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The epic 10,000-nautical-mile adventure of 48.5m Flyghtship V6

31 January 2022 • Written by Sophia Wilson


Motor Yacht
Flyghtship ·  48.5 m ·  2006

For many, an ambitious expedition voyage from the sun-kissed marinas of West Palm Beach to the icy realms of Svalbard would have been years in the planning. However, in June 2020, with Covid-19 taking hold around the world, the new owner of 48.5-metre V6 decided there was no time like the present. The owner and Captain Christoph Schaefer talk us through their Voyager’s Award-winning “shakedown cruise”...

The whole idea behind owning a yacht is to be able to go to places you need a boat to visit,” says the owner of 48.5-metre New Zealand-built Flyghtship V6. It was this desire to head further afield that persuaded him to purchase his first yacht, after more than a decade of chartering. “The charter market is focused on the traditional yachting centres in the Med and the Caribbean, and we wanted to see new and exotic places off the trodden path,” he explains.

Kitesurfing off a glacier in Norway
Credit: Courtesy of V6

With this desire in mind, Edmiston’s James Lloyd found V6 and introduced the owner to experienced expedition captain Christoph Schaefer. “It was the end of May, and I had just finished a stint on Gene Machine. I was in between jobs, but I was actually quite happy to be at home,” Schaefer recalls. However, when he got the call about the opportunity on V6 he agreed to have a chat with the owner. “I spoke to him for about 20 minutes and then I said to my wife ‘This is just too good an opportunity to pass up.’”

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V6 negotiating floating ice in Svalbard
Credit: Courtesy of V6

During their initial conversation, Schaefer pitched the route for a “Covid summer”, visiting the Canary Islands before heading north to explore the east coast of Ireland and Scotland. Schaefer then suggested crossing into Norway, ending the summer in icy Svalbard. “The proposal that Christoph came up with is pretty much what we did during this first summer. It turned out to be the perfect trip,” says the owner.

The sale was completed in June 2020, and with the yacht renamed V6 it was a quick turnaround for the new crew to put Schaefer’s suggested itinerary into action. “We picked up the boat and within four days we left Fort Lauderdale and did the Atlantic crossing,” says Schaefer. “Then, when we arrived in the Canary Islands, I jumped in a car and went to the airport to pick up the owner. The rest of the family then came out two days later; we were still very much learning about the boat at that stage.”

Credit: Courtesy of V6

Despite the challenging circumstances the pandemic caused, Schaefer was pleased to be able to introduce his new boss to the Canary Islands, which he considers one of the “most underrated cruising destinations”. “The weather is really benign, and it has predictable temperatures all year round. There’s also plenty to do, it has great culture, excellent fishing and absolutely fantastic food.” Schaefer, who previously spent four weeks in the area with 60.35-metre Vive La Vie, also argues there is greater variety than you might expect. “You have Lanzarote and Fuerteventura, which are basically desert islands. Then the more to the west you go, the greener it gets. La Palma is subtropical with lush vegetation. You have got a bit of everything,” he enthuses.

Lago de los Clicos in Lanzarote offered contrasting weather conditions to the cruise’s freezing final leg

The owner, who is an avid kitesurfer, was equally impressed with the Canary Islands as a yachting and kiting destination. “Lanzarote was one of the few places that was Covid-free in July 2020,” he says. “The conditions for kitesurfing in Fuerteventura were ideal and it set the tone for the rest of the summer. V6 was the only large yacht in the area at the time and we virtually had the place to ourselves – exactly what you want during a pandemic.”

After their time in the Canary Islands, the family briefly departed while the yacht headed north via Gibraltar. They rejoined V6 in Brittany, stopping for a few days in the Isles of Scilly before exploring the east coast of Ireland.  “We went into Dublin especially because our kite pro is from there and we anchored right in front of his parents’ house,” says Schaefer. The yacht then continued into Strangford Lough, to dodge the unsettled weather, which plagued V6 during her time in the Irish Sea. “It was funny, because we dropped anchor there and we were making jokes about the weird noises we were hearing,  I said it’s the White Walkers. The next morning, I found out we were right next to Castle Ward, which was used as a filming location in Game of Thrones,” Schaefer explains.

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V6 spent 327 days at sea between June 2020 and August 2021
Credit: Courtesy of V6

After sheltering in the lough for a couple of days, V6 then made her way past the Mull of Kintyre to the calm waters off Islay and Jura. Most of the whisky distilleries in this region were closed due to the pandemic, but the family were able to pay a visit to Tobermory Distillery, which is famous for its single malts. From there the yacht went on to the island of Tiree. “It is one of the most well-known kiting stops up there so obviously we didn’t miss that one out, and it didn’t disappoint,” says Schaefer. “We also came across a whole shiver of basking sharks. Unfortunately, it was too rough to get into the water with them but that was pretty amazing.”

The party explored the Bosque de los Tilos forest in La Palma, kitesurfed in climes warm and cold, met Barbary macaques in Gibraltar and enjoyed seafood in the Canary Islands
Credit: Courtesy of V6

V6 experienced plenty of “typical British summer weather” during the cruise, but this didn’t hamper the owner’s enjoyment. “The joy about cruising is to experience the local conditions,” he says. “Rainy days, fog and stormy weather are all very much part of the British summer. Ireland and Scotland show themselves in this very special light and mood when any kind of weather moves in, highlighting the rugged landscape with large Atlantic swells breaking on the exposed shoreline, rays of sunlight breaking through the low clouds bathing the green slopes in intense light, the air is fresh and crisp – it has its very own magic. Plus, enjoying a whisky after a cold, wet and windy walk is certainly more enjoyable than sipping it in the heat of a Spanish beach.”

Chief engineer Duncan McKinnon braves the icy waters of Brasvellbreen
Credit: Courtesy of V6

After continuing on to the Shetland Isles, stopping in Lerwick, V6 left the British Isles – and the British weather – behind her, crossing into Norwegian waters to Bergen. The yacht then spent nearly three weeks cruising the 1,000 nautical miles up to Tromsø. “It’s all smooth sailing, you hardly get a drop of salt water on the decks because it is all through the fjords. It’s basically inland,” says Schaefer. “We mainly cruised at night, even though it doesn’t really get dark there, and we would then try and be at anchor by eight or nine o’clock the next morning. Then the family would just spend the entire day rafting, hiking or paddleboarding around the fjords to enjoy the scenery.”

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Ross Harte wakeboarding at Lilliehöökbreen
Credit: Courtesy of V6

The global lockdown also meant that the family were able to have some of Norway’s most famous tourist attractions practically to themselves. “We only encountered two other large yachts in Norway, both of them recent Amels launches,” says the owner. “We also crossed paths with one small cruise ship coming in to Nordfjord. It is easy enough to avoid crowds in Norway even during a busy summer, but you will probably never experience some of the more popular fjords such as Geiranger or Sognefjord the way we did.” This was a silver lining to the pandemic that the owner hadn’t initially considered. “The major objective was to be away from the crowded urban centres, to have the children out of school and as far away from any source of infection,” he explains. “It only really dawned on us how exceptional this summer shaped up to be in this respect once we were well into our cruise.”

Encountering a welcome spot of colour at Longyearbyen
Credit: Anjci via Getty Images

The grand finale of V6’s summer expedition was two weeks in the Svalbard archipelago in search of polar bears. To help achieve this aim, the yacht was joined by polar bear expert Jason Roberts, who has worked on BBC television programmes including Planet Earth and The Blue Planet. His expertise quickly proved invaluable as he was able to direct the yacht to a fjord off the Hinlopen Strait where a group of bears were feeding on a whale carcass. “It was amazing seeing the polar bears up close,” says the owner. “The bears had set up their quarters on a small island, not just a handful but 14 of them – huge, fat and very relaxed, with the odd cub in between.” Captain Schaefer witnessed an equally remarkable sight one morning when anchored off a small island. “I looked out my porthole while having a shower and counted no less than six fat polar bears. It was incredible –  I don’t believe many sailors could have had a similar experience,” he says.

Credit: Courtesy of V6

Not content with watching the bears from the safety of the boat, V6’s owner also took the opportunity to kitesurf in the waters near the island where the huge carnivores were eating. “Kiting in the waters of this fjord was a highlight, and it was reassuring to know that the bears were not hungry at that moment, but pretty much in a blubber coma on the beach,” he says. It was the culmination of what had been a fantastic kitesurfing summer for the owner. “The single biggest new experience was probably kiting in such a short time in such  a range of diverse climates,” he says. “Kiting in 20 knots of wind with 28ºC water temperature and doing the same thing in 2ºC water are obviously not the same thing at all. Kiting in the waters of Svalbard with apex predators such as polar bears on the prowl added yet another level of excitement that is totally unique to the high north.”

Credit: Courtesy of V6

After squeezing in a few final kitesurfing stop-offs and taking in the ice wall of Brasvellbree, V6 completed her final leg into Longyearbyen, marking the end of her owner’s spectacular first summer on board. The yacht is now in the process of completing her five-year survey, but the owner has already set his sights on a return to the ice, with Antarctica, Greenland and the Northwest Passage all potential destinations.

“One thing we know for sure is that we as a family are excited to push on to new places we haven’t seen yet and that our crew is equally excited about the future,” he says. “I never imagined that owning and cruising our own yacht would be just so much fun and so rewarding. In hindsight, maybe we should have gotten into ownership a little earlier!”

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


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