The spirit of yesteryear on the yachts of the future
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The spirit of yesteryear on the yachts of the future

Spirit 111 Sloop

Spirit Yachts | Rhoades Young Design

The spirit of yesteryear on the yachts of the future
By Valerio Paolo Mosco -

New America’s Cup boats being unveiled these days are simply unthinkable compared with the past. With the look of slender if improbable beetles, in a gust of wind they rise up on the water and race off, leaving behind speedboats as they pile on the knots. Once the domain of the mechanical, speed has returned to the world of the wind, to nature, albeit transfigured by technology. Andrea Vallicelli, who designed the Azzurra yacht Italians so fondly remember, is right to say that the great appeal of sail boats is that they are artefacts that combine the two archetypes of air and water.

The latest America’s Cup yachts express all this in an extreme way, taking us to the realm of the unthinkable by reconnecting to the archetype. One might deduce from this that the future of sailing is necessarily extreme, acrobatic, flying, ultimately hyper-futuristic. For aficionados and those who know the market well, this hypothesis is, however, at best unconvincing; at worst, it captures just one aspect of a world far broader than one may at first presume. The magnificent boat we present demonstrates this amply.

The Spirit 111 is a large 34-m boat, a sloop built by the Spirit Yachts shipyard in Great Britain. Slender, elegant and harmonious, at the mere sight of it, even a non-expert realizes that what we are dealing with here is an object that mimics boats of the past, almost as if it wishes to be a compendium of them. Certainly, it is an object that may be considered wholly antithetical to the current crop of America’s Cup hyper-futurists.

First, let us take a step back. In the 1990s, Luca Brenta designed the first of his Wally boats, with classical, elegant, almost timeless lines. These boats revived the “spirit” of a mythical era of sailing, when yachtsmen were dressed in white, decks were made of wood, and fixtures were forged from brass. However, the real new development in these boats was that their vintage spirit concealed leading-edge tech.

Indeed, the Wally boats were the first to make such extensive use of electronic and hydraulic devices that they required a crew of just three to sail yachts over 70 ft long, and this was a boon for owners, who could now enjoy previously unthinkable levels of on-board privacy. Wallys’ interiors also ushered in a new style. Bright and open, they boasted a characteristic unusual for sailboats: emptiness, as if they were fashionable, minimalist, London-style interiors.

Spirit carries on where the Wallys left off. What was said about the latter is just as true of this magnificent boat, conceived to bring back to life the “spirit” of the sailing of yesteryear, in combination with leading-edge technology. And yet, compared with the tradition begun by Wally, Spirit brings something more to the table: sustainability, a focus on doing the right thing, on ensuring limited use of energy of all kinds.

The Wallys of some 20 years ago were energy-intensive boats, powered by seemingly infinite resources. Spirit, on the other hand, appears to want to exemplify the ecological aspirations of our day, in this case not just ethical but aesthetic. For example: it has an electric motor that allows the boat to cruise at a speed of 8 knots, recharging its batteries as it goes. In addition, all the systems onboard consume minimal energy, allowing for long periods at sea without the slavery of enforced stopovers.

As is increasingly true of yachts of this type, the interiors were designed by a different designer. Norman Foster, David Chipperfield, John Pawson and Philippe Starck, Lazzarini and Pickering, are all illustrious precedents for this approach.

Here, the interior was designed by Spirit Yachts and Rhoades Young Design, adopting an unusual organic approach. The owner asked to develop an organic design using wood throughout, in which curved lines and wraparound shapes prevail over hard edges, reducing coplanar surfaces to a minimum. The designers used a variety of different woods ranging from sipo to teak and American walnut, employing different textures and colors combined with great naturalness, spurning undue emphasis. Like plywood, many of the curved surfaces were made by assembling the different woods and then using jets of steam to bend them.

Spirit is thus a refined object with a classic, almost timeless flavor, leveraging ecological high-tech to reassert the archetypal beauty of going to sea powered by the wind.

Valerio Paolo Mosco

Completion: 2020
Gross Floor Area: 100 m2
Exterior Designer and Main Contractor: Spirit Yachts
Interior Design: Rhoades Young Design, Spirit Yachts

All images courtesy Waterline Media

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