuum technology is proprietary and Quick’s MC2 air-cooling system sets it apart, Smartgyro takes a modular approach, making its sphere and flywheel out of seven components that can be taken apart and replaced as needed for refits or maintenance.
“Our system is easy to install, maintain and operate,” says Sander Gesink, the company’s marketing director. “If you need to replace a certain part, it’s easier to disassemble and replace the part.”
Seakeeper and Smartgyro have patented their technology. Smartgyro’s products are water-cooled, and the company, which is based in La Spezia, Italy, has two models in production: the SG40 and the SG80. In September at the Cannes Yachting Festival, the company launched the SG20 for boats 45 to 55 feet. That product will make its U.S. debut at IBEX and FLIBS this fall. The most popular model is the SG40 (for boats from 50 to 60 feet), which was sold out in late August.
Gesink says gyroscopic stabilizers are the latest technology evolution. “If you look at the market, we say it’s one of the six innovations in the sector,” he says. “First you had maneuvering, then came electronics, engines with automotive reliability, propellors, self-docking and gyros.”
Because of the modular design and assembly, Gesink says, Smartgyros have an
advantage on installations in current boats and can be retrofitted to a yacht as long as there’s adequate space.
The company has 15 employees, and parent Yanmar has a cross-functional design team that draws from the engine company and from subsidiary Vetus for engineering. “When you sell a gyro, you need the right part for servicing,” Gesink says. “Yanmar and Vetus have a lot of know-how setting up a company, legal know-how, H.R. know-how.”
Then, of course, there’s the biggest challenge a company faces when trying to grow. “With Yanmar and Vetus, we have a couple of advantages with working capital to boost as a startup company,” Gesink says. Additionally, there’s the dealer network that’s already in place, with 2,000 for Yanmar and 1,500 for Vetus.
Companies that have started working with Smartgyro include Mangusta Yachts and Bluegame, which is part of Sanlorenzo. Smartgyro is expanding its dealer network monthly. At the end of August, the company had added locations in Ireland, China and the United Kingdom, and inked a deal with Nautor’s Swan Global Service.
The driving force behind the global demand for stabilizers is a simple one. “Gyros eliminate the rolling,” Gesink says. “People want comfort, and they’re willing to pay for it.”
This article was originally published in the October 2021 issue.