Inside the radical redesign of 51m classic sailing yacht Rainbow II

1 April 2021· Miranda Blazeby

In 2015, work was well underway on the 51 metre classic schooner Rainbow II at Dutch yard Holland Jachtbouw. The hull was almost complete, the crew interior was built, and work was about to begin on the rest of the guest areas. But then work ground to a halt. The project stalled and was abandoned.

The almost complete hull sat tucked away in storage at Royal Huisman until 2019 when the chief executive of Turquoise Yachts, Mehmet Karabeyoğlu, received a phone call from a broker. “They said there’s a 51 metre schooner hull sitting at Royal Huisman, would you be interested in buying it along with the design, workshop and drawings,” Karabeyoğlu recalls. Dykstra Naval Architects, which designed the original project, was on hand to show Karabeyoğlu around the yard. Turquoise made an offer, and the hull was transferred to the shipyard’s Istanbul facility. For a project that seemed doomed to never leave the shipyard, a new lease of life was on the cards. Its transformation into the 51m sailing sloop Rainbow II had begun.

Rainbow II was originally commissioned by the owner of J-Class sailing yacht Rainbow and Windrose of Amsterdam, both of which were designed by Dykstra and built by Holland Jachtbouw. The original concept was “a modern representation of a classic 1930s yacht”, according to Dykstra’s Hilbert ten Have, complete with the “features of some of the most beautiful boats of that era”. However, Karabeyoğlu, who describes himself as a “sailboat guy”, drew on his own experience of owning a 32 metre sailing yacht to implement drastic changes to the original concept. For starters, he wanted to swap the schooner arrangement for a sloop.

“The schooner was taking up too much space with the rigging, masts, booms and winches,” he says. “We wanted something easy to run and maintain without complications.” Ten Have agrees that the original classic sail plan would have required “a lot of work to sail the boat”. Rainbow II marks the third sailing yacht built by Turquoise following the 33 metre Jazz Jr (now Eugenia VII) and 33 metre Simba. And Karabeyoğlu is realistic about the state of the sailing market. “People tell me there’s not that many sailing boats like Rainbow II out there but the demand for sail boats is a lot less – we all know that”, he says.

Simplifying the sail plan of the yacht was key in making the project as attractive as possible to a potential buyer. The focus is kept firmly on safety, practicality, elegance and ease of sailing and maintenance thanks to using off-the-shelf equipment. He adds that the classic design of Rainbow II will ensure it is always in vogue. “This design will still be in fashion in 40 years’ time – it’s a timeless design.”

As well as changing the schooner arrangement to the simpler sloop, Karabeyoğlu asked Dykstra to swap the clipper bow for a more rounded spoon bow, which meant cutting out the first 8.5 metres of the yacht and replacing it. But even this wasn’t the most drastic change. Turquoise wanted to move away from the one deckhouse version of the schooner to a two-deckhouse layout, with full-size deckhouse on top of the main deck. “My first thought was to say, that’s not possible,” says Ten Have. “But of course, you don’t want to say no.”

The change resulted in “modifying the interior layout completely,” according to Michiel de Vos of deVosdeVries Design, but the result was worth it. “The original deckhouse was much smaller, it wasn’t a saloon, it was just a small place to sit,” de Vos says. “When Turquoise acquired the project, they asked us to add a deckhouse with a full saloon where all 12 people on board can dine.” And as the deckhouse sits on the main deck, instead of recessed into the deck, guests can dine with far-reaching ocean views, allowing them to “always feel they are on deck,” Karabeyoğlu says. The second deckhouse meanwhile, which sits aft, is described as a “small navigation office for the captain or owner” with direct access from the owner’s cabin.

Inside, the deVosdeVries-designed interior also went through a “complete redesign”, according to de Vos. “It was really classic before and now it’s more contemporary and cleaner with mother of pearl details.” The original interior also had no portholes, which Karabeyoğlu was quick to change. “Traditional boats didn’t have portholes, they had skylights,” he says. “But this meant the interior was too dark and I don’t think people want to sleep in a cabin without portholes.”

These tweaks gave the interior design a more universal appeal and increased the overall charter potential of Rainbow II. The revamp also included the increase of guest cabins, from four to five, as well as a multipurpose guest cabin that can be “converted to sleep the kids”, de Vos said. Moving the main deckhouse also opened up space in the crew quarters, which were previously a “bit tight”, Karabeyoğlu says. “We made a cabin dedicated to female crew with its own ensuite, an engineer cabin for the engineer and we improved the captain’s cabin.” All these changes have resulted in the yacht becoming “more user friendly for family cruising and charter,” Karabeyoğlu says.

Work is well underway on the project, with all aluminium work completed and the new bow replaced. While all the hot work will be completed, the rest of construction may pause until an owner is confirmed to allow them time to make customisations. “The owner might want to select their own colours or make changes to the accommodation,” Karabeyoğlu says. “And they can do all those things”. While Rainbow II may have some final design tweaks ahead, the transformation so far has been drastic. As Karabeyoğlu says, Rainbow II has evolved from “a replica of a boat built in the early 1900s” to a “go anywhere, cruise around the world” sailing yacht.