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Tony Castro and the new luxury

Tony Castro explains the reason for designing sailing yachts built for high-latitude exploration…

Coco Chanel once said that luxury is not the opposite of poverty, but the opposite of vulgarity. The yachting industry is often considered to be the pinnacle of luxury, and a superyacht is perhaps one of the most expensive personal assets that an individual can own. It is also an industry that has marketed itself to people for whom money is no object, and it has told them ‘if you can dream it we can build it’. While this notion has led the market to financial prosperity, it also leans towards opulence, exuberance, and in some unfortunate cases vulgarity. 

The niché world of superyacht design is plagued by connotations of impracticality, wasted spaces, and unnecessary features. It’s a painful reality to grapple with for industry veterans such as Tony Castro, whose previous works include the Justine III - a design which won the One Ton World Cup and became the first yacht to win all 5 races in the world championship. In celebration of Castro’s 40-year anniversary in yacht design, SuperyachtNews spoke with him at MetsTrade to discuss the ever-evolving landscape of the sector and to pay homage to Pelagic Yachts - a range of vessels designed to explore the Antarctic and other remote parts of the globe.

Pelagic Yachts is known for its high-performance sailing yachts, which are designed to be fast, comfortable, and seaworthy. The company has designed and built a number of yachts ranging in size from 50 to 82 feet, and its yachts have been recognized for their innovative design and engineering. In addition to its custom yacht-building business, Pelagic Yachts also offers yacht design services and consulting for clients who are interested in building their own exploration vessels.

The flagship yacht in this range is the ‘Vinson of Antarctica’, which is currently moored in the Falkland Islands. This extreme expedition yacht, which can sail in the most demanding oceans in the world, was designed by Tony and renowned adventurer and expedition sailor Skip Novak. The success of this yacht design has led Tony to collaborate with Skip on further designs to enable him to introduce more adventurous sailors to the remote and untouched waters in the world. 

“It was quite a nice...fresh challenge for me to design a boat that is purely just about making it as practical and sustainable as possible.” Castro explains that “Every single little thing is about minimising the use of energy on this boat. We use as much salt water as possible, so even when you shower you use salt water, and then when you are ready to rinse off the soap and shampoo you use fresh water, and you come out feeling just as fresh and new.” 

Castro continues, “If you're climbing from one point to the other, then you always need to be able to hold onto something so the chances of you being bounced off are really minimised. There are quite a lot of interesting things which were quite a joy because it's a challenge for the designer as well. It's quite an interesting thing not to be driven by aesthetics all the time, and it's extreme because if I don't do something then Skip will notice it and call me out.”

“The whole idea is that you don't use water unless you absolutely have to. It is almost like a little game, a challenge. How little energy have I managed to use this week? And now suddenly there's a whole new purpose and dynamic to the yachting experience.”

The principal feature of the interior is to push the day area with the main salon seating up to a spacious deckhouse while also incorporating the galley. Instead of hiding the galley in the bowels of the ship, it becomes a part of everyday living and remains in keeping with the Pelagic philosophy of guests pitching in with the crew on cooking and galley duties, in order to form a cohesive team in the expedition spirit.

The vessel itself is built robustly of aluminium with a centreboard rather than a lifting ballast keel, the flexibility of draft reduction for safety and ability to beach (fundamental characteristics of the previous Pelagics) is achieved by a stub keel carrying the ballast as the forward point of a tripod completed by twin skegs supporting fixed rudders. The twin-engine configuration creates increased manoeuvrability under power and also provides redundancy.

The boat has been designed for clients who want to get into yachting, but who also want to actually enjoy and take part in the hobby of sailing, “People want to get out on the water and pull the lines. They want to trim the sails and stand at the helm so that they can handle things. There is something appealing about being a team member and sharing the cooking. I think that a lot of people just want to go back to the basics.”

The vessel was conceived as the logical next step for a cost-effective expedition vessel that would voyage to both high-latitude destinations and remote tropical venues, the 82-foot Pelagic Explorer represents a step up in comfort and sophistication to address what is recognized as a new market profile. The vessel is intended for either charter in the same fashion as the 74-foot Pelagic Australis, but would also be ideal for a fractional ownership syndicate.

Rather than increasing all the guest numbers in line with the 74 footers, the Pelagic Explorer can accommodate the same eight in more or less four symmetrical cabins all with an en suite as well as a private communications facility. The crew would be increased to four billeted in two cabins aft outboard of a lounge/library area. A single owner's cabin can be realized by removing the bulkhead between a set of cabins on either side.

There is a definite shift in the market brewing towards a more wholesome and soul-filling definition of yachting. The pelagic explorer may not be something that is typically associated with the superyacht industry, or even yachting for that matter, but it is a lifestyle that is more likely to resonate with a younger and more dynamic pool of clients who are bored of sunbathing in St Tropez and partying in the Caribbean. Castro’s radical venture into unchartered waters, away from the opulence and glamour of the superyacht industry, signifies the modern spirit of luxury at sea.

 

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