Five of the Best Sailing Superyachts

SLIDESHOW: It’s impossible to argue the practicalities of a huge sailing yacht — it is a passion and they don’t come more distilled than the following masterpieces of design.

A sailing superyacht is homage to the ocean, the physical manifestation of wind and sea. Sailing-yacht owners have been baptised, they are ‘sailors’. If the thought of that appeals, take a look at our guide to the ultimate sailing masterpieces.

As statements of success go, a superyacht is clear and resolute. For a few years in the early 2000s, with some creative accounting, they could be made into a viable business but they are now truly the ultimate bastions of leisure.

But if a 60m motor yacht is an expression of confident wealth then an equivalent-sized sailing yacht is something entirely different. It is neither as spacious nor as fast as its internally combusted brethren. It requires more maintenance and more crew. Courses need to be carefully planned and weather scrutinised, the voyage can vary from placid meandering to white-knuckle rollercoaster. It is not so much a floating hotel as the ultimate pursuit of a hobby. More poetically, perhaps, it is homage to the ocean, the physical manifestation of wind and sea. Sailing-yacht owners have been baptised, they are ‘sailors’.

The impression of travel on board a sailboat is rarefied; there is genuine pleasure in just moving. The rumble of the engines is replaced by the sound of the sea licking the hull, of wind slapping and stretching the rigging. Changing course underway is an event, which needs preparation, teamwork and physical effort. Despite their solidity, the vessels yield and flex, winches and ropes straining under immense naturally harvested power. To race a sailing superyacht is something dangerously evocative.

Sailing superyachts, despite a number of very modern designs from figures such as Ed Dubois in the 1980s and 1990s, were generally seen as old-fashioned. Motor yachts were still the preferred playthings for the privileged whereas sailboats were strictly for ‘enthusiasts’. Then, in 2006, Perini Navi launched the colossal Maltese Falcon designed by Ken Freivokh for venture capitalist Tom Perkins. At 88m and a with a fully automated ship rig, it redefined what was possible in terms of a bona fide sailing superyacht. She remains one of the few widely recognised sailboats and has earned iconic status within the yachting industry.

Why not have your cake and eat it? There have been many valiant efforts to combine the soul of a sailing yacht with the durability of a motor cruiser but the results are generally a jack-of-all-trades compromise to all. Owners rarely choose between a motor or sailing yacht, it is either in your blood or not. It’s impossible to argue the practicalities of a huge sailing yacht — it is a passion and they don’t come more distilled than the following masterpieces of design.

Wally — Magic Carpet 3
While they are more a racing pedigree than gin palace, the Wally Cento series is the epitome of stripped-down luxury. The expansive uninterrupted teak decks of Magic Carpet 3, Wally’s second box-rule-class vessel, belie a well-appointed and intelligent interior with all the luxuries one would expect in a 100ft yacht. While the lack of superstructure and deference to her arresting profile limits the interior volume, there is accommodation for six guests and four crew. By keeping weight down with carbon composites and the sail area up, Magic Carpet 3 will surf, plane and exceed 25 knots downwind. The automated sail-handling systems mean that she can even be sailed singlehanded, although with a vessel costing in excess of US$12 million, one would require immense intestinal fortitude to do so.

Vitters — Aglaia
Aglaia
appears in Greek mythology as the goddess of beauty, splendour, glory, magnificence and adornment. This heaps expectation on a 66m sloop-rigged yacht built by mere mortals in Holland. The beauty of this particular yacht lies in her simplicity: all that is superfluous has been removed and all that remains is hidden under the expansive teak decks. Her curved glass deckhouse is a deceptive piece of architecture — the helmsman can easily see over the structure yet it provides a dramatic panoramic view from inside the saloon. Towering above the deckhouse is an 83m carbon mast supporting a 3,600 square metre headsail with commissioned art work by Norwegian artist and musician Magne Furuholmen.

Aglaia’s owner accepted no compromise on performance and entrusted naval architect Ed Dubois to design something that sails as good as it looks. In carefully perfecting the balance of form and function, Dubois has penned some of the most lauded sailing yachts in the world. His career, spanning four decades, has practically defined the era of sailing superyachts.

Su Marine — Roxane
Turkish yard Su Marine is a comparative underdog to the dominance of Dutch and Italian sailboat manufacturers. In designing Roxane it stuck carefully to traditional Turkish shipbuilding heritage with arresting effect. The 47m ketch Roxane draws heavily on classic three-masted Turkish gulets and was designed in Istanbul by Taka naval architects. Often newly built traditional yachts can be a cliché and end up looking more Disney than Monaco but with careful detailing and generous exterior guest areas, this contemporary interpretation can soften even the most hardened modernists. The interior was masterfully done by French interior designer Rémi Tessier, using traditional sailing references within a modern living space.

Royal Huisman — Twizzle
Twizzle is something of a paradox; she is one of the world’s most modern yachts from one of Holland’s most traditional sailing-yacht builders. The revered Royal Huisman yard has been responsible for some of the most timeless sailboats in its 130-year heritage, including the 90m Athena and the magnificent J-class Hanuman. The superstructure of Twizzle is more reminiscent of automotive design than marine, helped in part by the techniques of her design team at Dubois and Redman Whiteley Dixon, using computer programmes that at the time were the reserve of automotive design studios. She was painstakingly realised and built with Royal Huisman’s legendary quality and panache. She won two coveted Golden Neptune awards in 2011, including Best Sailing Yacht Exterior Design.

Alloy Yachts — Vertigo
At 67.2m, Vertigo dwarfed almost every other yacht at the Singapore Yacht Show earlier this year. Her imposing hull form and low-profile deckhouse made her feel monolithic when viewed from the pontoon. It’s only on board you get an appreciation of space and tranquillity. The exterior design was courtesy of Philippe Briand, a London-based naval architect and highly accomplished sailor. Briand has so far designed eight America’s Cup yachts, so teaming up with Auckland-based yard Alloy Yachts, which also has a distinguished racing pedigree, was a natural collaboration. The interior was the domain of legendary French interior and furniture designer Christian Liaigre. His design for Vertigo is a novel interpretation of a typical racing yacht. While she is undoubtedly luxurious, the interior is uncluttered, minimalist yet practical — a balancing act that takes skill and subtlety.

Footnote — a new yardstick
Subtlelty is certainly not on the agenda for the team that bought the Maltese Falcon into reality — its new project, the 141m five-masted gaff schooner, is a behemoth. The ostentatiously named Dream Symphony will be the largest privately owned sailboat by almost 50m when she is launched in 2016 and will boast a wooden hull, glass swimming pool and helipad (a rarity for sailing yachts). She is an audacious concept from UK-based yacht designer Ken Freivokh. Since the iconic design for Maltese Falcon, he has carved a niche for some of the most futuristic superyacht designs. When Dream Symphony is launched from her Turkish yard, it will set the bar for the next generation of sailing ‘giga-yachts’.

Jody Chapman is designer and managing director at Seventy Seven Design, a superyacht design and project management company based in Singapore.

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