Mirabella V's sheer length gives her an edge over other modern sloop sail yachts | photo by Dana Jenkins
Mirabella V became a larger part of my inner thoughts around 1996 when, at meetings with my old friend Bob Derecktor, it became clear that my ideas for a large sloop could be realised. Bob did not live long enough to share in the actual creation, but without him I’m not sure I would have continued with the project.
I then turned to Ron Holland, who created the profile that produced for my family the excitement necessary to leave reality behind and go for it. So started four years of study on the practicalities of building a sloop of this size, complicated by my brief to Ron that I wanted it to perform well upwind and be built in composite. With the help of Julian Smith of High Modulus, who had been assisting since my early days with Bob Derecktor, we slowly solved the many problems surrounding the creation of a 75 metre composite hull that must withstand the forces from a 90 metre rig and a 150 tonne keel 10 metres deep when sailing, lifting to 4 metres for port entry. It was clear that it would flex somewhat, but we needed High Modulus and Ron Holland Design to confirm that it was manageable. To reassure us that our calculations were correct, we went to VT Shipbuilding, which had been building minesweepers in composite for some time, and its experienced engineering departments helped to bring it all together.
When construction started in 2001, with project manager Paul Johnson on hand to help deal with problems, one of the most interesting and exciting periods of my life began. It had been difficult to imagine the size of the yacht from all those years of seeing it on paper. As much as human figures were drawn in, we did not appreciate how big it was until we saw the female hull mould completed. From then on, size was no longer a surprise; everything had to be bigger and stronger. We required sheets that had a breaking load of more than 100 tonnes and furlers that weighed more than 3 tonnes.
Sailing trials in the English Channel left us without a true feeling of the yacht’s potential since we never had more that 10 to 12 knots of wind, but we did realise, much to my excitement, that the yacht accelerated quickly, even in light airs, and frequently outsailed the true wind. In the following months in the Mediterranean and the Caribbean, we saw her truer potential, which was to sail comfortably at 16 knots or so without heeling more than 13 to 15 degrees in winds of 18 to 22 knots. Even at 10 knots of wind, we were able to sail at close to that speed at 60 degrees.
Mirabella V achieves all that I asked for: she is fast and yet provides all the comforts of a motor yacht without the noise and fuel consumption. To my knowledge, no other sailboat delivers this combination and in addition has a spacious sky deck for lounging, participating in the helming or seating 18 to 20 for a barbecue lunch or starlit dinner followed by a surround-sound widescreen film. Twenty people can sit around the freshwater spa on the foredeck, and a mast lift for three offers views far into the distance. The yacht is the largest built in composite and is believed to be the largest composite structure in the world.
‘After seven wonderful years creating Mirabella V and six exciting years sailing in her, it was time to move on,’ said Joe Vittoria, when she was sold to a private owner in June 2011. ‘She is in good hands which was very important for us.’
Mirabella V has now been renamed M5 and is undergoing an extensive refit at Pendennis Plus in Falmouth, UK, which will involve redesigning the stern and extending it by 3 metres, adapting both exterior and interior to the new owner’s needs, replacing the main engines and generators and upgrading many other systems, overhauling the mast and rig and repainting the hull. The refit is expected to be completed in 2013.
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