Sailing yacht owners on why they love to sail

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 ten owners tell us why they just can’t get enough of life under sail.

A sailing yacht is ultimate tool for exploring the world

Marcus Blackmore is no stranger to the regatta circuit. An accomplished yachtsman and serial superyacht owner, he's travelled far and wide competing in the world's most renowned races, from the glamourous Loro Piana Superyacht Regatta to the gruelling 630-mile offshore Sydney Hobart race (which he's sailed a hefty 12 times). And while there's nothing like the feeling of lifting the trophy at the end of a regatta weekend, he's never happier than when exploring the remote islands of the South Pacific on board his racer-cruiser Ammonite

Blackmore could write a book filled with stories of his adventures visiting the islands, like the time he became an honorary chief in Samoa or when he was offered three pigs and four shells for his step daughter’s hand in marriage in New Guinea. “You don't get those experiences in the Med or the Caribbean," he said.

Having taken delivery of a brand new Southern Wind 92 at the end of 2020 he shows no signs of slowing down. After the trip from South Africa to New Zealand, Ammonite will be put to the test at the New Zealand Millennium Cup and Mastercard Superyacht Regatta. “I'm not sure then whether we're going to go west and do some regattas in Asia, or we might go to Tahiti again. I don't want to be too planned. I think being a little unplanned adds a bit of mystery and a bit of beauty to the whole thing.”

It’s all about fun with friends and family for Marc Giorgetti

While Marc “Gio” Giorgetti grew up in landlocked Luxembourg his fondest memories were of summers spent out on the water. “I was in the water all the time, from morning to night, swimming, sailing, rowing and waterskiing.” Having cruised extensively with family he knew exactly what he wanted from a sailing yacht and commissioned a Solaris 72 (the first of three).

Then, in 2020, Giorgetti took delivery of his largest sailing yacht to date, the 33.8 metre Solaris flagship CeFeA named after his children. Built from carbon, CeFeA is light– 75 tonnes with 22 tonnes of ballast included – and fast, though racing is not the point. “I am not a regatta guy. I prefer to have fun with friends and family on the boat. If I do a regatta, it’s for the pure pleasure of sailing.” CeFeA offers the best of both worlds. “We have a performance-oriented boat with a large owner’s cabin with two bathrooms, four bedrooms and a crew area for five with generous volume. Happy crew, happy owner,” he says. “Competitors have to go to 40 metres to get the same comfort inside space-wise.”

Exploring the seas under canvas is the key to happiness says Aldo Melpignano

Italian businessman Aldo Melpignano purchased the 33.6-metre sailing yacht Imagine, designed by the peerless Ed Dubois, to sail around the world with his family. Imagine's previous owners had proved her mettle with three circumnavigations and a trip to the Arctic, and so she was the perfect choice for the adventure-seeking Melpignano clan. 

“My wife and I, my mum, my sister and younger brother own Imagine and share her together,” explains Melpignano. “Because we work in hospitality, we tend to work when most people are on holiday so, as such, usually there are no ‘fights’ over who goes when. Imagine’s greatest adventure came in 2017. “My wife, our kids and I spent six months on board in the Caribbean, from the Leewards to the Windwards, ending up in Cuba,” says Melpignano. "This year we will use her to explore the Western Caribbean like Costa Rica, Belize and Panama. She’ll keep going around the world as long as she can… and as long as we’re able to.”

Nothing compares to the thrill of the racecourse for Lang Walker

From a humble dinghy to a series of superyacht sloops, serial sailing yacht owner Lang Walker has built quite the yachting dynasty. All his sailing yachts have had the same name proudly displayed across the transom, Kokomo, which is a tribute to the Vaucluse Junior dinghy he used to race as child. This was where his lifelong affair with sailing began. Walker's first foray into superyachts started with a 42 metre sloop designed by the late Ed Dubois and built by New Zealand’s Alloy Yachts which was a winning combination that remained unchanged through his next two builds: a 52 metre and 58 metre.

Alongside his Kokomo superyachts Walker’s need for speed has also been fulfilled by racing Farr 40s. “I have always been in racing and sailing ever since I was a kid, then about 15 years ago got into the Farr 40 class. When they had a really big fleet I had one in Sydney, one in Europe and one in America and we would do the regattas all around the world. It was pretty exciting sailing and good, close one-design racing,” he says. Nothing can come between Walker and the racecourse, not even two hip replacement surgeries.

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.”

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

Lenny Recanati, former 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.”

Life at sea is the reward of years of hard work for 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.”

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.”

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 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 - former 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.”

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