How do you define perfection? Is it in the turn of the teak deck, or the attention to detail in a door handle?
Is it in pure sailing performance, the exquisite balance between comfort and space planning, in mechanical installation or in how the external lighting has been conceived? As Royal Huisman’s new launch – the 48 metre classically styled sloop Wisp – makes her way out of Palma for a day of sailing, all these things and more are revealed at every glance.
“The owner,” states her naval architect Andre Hoek, “is a perfectionist, and he has been driving that perfection not only in the yard, but also in the designers and everyone else involved in the project.” That list of involvement reads like a Who’s Who in high-end sailboat construction: Royal Huisman as builder, Hoek Design as naval architect and designer, Rhoades Young as interior designer, MCM as owner’s representative... But it quickly becomes apparent that Wisp is the result of a close collaboration between these companies, rather than each contributing in isolation. Rhoades Young, for example, worked with Hoek on some elements of the exterior design, while Hoek influenced the interior layout and design.
Wisp makes for a comfortable cruise
Wisp had its genesis when the owner – who previously owned a motor yacht – saw a Hoek-designed 53 metre sloop in Greece. “He said to his captain that it was just what he had been looking for, and his captain called me to see if we could arrange a meeting,” Hoek explains. As it happened, Hoek was holidaying in the area on his own yacht with his family at the time. “We met in the marina,” Hoek smiles. It would take a year of sketches and planning before a bid package could be put together – indicative of the owner’s intense attention to detail.
“The size was determined by the accommodation, which was to be an owner’s cabin and two guest cabins,” Hoek continues. “The client just wanted to have a very comfortable boat to cruise around on with four or six guests. He took his time and didn’t rush it.”
After the bid package was put together, Rhoades Young came in to create the interior design package. “There was a general plan of the boat and a deck plan,” explains Jonathan Rhoades, “and the client had seen the Bruce King 39 metre Maria Cattiva that we did, and he loved that. We met the client and got on like a house on fire. We had really intense meetings and everything had to be perfect but we had fun doing it, and there was lots of giggling in the meetings!”
Wisp: A Tardis at sea
The result is an impressive and generous interior with a large owner’s suite and two guest cabins, a stunning social area with a large upper saloon linked in open-plan format to a lower saloon and dining area, and crew accommodation forward. Thanks also to the dimensions of the hull, the sense of space created aboard Wisp is staggering.
“The client wanted a classic hull shape but with the maximum amount of volume you could get. He often sails where the afternoon winds are a steady 25 knots so he also wanted a very stable boat,” says Hoek. “What we’ve done is to develop a hull shape that’s as beamy as possible without impacting on performance. For her size, this boat is only 33 metres on the waterline – but look how big she is.”
That size – and her 256 gross tonne volume – comes in part from her 9.5 metre beam, the same as the larger, 55 metre Hoek ketch Adele. It also plays a key part in the yacht’s sailing performance and seakeeping. “With more beam in the hull and more form stability,” Hoek explains, “you can reduce the ballast slightly but the other great thing is that the boat will also perform very well upwind – you can have a very powerful rig with lots of sail area that means the boat sails well in light winds and heavy airs alike.”
A joyful, powerful yacht to sail
There are further advantages to her classic lines and overhangs, too. “A spoon bow performs totally differently in big seas compared to a plumb bow,” Hoek continues. “Wisp is very dry. And in big seas the hull shape is phenomenal – the volume in the overhangs actually lifts the bow and stern.”
It isn’t long before we get to put this to the test. The captain easily manoeuvres her from a tight berth at the STP yard thanks to bow and stern thrusters, and we motor out into the bay of Palma where we are greeted by a fresh 17 knots true breeze and a healthy swell from the south. She can hold her own under power – the Caterpillar C18 engine and 22 tonnes of fuel give her a vast range of 5,500 miles at 10 knots.
But we are here to sail, and quickly the main rises from its Park Avenue-styled furling boom, while a reefed yankee flies from the clipper rig – a perfect cruising combination. At 100 degrees apparent wind, we saunter along at about 12 knots, scooting to 14 knots in the puffs, while the hull handles the quartering swell with ease. On a close reach, the speed rises to 15 or 16 knots and hardening up she sits beautifully at 40 degrees. A chance to take the wheel confirms that there is weight in the steering, but feel too: a rod system links the wheels directly to the cables and quadrants and you sense every nuance and every puff. She is a joy to sail.
Wisp is a modern interpretation of that traditional style
A look around the deck itself confirms just what an epic task all that perfection has entailed. The lie of the teak, the marquetry in the tables, the layout of the sail controls and the twin jib tracks – the inner forestay can be removed for racing, allowing for an overlapping jib or a blade – scream the experience of the Hoek and Huisman teams. Her guest spaces impress too – a wonderful main cockpit and a comfortable, private owner’s cockpit are complemented by outboard-facing bench seats and clever additional seating areas.
Her deckhouse styling appears classic from afar – in tune with the classic hull lines – but look closer and you see that Wisp is a modern interpretation of that traditional style. It is a deliberate statement that continues through to her wonderful interior. “The client didn’t want a classic yacht interior,” Rhoades explains, as we relax in the lower saloon – a haven of absolute tranquility in spite of our surging along at 14 knots with the sails flying. “He wasn’t thinking of the boat as a yacht but as a luxury transport vehicle. He wanted a beautiful classic boat on the outside, but didn’t want a heavy panelled interior – he wanted it to be light, fun, jolly and relaxed. But he also wanted the outside and the inside to match.”
Rhoades Young started with the classic details such as cornices, dados, skirting rails and panels, then pulled them back in a more and more modern direction. “The dado profile is now just like a constant curve then squared off; there are modern shadow gaps, and the raised and fielded panels have been replaced with simple marquetry,” Rhoades explains. It is hugely successful, suggestive of a real classic, but given a strikingly contemporary flavour.
The materials, too, are twists on the traditional. “The colour of the wood came from the owner’s study in his home – his favourite room,” Rhoades says. “The oak comes from a very dark, old wood in Germany so it’s incredibly slow growing, which is why the grain is so fine.” The floor is stained walnut, the walls are cross-banded oak with wenge inlays, while the ceilings are painted, with fabric inserts.
“He didn’t want the boat to look ‘nautical’,” Rhoades explains, “so the deckheads are tongue and groove in the upper part, which is attached to the cockpit, but in the lower saloon area we’re implying flush beams. On the outside of the boat, we worked with Hoek to make that part less classic – so getting rid of the panel effect and making everything flat. We spent a lot of time reducing the detail until the two fit together: a slightly modernised take on the outside, and a contemporary take on the classic interior.”
Wisp boasts an innovative use of space
From the custom furniture to the handmade Nepalese carpet, and from the clever Shoji-effect glass door panels to the fabric wall coverings and bespoke artwork, the yacht feels cohesive and comfortable with an elegant yet simple luxury. But this surface design hides a far bigger masterstroke – and not just in terms of numerous hidden cupboards and lockers behind the panels. The attention to space planning and the almost genius way the spaces have been used is quite remarkable. Take, for example, the challenges presented by the awkward interior space, where for the lower guest area the beam is greater than the fore-aft length.
The central box that hides the mast step and divides the dining area from the lower saloon area helps with this. “What we’re doing is changing the direction of the rooms so they are fore and aft, and they have separate feels so they’re more intimate,” says Rhoades.
The same trick has been applied to the awkward space presented by the two guest cabins. “Normally the forward bulkhead would go straight across the guest cabins,” Rhoades says, “but here it would make the cabins feel very small and would not create a very pleasant proportion.” By sacrificing a bit of space in the en suite and creating a small study area running forward outboard, the eye is tricked and the space feels much larger and less like the width is overpowering the room.
But more than this is the way every element of the interior has been designed around every other element – from technical equipment around the engine room and the cleverly routed ducting to how one space backs on to another.
The forward laundry room in the crew area, for example, gets its headroom from the void under the bed in the captain’s cabin above. The space under the shower seat in the master bathroom is actually occupied by the printer in the master suite’s study on the other side of the bulkhead. “All of this hidden storage and these tricks are complicated and you need a yard that can deal with it,” Rhoades adds.
The master suite itself is, well, masterful. A sleeping area lies to starboard opposite a portside en suite, while a half-domed foyer leads up to the owner’s deckhouse. A study-cum-snug lies off the foyer. Closing a series of rounded sliding doors creates a wonderful sense of occasion, while also isolating the owner’s quarters from his deckhouse should he wish to entertain clients or friends there. The half dome is cleverly concealed on deck by the bench seat on the forward side of the owner’s cockpit deckhouse structure – an extremely smart piece of design that was implemented with just millimetres of tolerance.
The epitome of superyachting
From her looks to her exterior style, and from her interior décor to the extraordinary level of quality that shines through in every detail of her design and construction, Wisp is a stunning yacht. We gallop back towards Palma as she rides the swell and I watch as the log touches 17 knots – our fastest speed today. The warmth of the sun is matched by the warm smiles of all on board and I can’t help but think that this is the epitome of superyachting, sailing and the ultimate in quality, all rolled into one. Just perfect.