They say you should never judge a dentist by the state of their teeth, but can you choose a yacht designer based on their own boats? Cecile Gauert looks inside the boats owned by top superyacht designers, from Andrew Winch and Pascale Reymond to Tim Heywood and Greg Marshall...
Inside the boats owned by top superyacht designers
“I’ve always had a boat,” says Andrew Winch, who learned how to sail at 14 and crossed the Atlantic on a 15.8 metre Out Island at 21. The boat was “perfect for a marina,” he says, and between breakdowns in machinery (they lost the generator) and crew communications, the sail was a hairy one. “We sailed past the Canaries and by pure chance we got to Antigua.” Among the boats he had, he remembers fondly a 22.5 metre sloop called Golden Opus that he built with Ron Holland and an Irish partner in New Zealand. “For about three years, I co-owned that boat until I could not afford it anymore because I had school fees.”
Of late, it’s been the arrival of grandchildren that has steered him in a new direction. He sold his Jeanneau 64 Polar Bear to American clients after one last sail in Greece. “They bought it with everything on it, the dinghy, the china. I was very pleased,” he says. When he first got the boat, Winch invited Philippe Briand, the naval architect, to sail with him in a regatta; they won. “I have this little cup, which is rather nice.” Despite all the memories, he decided it was time to move on and replaced Polar Bear with two boats the whole family can enjoy. “I’ve got two grandchildren now,” he says, “it’s hard to take little kids on a sailing boat.”
The first motor boat he’s commissioned is a Dutch-built PTS 26 he called Baloo, and he also bought a smaller sailing yacht, a classic fibreglass Tofinou, which he named Bagheera. “(The Tofinou) has a small two-stroke diesel engine and it’s beautifully done – mahogany caprail, beautiful North Sails and four of us can sail together in it,” he says. The PTS 26 is inspired by a 1930s design by Carl Gustaf Petersson; the modern-day version is by Vripack and it is built by Statement Marine.
Winch, who had the two boats colour matched, says it was a bit of a “luxury decision” but it is perfect for the family. “We’ve got heating, a dinghy to get to the beach, a little cabin, dayhead, a hot water shower at the back of the boat, and a galley to make some tea. It does 20 knots and I can go from our harbour to the Isle of Wight in one hour and a half. It is one of the highest specced boats (Statement Marine) have built,” he says, and it has a davit and an anchor.
It’s the first they’ve put on their boats, but where a pole and rope may suffice on the inner waters of The Netherlands, an anchor is a must off the British coast. “We engineered the whole thing. I (also) did two tables that go down so I can make a big day bed to relax, and two chairs that go up and down. I absolutely love it.” Since the renowned designer ordered his boat, the shipyard has sold five more in the UK.
The boats arrived mid-summer last year, so the family has had little time to cruise so far. “This coming year is going to be about going to the beach, having a glass of rosé, listening to music, it is going to be family time,” he says. But Winch is already looking beyond next season. “I’d like to build a wooden boat,” he says. “I can’t be without a boat…”
“I do not have a car driving license, but I have a boat license,” says Pascale Reymond, who got her boat certificate so she could drive her five-metre boat, named Calou, in the South of France. The name is a nickname her mother gave her when she was two years old and it is endearing and unusual, like the boat itself.
Reymond and her husband, Andrew Langton, joke about their neighbours’ reaction to their boat, they call it a “babouche”, like the slipper popular in the Middle East. One day, while sunning herself on the boat in the quiet bay near their beach cottage in France, she encountered kids on paddleboards who called out to her, “Madame, how come your boat looks like a shoe?”. The memory makes her laugh. “This boat attracts so much attention, there is no brand showing anywhere, and it’s all teak. It’s got very low freeboard. I think it is charming,” she says. “It has a quality feel about it that you don’t get with plastic boats.”
Calou stays in the south of France in a bay on the Presqu’île de Giens (between Toulon and Saint-Tropez). A reef protects the bay, so the tide is gentle and the water’s usually very calm. “We have our spot along a jetty just outside our bohemian fisherman’s hut on the sand,” she says.
The boat was built in Croatia by a friend (and yacht project manager with whom they did the refit of a 70-metre yacht). He conceived of this series as a tender for a 60-metre yacht. Reymond’s boat was designed with inboard engines but it was later converted to a 40hp outboard and goes 32 knots. The space vacated by the original engines now works perfectly to hold wine bottles. “It’s really well laid out, we can lie on the front, have lunch in the back; we have an awning, it has everything you need,” she says.
While the boat is much smaller than any of the projects their studio works on, she says “it does not matter. It gives you an understanding of why people want to be in the water, a feeling of freedom, the ability to get away,” she says.
Venice native Carlo Nuvolari, partner of Nuvolari Lenard, says “My boats are not presentable. As we say in Italy the shoemaker has always broken shoes.” Yet, he speaks fondly of all three. A 6.4 metre canal boat, named Nanyuki, is what the family uses to run errands in Venice.
He gave up using his Monte Carlo 30 in town. With the “typical American big blocks, two V8s, old style,” it goes 51, 52 knots but burns quite a bit of fuel. “She is too noisy to be used in Venice and I already got two speeding tickets,” he says, so it is mostly idle these days. The third is a motorsailer called Bellona. It was Nuvolari’s first yacht design commission, and he had the most demanding customers of all – his mother and father.
Carlo’s father had bought a fibreglass hull, hired a yard in Ancona to build the boat and asked his son to come up with the interior design. It was finished in 1986. The designer clearly recalls the day he sailed the new Bellona from a shipyard back home. He brought a friend, “a real sailor and not a wannabe like me,” he says. “It was a nasty week in March and the Adriatic Sea was nervous and cold,” he says. His friend saw his face had turned green and so he came up with a way to distract him. “He towed a can about 20 metres from the stern and put his Beretta gun in my hand. I tried in vain for 30 minutes to hit the can, but at least I was not seasick anymore.”
Bellona, Nuvolari says, is slow and heavy. “It is exactly the boat I would never design, but it represents a long, happy part of my life.” It’s on Bellona that he asked his wife to marry him. The boat was at anchor in front of Split, Croatia. The Croatian coast, which is only a 60-mile sail away from the place where he keeps the boat, is a favourite destination. The name Bellona (the Roman goddess of war) memorialises Nuvolari’s ancestor Giuseppe Duodo, who commanded the French-Venetian frigate Bellona in the 1811 Battle of Lissa (it pitted the British against the Italians and the French in the Adriatic).
Because of all this family history, he will never part with Bellona, even though he thinks of buying another boat. “A boat, large or small, allows us to keep the family together,” Nuvolari says. “This is also true for our customers.”
Marnix Hoekstra and Bart Bouwhuis
Projects that stem from the Dutch Vripack studio occasionally flirt with futuristic features, but co-creative directors Marnix Hoekstra and Bart Bouwhuis both enjoy classics.
Hoekstra’s love affair with his daysailer began during a trip to Annapolis in Maryland. “During a morning jog around the harbour, in my mind a little bit of fog rising, I saw this beautiful daysailer,” he says. When he described the apparition to a friend, he told him it was a Cape Dory Typhoon, a boat type common in the northeast of the US, especially Maine, but rare in Europe. He could not get it out of his mind.
During a subsequent holiday in the States, Hoekstra stopped in Internet cafes to check listings and found one in immaculate condition in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. He bought it and decided to drive it to Rockport. There was a regular ship that transported wood pulp from Rockport to Vlissingen in The Netherlands and he thought that would be an easy way to get his boat home. It proved a little more complex than planned.
On the way to Rockport, one of the trailer’s tires blew up. “We could have lost the whole boat,” he said. He enlisted the help of yacht transporter Sevenstar to sort out the paperwork and a total stranger in customs was so enamoured with the whole story that he offered to store the boat, called Little Wing, in his garage until the shipping date three months later. It all worked out.
“I probably have the only Cape Dory Typhoon in East Holland,” Hoekstra says. The family tries to get away as often as possible, but time doesn’t always allow it. “Sometimes we just step on board to have pizza but the minute you step on, you feel like you are away,” Hoekstra says. “My wife says you cannot ever sell that boat. I’m fine with that. I am slowly trying to convince her that a nice lobster boat would go nicely with it…”
Bart Bouwhuis, meanwhile, found his 1947 Chris Craft 5.1 metre Deluxe through an internet search, had it shipped from the US and he’s been restoring it for about a year now.
“For me, boats are a combination of pleasure and therapy. I love working on my boat,” he says. He also has a classic sailboat he bought nine years ago and restored over four years, so getting the Chris Craft took a little bargaining with his wife. She went along with the idea with the condition that he’d paint their house first – “I painted the house in record time.” The family is still debating what to name their lake boat. He’d like to call it Super Trooper (he is a big Abba fan).
With their 10.6 metre sailboat, Pjotr (he says it means “reliable”), the family sails the Baltic in Denmark. Bouwhuis loves the area and describes it as the Croatia of the north. The Carena 35 made in steel and teak was built as a one-off by Porsius in Amsterdam in 1968. “I love the classics,” he says. “I grew up with classic clinker builds, all wood.”
He bought the boat as a fixer-upper when the family outgrew a smaller motorsailer in GRP. “I found this beautiful boat. It was in quite a bad shape and every winter we did a bit of work. The first season (we sailed it), the interior was quite a mess; the kids still talk about how this pizza cardboard was glued to the ceiling to hide all the rust. I refurbished it, new joinery, new everything. All she needs is a new mast and sails –but that is a serious investment.”
Mark Whiteley, founder of the eponymous design firm, is also a big fan of classic sailboats. He got into sailing while in college and has been enjoying it ever since. “When I was working with Andrew (Winch), I did a couple of deliveries on yachts from Camper & Nicholsons in Southampton down to Mallorca. What a fantastic experience it was.” Later on, as a founding partner of RWD, he sailed a Contessa 32 with Justin Redman.
“But my first boat is a pretty wooden lady (a 14.6 metre ketch) called Zarik. She comes from a stylish pedigree,” he says. Self-taught French naval architect Eugène Cornu was well regarded for his stylish wooden boats and penned this ketch delivered in 1966.
Whiteley found her in Marmaris, Turkey 15 years ago. “It coincided with a sabbatical and it was the most refreshing, energising time sailing her across the Med,” he says. He conceded that it was a big first step. “I did not know what I was getting myself into but fell in love, like you do.” He liked that she feels safe, sturdy and is a ketch. “It gives you more cruising and racing options. I have enjoyed racing with other classic yacht custodians on the Panerai circuit in Menorca and the UK.”
Eventually, after cruising through Greece, the Cyclades and Turkey, Whiteley sailed the boat to Mallorca and Ibiza where Zarik remained for a few years. “I was quite popular then, I don’t know why,” he says with a laugh. However, when his busy work schedule made it harder to keep the boat in Spain, he brought her to England.
“Initially she didn’t like it. She said she’d been in warm water all of her life and she threw a big spanner, the engine ceased, and I had to re-engine the boat before we could go anywhere in England, but that’s classic boating!” Classics take upkeep, he says, “but they have so much personality and warmth.”
When a Vikal, built as a tender to the remarkable Pelorus, came on the market in 2006, designer Tim Heywood was very interested. He knew how good a boat this was as he had been involved with the project as the exterior designer of the now- iconic mothership. He also had worked with the Vikal’s designer, Sam Sorgiovanni, on a custom tender for Cakewalk (now Aquila). “They make remarkable boats,” says Heywood of Vikal.
The 11.2-metre boat, which was delivered in 2003, has its original bronze metallic paint, polished stainless steel and matt titanium fittings. It was one of four tenders designed for Pelorus, all with the same attention to detail. This one also had a cabin with a large daybed and full-size shower. But eventually, the owner decided he wasn’t interested in keeping it. When it came up for sale, Heywood made an offer. “They laughed at it,” Heywood says. Eventually though, he was called to do some design work for the same owner’s team, and he accepted this very special boat as payment.
The boat, powered by two Yanmar engines, exceeded its contract speed by a couple of knots when it was delivered and goes 50 knots. The hull lines and drive system were done by Italian race boat driver and boatbuilder Fabio Buzzi. “The boat has great pedigree and it’s been a pleasure to own it,” says Heywood who has enjoyed it with his wife, Vanessa. When time allows, they’ve cruised it to Cowes and up the Beaulieu River.
“I have had it up to 40 knots,” he says, but he has a sure way to slow down. “I have a voice control unit that says things like ‘that’s too fast’ and ‘that’s fast enough’, and I say, ‘okay Vanessa’,” he says with a laugh. “I try to use it as much as I can,” the designer says but, “I am project-rich and time-poor.”
The boat, which has low engine hours, currently lives in the south of England. “I keep it there so people can see it,” says Heywood, who’s decided to sell the boat. Of late the Heywoods have enjoyed another type of boating. “We have a small castle in Surrey, and in summer we row in the moat,” he says. “It’s great fun.”
Some years ago, the lines of a 34 Fairline Targa caught the eye of Sam Sorgiovanni. “It was a really nice boat, nicely built. The only negative was the engine room; it was tight and difficult to maintain.” He named it Bella Linea, which translates to Fairline. “It had a double meaning, as it also referred to my work as a designer,” he says. “It was my first boat, it was probably too early in my career, and the kids were a little young. You needed the moon and the stars to line up to go out,” he says. “We ended up using it two, three times a year. It had to be kept in the water, and I did my fair share of nursing a lot of wildlife,” he says with a chuckle.
The boat lived near his home in Fremantle, Western Australia, docked in the river. Although nice boating destinations are somewhat limited in this area, he says, it’s possible to cruise the Swan River, all the way to Perth, or to Rottnest Island 20 kilometres off the coast. Other destinations up or down the coast take time.
The young family always seemed to have other commitments, and it came to a point when they hardly went out on the boat, which did not stop the bills from coming. “Boating is stressful if you don’t have the freedom of time.” So, he decided to part with it and was boatless until six years ago when an opportunity presented itself while he worked on the design of a yacht built by Alloy Yachts.
The captain told the designer he was looking to part with a six-metre Novurania they used to tow everywhere. “He sent me footage of the sea they were towing it through, so I know it was well built,” Sorgiovanni says. It was reasonably priced, and the designer decided it would be a good option to cruise up and down the river. It could also be kept out of the water in a shed with other toys. “The boys, who are older now, and I tinker with it. We take it out every now and then. It’s licensed to carry 12 passengers, it’s safe. I put a T top on it myself and it’s got a table.” He did not bother to name it.
“My real boating, I think, will come when I have more time,” he says. He has had the dream to take a boat from The Netherlands, through Germany and on to Greece. “I think it would be a magical trip to do with family.”
Canadian naval architect Greg Marshall owes quite a bit of his boating life to a man he describes as a “compulsive boatbuilder with a legal practice to fund his habit”. Known as Loophole among friends, his real name is Laurie Armstrong. One of the attorney’s good friends was the late William Garden, a prolific shipwright and naval architect with whom Marshall started his career.
Armstrong built Linnett II, a Bill Garden design, which Marshall acquired last year. “After 16 years, we knew it would need a major rework, so we put it in the Abernethy & Gaudin shipyard for nine months and pretty much gutted it,” he says. “On the back of the boat, we have a dinghy that Loophole built, and as it was Bill Garden’s last design, we call it Last Gasp,” Marshall says. “Bill always said it was his best hull and it is a fantastically performing boat, we just love it.” Linnett II has twin 330hp Cummins and tops out around 27 knots.
More recently Marshall bought another of Garden’s designs, the19.5 metre Zest. When he was but 16, working for the naval architect as a high-school student, Marshall had the model of the boat above his desk and always admired it.
“Bill designed it in the mid-60s, it’s long and skinny, it has almost no wake behind it, it’s just a really effortless boat,” he says, which is perfect to cruise around the peaceful inlets and fjords of British Columbia where he lives. “I always told Bill ‘one day I’ll own a boat just like that.’ About five years ago we were cruising up north, and I saw the boat sitting at anchor.” He felt compelled to give the owner his business card. “If you ever think of selling, it, I’d love to get a call,” he told him. Then in March 2020 a persistent caller with a caller ID that just said “Seattle, Washington” got him to answer his phone. “This may sound strange,” said the woman on the line, “but did you give a card to a guy on board a boat called Zest five years ago? My husband and I owned her for about 30 years. He died about three months ago and before he died, he gave me your business card. I know it’s been a long time, but do you think you may still want to buy it?”
Marshall said no, explaining, “we just spent nine months and a fortune restoring our current boat; we just want to use it.” Still, he loved the boat and thought he might help the owner by sending around the information. “She sent a package and I called her up the next day and I said, ‘okay, fine, I’ll buy it’,” Marshall says. “We got the boat in August and put it straight in the shipyard to bring it back to perfection.”
The boat, which was built for Harry See of See’s Candies, had a $5,000 penalty for not reaching 21 knots on sea trials in 1964. But, says Marshall, “what’s neat is that 55 years later, the boat exceeds 21 knots,” thanks in part to new, lighter engines installed in 2003. Loophole was not involved with Zest. “That one was built by Vic Franck” in Seattle. “It’s a time capsule because it had two owners since 1964,” says Marshall. “It still has the original, working blender in the cupboard.”
There is a third boat in the works, thanks to the pandemic. “So this year [Loophole] called me and said ‘I can’t go south this year, I need a project.’ And that’s how Monkey Girl was born.” Monkey Girl will be an electrically powered 4.8 metre speedboat in mahogany, based on a 1935 design, and powered with a Nissan Leaf motor and Nissan batteries. She should be ready by May.
“I found out I really love the refit process and it’s a terrible investment, you have to control it tightly,” Marshall says. “But it’s really satisfying.”
Guillaume Rolland, head of the yachting division of Christian Liaigre, has sailed since the age of 10 in Brittany and is a bit addicted to boats. “I am very sick,” he says with a laugh. “I have a classic by Laurent Giles, an iconic British boat known as Peter Duck.”
It is a latter model in a series based on Giles’ original pre-war design for the author of Swallows and Amazons, Arthur Ransome. Rolland found Mallard, a well maintained 1969 Peter Duck motorsailer, in Plymouth a couple of years ago and sailed it to Brittany. “It has the charm of wooden boats, it does not go fast, it’s heavy but well adapted to the kind of sailing we do here,” he says. It was designed to cruise bays and estuaries, so if it touches a muddy bottom, it’s okay. “Among classics, it was one of the few that ticked all my boxes,” he says. “I think each boat has a particular use. This one is a family boat, easy-going. When you go out with the family, you want something comfortable and safe.”
For a bit more of an adrenaline rush, he enjoys the use of a family-owned Dragon. “It’s a rare piece built by Borresen in Denmark, one of the most important builders of historic dragon boats,” he says. “It’s an excellent boat, easy, sure and very competitive.”
As a member of one of Paris’s historic yacht clubs, Rolland also takes part in regattas on the River Seine. He sails a Star, a keelboat for two people that had its own class in the Olympics until 2012, and a mini 12m JI, designed for hands-free sailing.
Although he loves sailing, he doesn’t exclude owning a motor yacht someday. “There are beautiful wooden classics. I would love to have a Little Ships, seaworthy, simple, fast, a boat that gets you to where you are going fast, in time for the aperitif,” he says. Even when he works at his desk, he gets inspired by the sea. “That’s why I create so many curved forms and small niches to hold things like a iPad. Even on a motor yacht, it is important; the sea is unpredictable.” He’d like to have more time to maintain his boats, do varnishes and the like, and ultimately to have a boathouse near his home. “For this,” he says with a laugh, “I need to design more yachts.”
This feature is taken from the May 2021 issue of BOAT International. Get this magazine sent straight to your door, or subscribe and never miss an issue.