The Pocket Superyacht
WORDS: Jack Gifford | IMAGES: Baltic | Southern Wind | Y Yachts | Nautor’s Swan
Superyacht is an evocative word-enormous craft with lofty rigs and loftier budgets, fully customised, complex creations. But the core values of what make a superyacht (luxury, style and personal expression)are not the sole preserve of custom vessels well in excess of24m….let’s take a look at the pocket superyacht.
Four companies are currently offering a new take on semi-custom yachts, and whist none of these yachts could be regarded as small, they are all aiming for a distilled superyacht experience in a purer, more enjoyable package.
TIDE has picked four yachts, one each from Baltic, Southern Wind, Y-Yachts and Nautor Swan, that are showcasing the best in the 60to 100-foot or so yacht market.With common themes running throughout all four, it is interesting to see a distinct identity forming in this niche within a niche. As you might expect, quality is the essence that runs throughout but ‘performance’ and ‘efficiency’ are frequently used words that indicate a real focus on sailing rather than interior volume and luxury. On the sliding scale of compromise, these yachts are a little further from the luxury living end and more firmly leaning toward the superior sailing end. As we take a closer look at these yachts expect to see several recurring features - telescopic keels, carbon rigs and laminate sail packages, square top mains and a focus on short-handed sailing.
The SW105 exemplifies the current offering from Southern Wind whose Smart Custom concept is really coming into its own. As Commercial Director Andrea Micheli explains, the yard’s goal was to create a versatile platform that could offer an array of options to satisfy even the most discerning of yacht owners. The result from the team of Farr Yacht Design, Nauta Design and Southern Wind’s own office is impressive.
Distilling the mission statement is of utmost importance to getting your ethos across in a growing pool of competitors. The two-hit mission statement of Y-Yachts, ‘Look Good, Sail Nicely’,is simplicity in itself, and whilst they clearly fulfil this mission in their yachts, it’s apparent that the design, care and engineering going into their creations is far from simple. The Y7is a 70’ expression of clean, unimpeded sailing, intended to give those onboard an uncluttered and pure sailing experience. The self-tacking jib is a particularly nice feature that brings the nimble ease of a racing dinghy right up to the large yacht world and, in one fell swoop, brings the prospect of shorthand (even singlehanded) sailing into focus.
68’Café RacerPink Gin Verde is one of the latest launches from Baltic Yachts and is unashamedly owning the chic and speedy space that her tagline ‘Café Racer’ alludes to. The team behind the fully electric boat has gone to great lengths to cut the clutter and create a yacht that really works. To carry on the motorsport analogy, the super stiff, triple-spreader carbon rig is the yacht’s transmission, putting to use all power from the Doyle Sails inventory and giving the boat a responsive feel. As the skipper beamed to me onboard “she is quick! And super fun to sail” before qualifying himself as a 49er sailor, which I would assume makes most other boats feel quite boring, not so with Pink Gin Verde. Deliberately laid out as a weekender rather than packed with the maximum of accommodation, the interior feels more studio apartment than family beach accommodation.
Decidedly more commodious than the smaller Baltic, the new Swan 98 from Nautor’s Swan is nonetheless eager to pile on the performance. One of the enduring brands in yachting today, Swan is still a byword for quality, safety and superb sailing. The98, being the latest in a line of collaborations with Argentinian maestro, German Frers, does not disappoint. The first having been built for a lifelong yacht watcher and speed aficionado, there was never any intention of going anywhere slowly. The square-top rig with large code zero is adopted for performance in the predominantly light wind conditions in the Mediterranean and great lengths have been taken in minimising extraneous weight to maximise the sailing performance.
Optionality for interior layout is something we’ve become used to seeing and these yachts are no exception with a range of possibilities on offer. Southern Wind have put a special focus on deckhouse as well as cabin configuration so guest numbers and crew are tailored to allow for the option to create a family cruiser, charter boat or floating venue for guests all using the same hull shape and size. On the other hand, Swan opt for a simple ‘owner forward’ or ‘owner aft’ configuration, with Y-Yachts offering four subtly different layouts. Whilst these options may provide the custom freedom that is so eagerly sought after by owners, the options have been carefully chosen to ensure the interior design fits comfortably with maintaining the performance of the yacht.
Of the four yachts, the Café Racer from Baltic makes the most ground when it comes to environmental concerns; mounting a substantial array of solar panels on its beamy coach roof, these alone can keep up with the house load sand a minimised AC energy requirement. Reduced reliance on the electric motor is an intended upside of a yacht that is easy sail use and dialled in on performance, but the endurance of the two 36.8kWh battery banks can be bolstered by fast charging from the micro turbine range extender. A common element in EV’s for several years now, this turbine does exactly what the name suggests and has been developed to generate a full charge in an astounding 30 minutes whilst achieving the cleanest exhaust output. Decked in sustainably sourced Cork from Portugal, the feeling under foot alone is something different when stepping aboard. The 50% structural mass in Flax is less obvious to the naked eye, but items of feature trim in this bio-composite allude to the un-conventional nature of the boat.
Whilst not all the boats can boast such green credentials as Pink Gin Verde, the advantage, as Andrea Micheli points out, of opting for such a semi-custom platform is a greatly reduced materials bill on consumables and single use tooling. This, of course, benefits the client’s budget but ultimately reduces a lot of wastage and environmental impact during the build.
With the exception of Pink Gin Verde, all of these yachts feature telescopic keels. The apparent simplicity of this dinghy-like feature belies a wealth of engineering work to enable such a heavy item to travel several meters at the press of a button whilst concealed behind a seamless interior. Though certainly not a cheap element to incorporate, this one aspect, perhaps more than any others, captures the point of these yachts which is a reluctance to compromise-speed with no limits cruising, both function and form.
Carbon rigs too, now standard amongst yachts of a certain cachet, are being used to great effect not only to achieve custom designs and reduce weight, but to raise the performance of the yachts up a notch towards that of their racing kin. Complete rig design packages include C6 carbon rigging and racing spec laminate sails which, in the case of the Baltic, have even been designed to do away with the need for a backstay altogether, taking the clean and simple aesthetic to a new level.
Though no one is pretending these are all-out racers - with their full interiors these boats represent a step up in all-out boat speed and light-airs ability. Such gains are the hard-won fruits of persistent weight saving efforts; Southern Wind for example, uses foam or honeycomb core materials throughout their interior panelling in pursuit of weight reduction.
With focus on upping the ante when it comes to speed and manoeuvrability, the next, and perhaps more crucial aspect, is handling. Chances are, if you’re interested in one of these yachts, you’re seriously into your sailing, which is no accident as all of these boats were designed and built specifically with you in mind. All four yachts incorporate tried and tested sail handling technology and ergonomics to make for as safe and pleasurable a ride as possible that, most importantly, doesn’t require bringing in a crew the size of a rugby team for a day of fun out on the water. Sail furling technology, in the form of hydraulic, electric, in-mast/in-boom, torsion line and flat drum, have been deployed throughout these yachts to help remove any hesitation when it comes to setting sail. Easy to unfurl is one thing, knowing it’s easy to get back in again gives real peace of mind. But it’s not all sail furling; Y-Yachts and Baltic lead all the halyards back to the helm position through concealed channels to allow a solo helm easy access to all the key lines. Swan too have put great thought towards clear access lines and space around key controls. But in the modern world it’s more than sails that need controlling, so too do the complex interiors and systems held within. Y-Yachts have made this as accessible as possible with their ‘Y on Watch’ app, a great concept giving concise and easy access to the onboard systems and monitoring via smartphone or smartwatch.
With such attention to the owner helm experience, what has been the reception for these pocket superyachts?From what we have heard, directly from the owners, yards and crew it’s all very positive. Southern Wind has found itself with self-recruited brand ambassadors in the form of their latest owners, indeed the enthusiasm from owners of all the yacht’s we’ve mentioned here runs to many column inches. Each yard hosts their own branded rallies and regattas and this fostering of camaraderie in both the social and competitive aspects of owning these yachts is not to be underestimated. Perhaps most strikingly though is the positivity and unbridled enthusiasm shown by all the crew I met. It’s not always that one’s place of work can be so rewarding and enjoyable, yet these yachts seem to level the experience, whether owner, guest, crew or captain, everyone onboard is a sailor and loving the experience.
As a footnote to this brief run-through, it’s worthy of note that these yachts are the proving ground not just for designers and yards but also for owners and their crew. Without this high-quality feed into the upper echelons of yachting we risk a bottleneck of owners and a dearth of real-life crew skills. Large sailing yachts require large amounts of skill, experience and knowledge; however, these yachts are where owners and crew can gain all three and have a great time doing it.