Like experiencing Michelangelo’s David in the flesh compared to seeing a reprint in a book, viewing the 56 metre Lady Candy from the dock you might be hard pressed to identify quite how special she is. Yes, she has subtle design cues here and there in her exterior lines that hint at the background of her knowledgeable design and build team, but it is only when you step on board that you realise quite how innovative she is. This is a yacht that has truly been designed from the inside out.
For her highly experienced owner, this was his first foray into custom building after 40 years of large yacht ownership. ‘I first had a boat in 1972,’ he tells me as we enjoy a pizza in Viareggio, a short hop from Benetti’s Cantieri Orlando yard in Livorno, where the yacht has just been launched. ‘I quickly progressed from a 55-footer to a 60, then a 65, and then I came to Italy to buy my first Italian boat, a 100-footer. I went through a 110, a 120, a 130 – and then I decided to have a steel boat.’
Her layout is certainly innovative. She has a dedicated cinema, huge 100 square metre main deck saloon and big beach club aft, but she departs from the norm in particular on the upper deck. Lady Candy has two large master suites here, each with a private office and both forward and aft private terraces. ‘My boat is going to be for me and my family,’ the owner says. ‘I do entertain, but that is not the main reason I am having a yacht. It has become a second home. I used to have homes in different places, but once I got a yacht I got rid of all my houses because you don’t want to go to the same house every time! The yacht is a floating house. I concentrate more on the engineering and architecture sides, and the rest of the soft furnishings I leave to my wife and daughters. I try to build a big boat like I do my houses: more user-friendly, and something you want to go and use. We worked very closely with Paul Brackley at Central Yacht on the design.’
The design is a function of the unusual creative team. Central Yacht, founded in 2006, is a team of experienced seamen, engineers and architects. Founder of Central Yacht, Captain Paul Brackley, designed the interior layout and exterior style of Lady Candy, and will be in the unusual position of driving his own creation when the yacht appears at the Monaco Yacht Show this year.
‘I noticed that the same features have been at the forefront in yacht design for many years – inertia and conservatism,’ Brackley says above the noise of the busy restaurant Il Bar Sotto Il Mare in Viareggio. ‘Not in interior decoration or exterior style – that suffers sometimes from surfeit of modernism or exuberance – but in the functional arrangement of spaces and practical exterior design.’
Brackley began his career in the industry in 1988 on the 49.5 metre Land’s End. Working his way from deckhand to captain via a 10-year stretch as engineer, he was a keen observer of the practicalities of life and operations on yachts from classic motor boats through super sailing sloops and modern diesel-electric Azipod craft. He’s worked on yachts from various eras and has an interesting theory of yacht design development. ‘The layout of yachts has in many ways been dictated by the gradual growth in size of the modern yacht,’ he states, ‘from the classic gentlemen’s yacht with the guest cabins on the lower deck, and the owner cabin forward on the main deck with wheelhouse on top. It became a golden rule that the main deck forward was prime real estate. From this basis little has changed, with the classic arrangement on 50 to 60 metre yachts being a main deck with bar-lounge and dining room, mirrored on the upper deck – functionally identical spaces often of nearly equal size and shape. This does not make any sense.
‘We design the yacht from the inside out,’ he explains. ‘We start with an interior layout based on sound hotel, operational and technical principles. For example, food service must be quick and efficient, not just to save crew time, but also to make sure food arrives hot and without delay. We take the principle of efficiency further by making sure service areas, galley, pantries and laundries are functional and efficient. Technical areas are designed in at an early stage for ease of maintenance. An average 55 metre yacht may have 60 air-conditioning units with filters to be cleaned every month. If these are behind shelves covered in plates and glasses this could take 30 minutes to access and clean. Multiply by 60 and that is 30 man-hours of work every month. Our fan coils are behind clipped panels and immediately accessible. Lady Candy’s layout enables the owner to run with two or three less crew while still enjoying a higher level of service.’
Originally the interior decoration was also completely under the control of Central Yacht with in-house designer Andrea Manco responsible for all the design drawing and fundamental symmetries. ‘Manco is a perfect fit for our team where interior design must also fulfill certain operational requirements,’ says Brackley. The owner used an American decorator for the choice of fabrics and loose furniture, but the layout is exactly as drawn by Central Yacht. ‘A new owner would be able to transform the interior quite simply reflecting an entirely different taste and style. The spaces remain spectacular.
‘Once we have established the interior arrangement,’ Brackley continues, ‘we can then decide where we want windows, whether purely for light or more importantly the view. We find the common “teardrop” shape window a terrible waste of many great marine views. We try to make sure all windows are full sized and symmetrical.’
The role of independent consultancies in superyacht construction
The upper deck is well lit with a panoramic window in a massage room that illuminates the lift lobby through a full-height glass partition. ‘Having sketched the window sizes onto a basic profile containing essential structural features, we draw in the style lines – as few as possible. Just as the 1950s Ford Thunderbird is anachronistic we think many modern yachts will look dated in a few years. Even today’s retro-styled cars achieve their old look by smoothing and simplifying the original.’
The exterior design of Lady Candy is not just for aesthetics – many features perform practical duties as well. ‘Having been responsible for exterior maintenance of many yachts myself,’ Brackley says, ‘I like to build in accessibility from the design stage to help the crew with daily chores. Windows without mullions are a great advantage, as are the recessed pockets in the superstructure to use as foot rests when cleaning the superstructure. For styling we simply extended the lower pocket forward three metres to create a thrusting forward motion giving more movement to the lines. The coachroofs have a slight recess in the centre section. This is not only elegant, it also channels rainwater away from the side doors and makes a safety lip to prevent crew sliding over the edge into the sea or the dock.’
Attention to detail also makes work more efficient for the crew and less intrusive for the guests. ‘I used to hate going up the mast to change courtesy flags,’ Brackley quips. ‘On Lady Candy I wanted to avoid having crew disturb guests by going up onto the mast or cause the inconvenience of turning off the radar while crew were working close by. We therefore added a facility to bring the flag halyard down to the bridge wings.’
Of course, it’s not all about convenience for guests – crew privacy is an important component, particularly when the yacht is likely to be used for extended cruising. ‘Xanadu (a 60 metre Benetti) was a particularly bad example,’ says Brackley. ‘The owner’s terrace had been placed right down on the foredeck. Not only did this interfere with safe working of mooring lines and anchors, it removed the only exterior space available for crew to de-stress outside. Beyond that the view for the owner was only of the bulwarks. On Lady Candy we have a private terrace for the second master cabin on the upper deck forward, leaving the foredeck free for crew. We also made access to the foredeck for the crew through the forward tender garage meaning we do not need to disturb guests even while dropping the anchor.’
With the shortage of marina berths and the long range cruising now undertaken by many yachts, the ocean-yacht interface is becoming the most important place on the yacht. Lady Candy has a remarkable solution. ‘The owner was quite magnificent in this and trusted me implicitly,’ Brackley beams. ‘I have experience launching different tenders from all manner of places; I can say categorically that the worst place to bring a tender on board is close to sea level at the stern. I actually had to confine VIP guests on board a 60 metre yacht at the 2008 Monaco Yacht show due to waves of just 80 centimetres.
‘For the owner of Lady Candy, being detained on the yacht was not an option. I also know from experience and tank test results that the most uncomfortable spot for vertical acceleration is forward where the owner’s cabin is usually found. This also happens to be the noisiest place on board with anchoring and bowthrusters being major intrusions. However, being reasonably close to the waterline and easily accessible to the crew, it makes a great location for a garage. This area has been used in other designs, but as a seaman I am not confident about having an eight or nine metre door opening in the hull so near the bow. To be safe it needs to be very strong and therefore heavy. You also need massive reinforcement of the deck above. I decided to launch the tender sideways meaning we only need a three metre-wide door and a single point lift. We can recover a tender in quite severe conditions safely with only two or maximum three crew.’
Lady Candy follows the stern beach club trend with the addition of a sauna and gym. There is a large, 30 square metre, fixed swim-platform that does not bounce up and down in the slightest wave and can actually be used as a beach. Importantly, access to the swim platform is from both a watertight door to the beach club and external stairs to the main deck. The beach club lounge, bar, gym and sauna can also be reached by a second set of internal stairs from the main deck, meaning it can be used at sea or in a marina.
With such large internal volumes, it may at first glance seem that Lady Candy has little exterior deck space, but in fact adding the sundeck, VIP terrace and owner’s terrace together there is actually more teak deck than on many 60 metre yachts. The sundeck comfortably accommodates 10 sunloungers while the VIP terrace can hold another 10 and the owner terrace four. It affords multiple exterior areas where guests can disperse for privacy but a large enough sundeck for everyone to enjoy together. The sundeck also has the option to be set up for karaoke or disco with the central ring forming a lighting stage. The glass-fronted spa pool separates the dining area from the sunbathing area and also features the two-way video screen that Central Yacht introduced on Xanadu, another of its projects.
Central Yacht was also responsible for build supervision, and Brackley spent many hours working closely with contractors and supervisors alike. ‘If I found a problem it was discussed immediately and a solution found. This way we build once and build well. Having been responsible for construction supervision on Xanadu, and working as owner’s representative on Ambrosia III, we expect Lady Candy to be an exceptional yacht. I don’t think anyone will be disappointed.’
Small design features were often developed in collaboration with the yard workers. While Brackley used 3D drafting and rendering, at times he resorted to cardboard models or templates on board to get an idea across. The fishing rod holders (actually a trick to hide an interface of two dissimilar compound curves) and beach club access were both modelled in cardboard on site.
Walking through her impressive spaces after her launch, it is clear that Lady Candy is truly a result of dedication, inspiration and art. ‘We are in Tuscany,’ concludes Brackley. ‘Everyone has a bit of Michelangelo in their blood.’