Musashi - the yacht where industrial design meets a Japanese aesthetic
by Tim Thomas
Miyamoto Musashi lived around the turn of the 16th century, and is widely regarded as one of the greatest samurai in Japanese history. A supreme swordsman, he received the title kensei – meaning ‘sword saint’ – and was reputedly never beaten in more than 60 duels during his lifetime. However, there was another side to Musashi, and he also became an accomplished sculptor, painter and calligrapher, as well as writing books not only on combat and strategy but also on self-discipline. He was, it appears, well worthy of his legendary status.
Fast forward 400 years to another Musashi, the 87.78 metre yacht launched in 2011 by Feadship’s Koninklijke De Vries yard in Makkum, the Netherlands. As her name suggests, her highly experienced owner shares a passion for Japanese styling, and the name was well chosen. With her exterior lines and interior design realised by Sinot Yacht Design in close co-operation with Feadship and De Voogt Naval Architects, the parallels to her namesake are described by Sinot thus: ‘Subtle but unconquerable, with clear lines but many concealed elements, with an open structure, but closed where necessary; [she is] entirely inspired by Musashi’s character.’
With a background as an industrial designer, Sander Sinot is well placed to understand the requirements for a turnkey custom project such as Musashi. I prefer to work in a team where you have a naval architect doing the hull shape, the underwater profile and making the whole engineering plan fit into a design philosophy, he says. As with buildings, you have specialists to do the calculations in a given discipline, but the way we look at it is to make sure there is beautiful architecture not only from the outside, but also from the inside. Our industrial design background means we know also how to produce it.
Its a valuable skill for a project where Sinot and his team became responsible for not just the overall concept, but also the custom design of every single element of the yacht, from the interior style and furniture right down to the smallest details.
‘We had a profile of the client, and also some references – I went to visit his domestic environments, and he has owned yachts before so we looked at those interiors. He has a strong flavour for art deco and for Japanese style, so we aimed for a fusion of the two – a kind of Japanese deco. The result is, on one hand, a touch minimalistic, but on the other we brought in a little Western flavour.’
Musashi’s layout is by turns conventional and alternative. The lower deck is given over to the crew areas and technical spaces, with the only guest amenities being a gymnasium and a spa aft. The main tenders are kept on the main deck aft, an area which, when the tenders are launched, becomes a giant beach and play deck complete with basketball court. Aft on the main deck is an informal lounge-cum-cinema, while the rest of this deck provides sumptuous suites and cabins for guests – two aft VIP suites, which each feature one full wall of windows, and six guest suites forward of the main foyer, which each benefit from proper en suite bathrooms and dressing rooms.
The upper deck comprises another saloon with the inside dining area at its forward end, while the front half of this deck is given to one of the two master suites on the yacht. The second master is located aft on the bridge deck, with the wheelhouse forward gaining superb visibility thanks to those impressive panoramic windows. The open-air top deck offers guests the chance to enjoy the sun, cool off in the yacht’s spa pool, or enjoy a drink at the bar.
The first thing to note is that Musashi eschews the trend for a giant beach club in the stern. ‘What is very different to most yachts,’ explains Sinot, ‘is that we have big tenders on the main deck aft. The lower deck gymnasium – sited where the tender garage might be – has a big hull door that opens to create a platform on the water, while a large glass wall slides open to create a flexible indoor/outdoor gym depending on the weather conditions. We use a lot of the lower deck space for the technical elements,’ he says, ‘and because we have this tremendous main aft deck, a beach club would be a bit overkill. Most of the time, if the yacht is at anchor for more than a couple of hours, the tenders will be launched and the whole of that main aft deck is open.’
The spa area features clean design, and appears very Japanese in its execution, an effect enhanced by overhead shoji grids and backlit, wavy curved glass used to create a sense of harmony and tranquillity to allow users to relax.
Musashi’s other main social spaces are divided into two areas: the aft informal saloon on the main deck, and the large saloon and dining area on the upper deck.
The main deck saloon overlooks the expansive aft deck, and again, design is clean, yet homely. ‘During the day, you can hang out, you can lounge and you can head out to the basketball court,’ says Sinot. ‘It’s all soft, silk carpets on teak deck and the fabrics are chenille and cashmere. It’s all very soft in tactility.’
There is more to the aft saloon than meets the eye, though, for the comfortable daybeds become luxurious stalls for when the area is converted into a cinema, complete with a six metre wide screen that is concealed in the deckhead, and an ultra high-end AV system and HD projector. Moreover here, as in the rest of the yacht, there is great emphasis on clean surfaces, but not at the expense of practicality. ‘Everything here is integrated,’ Sinot continues. ‘We try to hide controls, but they’re not so hidden that you can’t find them. For example, there is a little wooden button in the side console to the daybeds – if you press it, a lid will drop and slide forward, and a telephone will pop up.’
This aft saloon is dominated by the expansive windows and the wall of glass that overlooks the aft deck, a theme that was central to the design of the entire yacht. ‘We tried to push the glass,’ says Sinot, ‘to make the windows as big as possible, so it feels more like a penthouse apartment than a yacht. The theme was also apparent on Rising Sun, which used a structural web with big areas of glass, and it’s something we wanted to translate for Musashi.’
The second large communal guest area is the upper saloon, a relaxed area that can comfortably accommodate 18 guests in its luxurious surrounds. Geometric sofas created in macassar with stainless steel trim form a central conversation area, while outlying chairs and deco-influenced occasional tables allow for enjoying the expansive views. Forward, a 4.5 metre dining table finished from book matched macassar ebony veneer – complete with a blond wood splint central feature – is overlooked by a Hiroshi Senju painting of a waterfall illuminated by custom lighting. It is one of many exceptional artworks and sculptures on board.
A key feature is the central glass lift enveloped by a stainless steel and glass staircase that snakes through every deck of the yacht. The steps are made from three layers of glass, with the top layer sandblasted to offer good grip underfoot, while LED spots with concealed wiring illuminate each step on the stainless steel backbone.
It is evident that everything on board has been realised to the very highest standard, from the custom furniture designed by Sinot and crafted by Pollaro to the fit-out by Metrica, from the naval architecture and engineering to the detail in the artwork. Everything is custom, right down to the last tap and handle. ‘I think the success of the project,’ says Sinot, ‘is that we had the opportunity to work very closely with the owner. He is very receptive, and very creative – it’s easy to have a creative dialogue with him. Design has a lot to do with determining what you want to do, with making decisions. He is very quick at making decisions and he also offered space for interpretation.
‘If you have a good owner, a good build captain and a good shipyard,’ Sinot concludes, ‘then the project can be successful.’ There is no doubt that this yacht is the epitome of a successful project – a blending of skills and talents which has created a superb, balanced, and perfectly finished yacht. Musashi himself would have been proud.
Originally published in Boat International March 2012.