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On board Perini Navi sailing yacht Almyra II with owner Ilia Rigas

1 April 2022 • Written by Charlotte Hogarth-Jones


Sail Yacht
Perini Navi ·  49.8 m ·  2000

Ahead of a circumnavigation on board 50-metre Perini Navi Almyra II, owner Ilia Rigas catches up with Charlotte Hogarth-Jones...

“It’s the first step of a dream,” enthuses Greek-born Ilia Rigas, proud owner of the elegant 50-metre Perini Navi Almyra II. “I had this idea lately to do a circumnavigation around the world with a boat that is sustainable, will contribute to scientific research, is able to go anywhere any time of the year and, at the same time, offers luxury accommodation for all on board. I thought – well, let’s start with the right boat!”

Rigas is no stranger to yacht ownership, having owned a number of boats over the years and been involved in the yacht charter business for more than two decades, but for the landmark trip – her first major voyage outside of the Greek islands – she wanted a sailing boat.

And, she points out, Almyra II is not just any sailing yacht – her steel hull provides exceptional stability and seaworthiness, while she benefits from the unique Perini “single-handed sails control” concept, first implemented by Fabio Perini.

The quieter lifestyle that the Perini offered, even when powered by the engines, also appealed. “I was on board a similar 50-metre Perini for a few days one summer, and what struck me was the silence,” she recalls. “We had the engines on while we were sleeping – I didn’t even realise we were not in the port.”

Ilia Rigas

The decision was also motivated by a desire for a more sustainable, ocean-friendly way of seeing the world. Rigas heads up the sustainability department for an energy company, with a focus on natural gas, which is listed on the London Stock Exchange as well as in the FTSE 250 index. She spends her days “convincing people what an energy company can actually do to transition to a greener future,” she says. “I show people how transparent it can be and how sustainable leadership can change their impact around the world.” Rigas has some form in this department – thanks to her efforts, her company led the charge and became the first energy company in the world to pledge to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, and was voted as Best ESG Growth Strategy in Europe two years in a row.

A key priority for her was that this next chapter in her life utilised a greener method of travel – from applying a sustainability rating to the yacht, to reducing CO2 emissions, minimising the use of plastic waste and using refillable toiletries onboard, as well as bringing scientists along to do onboard research via BOAT International’s Yachts for Science programme.

The lounge area leading to the dining room

“I’ve reached a certain point in my life and consumerism is not what I’m looking for,” she explains. “That’s not what makes me happy. Having an impact on my life and on other people’s lives is what I’m looking for now.”

Fresh from a major, year-long refit that took place throughout 2021 before embarking on the circumnavigation in 2023. While the exact itinerary is still being formed, Rigas will be following the careful guidance of explorer company EYOS Expeditions, and will be chartering the boat along the way, too. “For this kind of journey, you need to make sure that everything has been planned well, and that the boat and crew are well prepared, especially if you want to go off the beaten track” she explains of the decision to spend one last summer in Greece. “We want to be really sure of that.”

So, how did Almyra II find her way to her adventurous new owner? In a way, Rigas explains, it’s as if it were fate. She had seen an advert for the yacht, which had been repossessed by the UniCredit banking group, roughly two years prior. “Perini told me, ‘Ilia, forget it – you’re never going to buy this boat,’” Rigas recalls. “They said the owner is always trying to claim something from them, the papers are in a mess.”

A cabin on board

She viewed several other Perinis instead, but they didn’t compare. “They had a different layout, and I really loved the layout of this boat,” she explains. “It is like a home. I mean, it was perfect. I didn’t want to change a thing.”

Time passed and Rigas had all but forgotten about the yacht, yet two years later, she was invited to join an electronic auction for the boat. She soon found herself in a tense bidding war, head-to-head against a sole Russian bidder who had plumped for a strategy of bidding at the very last second – a plan that didn’t ultimately pan out in his favour. “Something happened and he didn’t manage to bid,” Rigas remembers. “As soon as [the auction] was over, he called me and said, ‘Look, I really want this boat.’” She laughs. “I said, ‘Hey, I really want this boat as well!’”

Rigas splits her time between Athens, Milan and London

She liked Almyra II so much that despite the extent of the refit, the original layout and ethos of the design has remained the same. “I found that after really thinking about it and discussing it with the naval architects, the original was just perfect,” she explains.

One significant change is that the wide, long aft space has been transformed into more of a relaxing lounge-style area, with new, updated furniture, and sliding doors into the dining space, as well as fresh polish and varnish on the woods throughout. The design scheme is “classic contemporary – whites, browns and leather”, she says, incorporating items such as tan leather chairs, a Sahara Noir marble bar and marble coffee tables and side tables, along with specially commissioned 3D sculptural paintings made by Greek artist Danae Stratou.

Motor sailer Almyra is currently for sale

“I like it sleek and simple. I don’t like flashy,” Rigas explains. There are four cabins, along with a master cabin office that can be converted into a fifth bedroom, and five bathrooms – not to mention a spacious area for crew. “It’s almost half of the boat,” says Rigas, which was important to her, as she particularly wanted the crew to feel at home with such a long trip planned.

For many years, Rigas also chartered her former boat, the 25-metre Almyra. She was born in Athens and lived in Greece until the age of 20, before going into operations and chartering in the commercial shipping field. When she bought Almyra, she opted to take on the chartering duties personally. “I thought it wouldn’t be that different,” she explains with a smile – but dealing with individuals, and their own distinctive personalities, was a whole different ball game. “Although the word ‘charter’ is the same, it’s a different subject completely,” she says. “You have to think of every single detail that person wants, and you have to be constantly pro-active to ensure everyone’s needs are met.”

The private study

Having grown up around small motorboats used for waterskiing and island hopping, her first boat was an 11.5-metre Chris-Craft, which she and her family heartily enjoyed. “It was a really fantastic yacht,” Rigas recalls. “I remember we had so much fun – eight to 10 people on board almost all the time – and we just thought it was the biggest and best boat we could ever have. We never imagined that then we’d go on to a 25-metre motor sailer, and now a 50-metre Perini!”

The motor sailer, Almyra (which translates as “salt of the sea” in Greek), has served her well for almost 23 years now, but having bought the Perini, she’s now for sale. “I don’t like having two boats – the hassle [of having two crews to manage] is huge. It’s almost a full-time job,” Rigas explains.

Kayaking off the island of Milos in the Aegean

The family – including their son and daughter, aged 24 and 25 respectively – have precious little time to go sailing on Almyra II as it is. Rigas herself splits her time between her homes in London, Milan and Athens, although she does manage to spend at least two to three months on the water over the summer.

Her lifestyle at sea is very much an active one. “It’s just like old times, nothing has changed,” explains Rigas. “I wouldn’t go out and find an umbrella and a sunbed then, and I still don’t now. I prefer to find secluded spaces and go snorkelling, scuba diving, exploring and playing racket ball on the beach.”

A cocktail bar on Almyra II

Are there many secluded places left to discover during Greece in August, I ask? “But that’s what I love about it,” she laughs. “At times there are thousands of people around us, but I always find a space where no one else is. There are more places in the Cyclades than the Ionian [Islands] but you have to take a small dinghy out and swim – swimming is the secret,” she smiles.

Last summer her favourite new haunt was the island of Sikinos, with its gentle hills, spectacular views and traditional whitewashed houses. “It’s an amazing island but there aren’t so many beaches there, so people don’t know about it – even the Greeks,” she says.

Sikinos, which is Rigas’s favourite Greek island retreat

Whatever the destination, there’s one family member who always comes ashore – six-year-old golden retriever Crypto, named after Superman’s dog. “He walks along the passerelle, he goes on the jet ski and in the tender – he loves it!”

And who can blame him? For Rigas, the perfect day on board involves “sleeping in my hammock, listening to nice music, having dinner with all my family and friends – but then it’s one of those dinners that unexpectedly turns into a party,” she explains. Whether in Greece or halfway round the world, a relaxed day snoozing by the ocean, followed by an impromptu boat party on a particularly elegant Perini, doesn’t sound like too bad a schedule…

First published in the April 2022 issue of BOAT International. Get this magazine sent straight to your door, or subscribe and never miss an issue.


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