A classic design reveals a sublimely elegant sloop-cutter rigged yacht featuring flowing lines and beautiful overhangs which nearly seem to keep it suspended above the water. This wonder conceals an array of absolute avant-garde technology. Thrilling under sail but with fuel enough to motor across to the US and return to Europe without ever stopping to refill her tanks.
We haven’t met up with Wisps’s lucky owner – built by Royal Huisman and off the chocks in Holland summer last. Nevertheless we gleaned a little about him from Andre Hoek the project designer who interpreted the owner’s wishes and requests. As Wisp was being launched the owner moved by what he was looking at reportedly exclaimed: “Here’s my home away from home”.
A fitting definition indeed – both delicate and affectionate – perfectly coherent with the sort of sensations this near 50 metre cutter delivers to whoever is admiring her while imagining what an amazing sight she’ll be when sailing with all of her two square kilometres of canvass as she cuts through seas with the kind of majestic elegant motion that only a yacht with those lines can possess.
Yes, quite so since we’re talking about an exquisitely classic sailing ship the lines of which recall those of J-Class yachts initialled by the truly famous like Herreshoff, Nicholson and Burgess who claimed that America Cup races were a show case for the world’s most beautiful yachts.
We’ll be finding out more about this owner as we climb on board. And it couldn’t be otherwise, since he personally spent more than a year working closely not only with Hoek but also with Dick Young and Jonathan Roades and indirectly with another fifteen or so professionals who successfully transformed the owner’s smallest detail and suggestion into tangible reality.
Our first impression as we climbed on deck was that the deck wasn’t meant to be considered solely from a structural view point but that in the case in point it played an all important role in influencing the quality of life on board, above all when at sea.
Compact low coachroofs one in the stern area of the deck and another slightly longer one amidships followed by a small sky light placed immediately forward of the single mast as if to highlight the shape of the covering board which seen from above seems to want to overlap with the horizon.
The surface on which to tread on is so ample and clutter free everywhere on deck that considering the coherence of the design with the tradition of the time we’d be tempted to define it as a flush deck for all intents and purposes.
The sail plan though obviously takes the limelight. The mast head sloop/cutter rig rises to about sixty metres creating a spectacular effect – a towering sight to say the least. Below deck and led by a plan of the layout in hand, we immediately felt that chartering out this yacht even for a day’s momentous sailing had never crossed the owner’s mind at least in the sense we more commonly attribute to the meaning of this term.
On the contrary, since the philosophy seems to head in the opposite direction as the volumes of the interior spaces seem to have been conceived to offer much vital space to few people only.
The main saloon is decidedly emblematic: rather than atomising the substantial cubage of the area available, where cosy convivial, if not intimately private corners have been created with furnishings doubling as side scenes and with small drops and differences tracing virtual boundary lines between differing horizontal planes in the flooring.
Herewith therefore a large saloon above, a study area with desk, while on a lower level a small drawing room and dining area.
This is why we envisaged six “passengers” on board of Wisp since we thought of six as being the ideal number considering the size of this large area even if without the slightest sense of promiscuity:
There’s a strong nearly magnetic family feeling, due to its capability to attract, to bring together and to understand. Of course there are real cabins and our attention quickly diverts in that direction namely to where and how the owner has devised his personal quarters. These are astern of amidships in the stern area of the hull. There’s firstly a suite which only by comparing it to the layout of the rest can we understand it is relatively small.
The suite is on four different levels each of which serving a different purpose. Starting from the bottom up, the first level is where the owner’s cabin and bathroom are. The second level which is just one step up from the preceding one is split into a changing room and small living room area, the third which is on the same level as the coaming of the stern coachroof, houses a small study and the fourth now almost at deck level forms a private cockpit furnished with a sofa and armchairs. When this is closed off by see through awnings the atmosphere is the same as that of a winter garden’s.
In the same zone, immediately forward of the owner’s suite, we come to two guest cabins with private bathrooms: to starboard the VIP cabin with double bed; to port a twin. With this in theory at least, ends the more private area in the yacht. Only in theory though because immediately ahead of the vast saloon which we have already mentioned which takes up the whole of the central area amidships and sports a beam of 9.30 metres and before reaching the galley and crew area we come to a spare cabin which would normally be the captain’s, but nevertheless could be assigned if need be to an important couple as it is furnished to the same high standards of the others.
To this end it is worth noting that never, in any case will the furnishing of private areas do without something functional or of their standing to be replaced by something gratuitously pompous. What comes to mind is that if Wisp were a suit, we could compare it to a Laroche one of the ‘fifties or to a Valentino of the ‘sixties, in other words a suit which could teach what having good taste and style is.
We should therefore be overly surprised if so much aesthetical sophistication were not on par with as much technical refinement, specially when we can see proof of how just three people can manage to carry out all of the manoeuvres necessary while sailing like hoisting, reefing down, trimming sails and while handling the yacht in ports or restricted waters.
The key to understand all of this lies in the two transmitting devices the sailors sport hanging around their necks which have joysticks and knobs with which to carry out whatever necessary with extreme precision.
But should you wish to experiment a great thrill mixed with a dose of utter amazement you need to take the helm. Under sail Wisp reveals her true nature and a surprising grit so much so that after tacking a few times at about 16 knots (we’re talking about boat speed), you find yourself heading off the wind instinctively when it fades or heading up closer to it when it gets stronger, and then going about to then gybe back after a pleasant reach on whatever tack forgetting completely you’re at the helm of a 235 ton yacht.
Text by Corradino Corbò – Photos by Cory Silken and Carlo Baroncini