Call of the ocean: Sailing yacht owners on why they love to sail


Life at sea is the reward of years of hard work for Milton Sender

While they may be far outweighed in number by their motor yacht-owning peers, most sailing yacht owners wouldn’t swap their J Classes and regatta-ready yachts for anything. Here five owners tell us why they just can’t get enough of life under sail.

Milton Sender

Like many yacht owners Milton Sender, co-founder of Daymon Worldwide, is a self-made man whose yacht WindQuest is the reward of years of hard work. “I’m totally unstressed," he says of his idyllic work/life balance. "If I get three or four emails a day, that’s a lot. I do not work. I mean, occasionally I might have to push a button on the boat, but that’s about it.”

This laid back retirement translates into an equally casual cruising schedule with Sender opting for destinations on a whim. “I worked real hard for 50 years and when I retired I said I wanted to play hard,” he explains. “Most summers, we have a starting spot and I have a place that we’re going to sort of end and in between we say ‘oh that’s cool’, or ‘this town is near there, let’s do that’,” adds Sender’s long-time captain Drew Meyers. “And then it just sort of snowballs.”


For Lenny Recanati it's all about getting back to nature

Lenny Recanati, owner of 27 metre sailing yacht Vivid, has circumnavigated the world no fewer than two times and travelled over 130,000 miles on board so he certainly has enough experience to identify the true beauty of sailing. His travels have taken him to far-flung locations including Papua New Guinea and Cuba and it is this opportunity to get away from it all that really makes sailing appeal.

“It’s about nature. It’s about the fact that you turn off the engine and just sail with the waves and the wind and nothing else. It is the fact that, by the force of nature, the boat is moving, which is incredible,” he explains. “Nothing comes close to this.”

That said, traversing remote waters in a sailing yacht does have its difficulties. “Vivid is not an ice class boat or a racing boat, but it has everything: it’s a good performance boat and a very safe boat," he says. "We have been very careful and we know how to navigate through ice. “[But] as we passed Cape Horn, we were hit with 10 metre waves and 50 knot wind gusts. It was pretty crazy. The guy driving the boat put it in autopilot. The boat swung 180 degrees and the mainsail ripped a bit. My crew took control and steadied the boat. But the first half hour was very scary.”


A boyhood love of the ocean never left Joey Kaempfer

From many yacht owners, both motor and sailing, their passion for the ocean begins in childhood - and for Joey Kaempfer, owner of sailing yacht Rosehearty, it was no different. The difference for Kaempfer, however, was that he was building the boats himself. “The first boat was probably six feet long and the bottom would have been a piece of plywood and the sides would have been fibreboard," he recalls. "My friends and I painted it and then way too soon, when it was wet, we took it to the lake and poled our way out. Nobody was watching us and, of course, it instantly started disintegrating. Some mother in one of the houses saw us and started screaming. I was a strong swimmer and managed to get everyone to shore, but it was a complete disaster. At that point my parents gave in and bought me a rowboat.”

Despite these rocky beginnings Kaempfer was soon upgrading until the chance to buy his current 56 metre from Rupert Murdoch came along. “I knew I wanted a Perini,” he says. “As I was taken on board I thought it was very handsome and then I got in it and took one look at the Christian Liaigre-designed saloon and I thought ‘magnificent’. Rupert originally wanted an outrageous price but I finally got to a price where I thought I could spend a couple of extra million to have the boat I wanted. I ended up spending a lot more than two million. I mean a lot more! But I’ve got the perfect boat now.”


The sea inspires Pete Townshend’s musical creativity

For most superyacht owners their life at the sea is the result, rather than the cause, of their successful careers. Not so for The Who’s Pete Townshend - celebrity superyacht owner of 38.4 metre Jongert sailing yacht Gloria - who says that he has found musical inspiration on the ocean for as long as he can remember.

“When I was in the Sea Scouts, I had something which you can only really call a revelation on the river,” he explains. “I was on a motorboat with a bunch of other boys and I lost consciousness and started to hear this incredible music. I spent a lot of time as a composer trying to recreate that music I heard then – I’ve come close here and there, but never really cracked it properly.

Love, Reign O’er Me, which is probably one of the best, if not the best, song I’ve ever written is about being on the ocean in the rain. It’s the closing song on Quadrophenia, the boy is either in the boat or on the rock, and you don’t really know what happens to him at the end of the story. But it’s raining and it’s about the vastness of the ocean and how small we feel. I think that’s something that every sailor knows.”


Pier Luigi Loro Piana loves the versatility of sailing yachts

For Italian luxury businessman Pier Luigi Loro Piana it is the opportunity to combine the peace of nature with the thrill of racing which has led him to become the serial owner of a string of sailing yachts named My Song – the newest and largest of which is due to be delivered in 2017.

“I discovered that like when you go skiing, sailing puts you into a new balance with nature,” he says. “I’ve always been attracted by nature and the sea. I grew up in the country; I need green to live. And the sea is a big element of the natural world. I want to be outside and sailing represents the ultimate way to be outside, far from coast, far from cars, far from town, far from traffic. You just leave everything behind.

“The concept of the Loro Piana Superyacht Regatta came about to accommodate the desire of those who have a comfortable boat for cruising, but who also want to play with these incredible toys. The [My Song] concept has always been a mix between cruising and racing. We do minor changes to race – we take out everything that can be damaged and then bring the boat to life competitively. For another six weeks of the year it is a boat for vacations. The same boat. Perfect.”


The nomadic life of sailing suits phinisi owner Mark Robba

If there are two things that most superyacht owners prize above all else in their vessels it is the privacy and freedom they provide. It is the later that appealed to Mark Robba when he began building his traditional Indonesian phinisi Dunia Baru in 2008, “I have always known that the very best way to travel is by boat, and probably by sailboat. You’re always home and, if you get tired of one place, you just move on to the next,” he explains.

“I’ve always tried to instil in my family and children that you should never take a vacation. You can sit by a swimming pool and it’s just kind of boring. Really, what we always want is adventure, and the way I define it would be when you did something where you experienced all the emotions, and not just joy, happiness and excitement but also feelings of discomfort or frustration. But once you’ve done it you have a feeling of accomplishment.”


The dual nature of sailing appeals to Amanda Wakeley

Fashion designer Amanda Wakeley, who co-owns racing yacht Savannah with her husband, loves to get stuck in at the helm during the yacht’s extensive regatta season but, she concedes, sometimes there’s nothing like relaxing and letting yourself be looked after by the crew.

“She’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” says Wakeley. “Savannah is made of carbon fibre, which makes her phenomenally fast and very exciting to race. I’ve had a passion for the water and water sports all my life and although Savannah’s a rocket she is the most beautiful cruising yacht, too.

“We have a wonderful crew that look after us beautifully; a really lovely captain and Carole, our first mate-chef, who has never let us down with her bloodhound-like ability to sniff out the best local produce and create the most delicious food. We love hosting cosy dinners below decks, just six or eight of us, and when we are on our own I love to retreat to the master cabin, which has the most glorious roll-top bath.”


Leonardo Ferragamo mixes business with pleasure on board

With a controlling stake in Nautor’s Swan and one of the builder’s finest sailing yachts, Solleone, in his possession, Leonardo Ferragamo is about as avid as a sailing yacht fan comes. For Ferragamo sailing is all about spending time with family – and he has no problem mixing business with pleasure.

“I came to the company with an immense respect for what they do," he says. "This was not an industry but a conglomerate of craftsmen. They work with their hands, passing on their talent from generation to generation; these are the same families who built ships for some of the greatest navies in the world. So I wanted to treasure that, and add strong direction, new skills only where gaps needed to be filled.

“I have always believed that being on a boat is the best way of spending time with your family. I know I will get into trouble for saying this, but sailing adds an extra element to the boating lifestyle and the family experience. You need to use your brain, you need to work together, and you get so much more out of it as a result.”