Standing on the aft deck of the Swan 115FD superyacht Shamanna as we wait in the lee of the rocks outside Porto Cervo, Sardinia for the wind to drop, I have a chance to reflect on this glorious brand and its 50 years of glorious history. That the company has showed steady and progressive growth since those earliest days in 1966 is apparent by the yachts floating around us. We are here for the Rolex Swan regatta, and in all 125 Swans have flocked to the Costa Smeralda to take part. Among them are all three of the flagship 115s Swan has launched since 2015, and each one is different. It is suggestive of the blend of careful design and customisation that the Natutor’s Swan team offer, and it shows throughout the fleet.
Robert Holm, customer care director Finland for Nautor’s Swan, estimates that around 2,040 Swans have been built over the last 50 years, and that close to all of those are still actively sailing somewhere in the world. As if to emphasise the point, the Swan 36 Tarantella saunters by. She is a particularly special addition to the regatta – she was the very first hull built, and she has been refurbished for this year’s anniversary regattas by the team who originally built her all those decades ago.
“She was finished in 1967 for a Finnish owner. Swan had to sell three of the 36s to get the rights to the design from Sparkman & Stephens – two went to Finland and one to Sweden,” Holm enthuses. “The first owner of Tarantella sold the boat after five or six years and bought a Swan 37 which is still under the same ownership. But the original Tarantella was offered to the yard in 2002 by the then owner, who felt he was getting too old to sail, and Nautor bought the boat back.”
Tarantella became a boat for the Swan workforce, available for them to use with their families over the summer. She did a 40th anniversary tour in 2006 before returning to staff use, but over the last few years interest in maintaining her had waned and she had sat in the corner of the yard. “Then last year,” says Holm, “the retired workers who actually built the boat in 1966 suggested that it would be a great idea that they restored her. Their payment was to go to the anniversary regatta in Turku, Finland and this one here in Sardinia to crew the yacht.”
Not that Tarantella has needed a lot of work doing to her, of course. “I wouldn’t call it a restoration or a refit,” Holm says, “as she has been kept in very good shape over time. It was more a refurbishment – there were a few deck and hull leaks which have been taken care of, and a few bits of wood and deck gear have been replaced, but they tried to keep her as original as possible and not to rebuild her to look as if she was new.”
That Tarantella has lasted as well as she has for half a century – and looks set to sail easily into another half-century – is testament to the ethos of quality that has always pervaded the Finnish yard. With a range of yachts that now starts at the Club Swan 50 and which stretches through a 54, a 65, a 78, the 95 and the 115, it is clear that high end cruising and superyachting remain core to the company values. Indeed, fashion mogul and company owner Leonardo Ferragamo – himself the proud owner of Swan 115 superyacht Solleone – has hinted that the range is set to grow further. “We are working on a larger model,” he told The Superyacht Group recently, “a 140ft yacht that I can say no more about at the moment…”
The fair winds that are bringing loyal owners and new buyers alike to the Swan brand are set to continue into the future, then. If only the wind on the Costa Smeralda would take note – as the gusts top 30 knots, the race committee decides to abandon racing for the day. Not that that’s a bad thing – I get to enjoy the hospitality and the luxury of Shamanna a little while longer, just not under racing conditions…
All photographs by Tim Thomas