Having been under construction since May 2017, the classically designed Spirit 111 sailing yacht is taking shape at the Spirit Yacht’s shipyard in Suffolk. As one of just two 30m plus sailing yachts under construction in the United Kingdom, and the largest yacht ever built at the shipyard, this yacht is particularly significant for the British sailing yacht industry. So, among a difficult market, Spirit Yachts’ CEO and senior designer Sean McMillan talks to Superyacht News about the sailing yacht sphere and what it takes to pull off a project such as this.

Despite the yachts classic appearance, there is far more to this 33.9m sailing yacht than initially meets the eye as the Spirit 111 is full of pioneering technologies which allow the yacht to be as eco-friendly as possible. For example, the Spirit 111 will have an electric drive system, supported by four lithium power banks, which are regenerated while under sail. Furthermore, all the equipment on board has been selected based on their low energy consumption.

“It’s important to distinguish between the classic market and the modern classics,” says McMillan. “The old classics are, of course a finite resource and are mostly now restored and in the hands of enthusiasts. However, these are older yachts with major maintenance and crewing issues which deter all but the most passionate advocates of this style of yachting.”

A new era of modern classic yachts was introduced in the 1980s. Sailing yachts of this kind had the appeal of classical design, and yet they had the ease of maintenance and levels of performance that one would expect form a modern high-performance vessel. “This sector has flourished over the last decade or so and there are now examples of such yachts in all sailing centres worldwide,” Says McMillan.

Specifically, the Spirit 111 has been commissioned by an experienced yachtsman who plans to attend numerous superyacht regattas, primarily in the Mediterranean. As a result, the 33.9m sailing yacht has been configured for both racing and cruising.

However, to get this right, there are a number of challenges to overcome in both the design and construction phases. “The usual problem when building a contemporary wooden yacht, that looks svelte and elegant, is to make it strong enough to withstand the rigours of the oceans, and then to build it to an extraordinarily light weight,” explains McMillan. “It is designed to displace 60 tonnes which is an astonishing figure and less than the majority of carbon fliers of similar size.” The unique interiors of the yacht, created by Rhoades Young, are essentially intertwined and wrapped around each other, which requires incredible accuracy and rigour during construction.

“There are some very exciting developments in contemporary sailing yacht design, which is not necessarily the case amongst new build motor yachts, but I suspect the divergence of sailing from power will become ever more marked over the next decade or so,” says McMillan. According to The Superyacht Intelligence Annual Report 2018: New Build the sailing yacht market was hit hard in 2013 when delivery figures fell by 50 per cent in a single year from 29 in 2012 to 15 in 2013. The figures halved again between 2014 (16) and 2015 (6), raising temporarily to 12 deliveries in 2016 and halving once again to six in 2017. One could argue, however, that the market is beginning to stabilise with 12 sailing yachts scheduled for delivery in 2018 and nine in 2019. That being said, 15 sailing yacht deliveries that were scheduled for 2017 never reached completion.

On the 21st February, the Spirit 111 was rolled over at the shipyard in Ipswich, marking an important point in the yachts construction. “As we head into our landmark 25th year in business, the rollover of our largest yacht to date was a moment in history for Spirit Yachts, and a spectacular sight at our yard on the edge of the River Orwell,” concludes McMillan.

Having officially entered the next phase in construction, the yacht has now returned inside the shipyard and has a planned completion date in 2019. In addition to the Spirit 111, there are a further two yachts under construction at the facility, one of which is on schedule to finish in a couple of week’s time.


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