It’s a rare refit that doesn’t test the owner’s patience and wallet, but that’s the nature of the beast. One such owner who recently completed their first major project shares their new-found wisdom with Kate Lardy on how to refit a superyacht on budget and without compromise.
The couple that would create the sailing yacht G2 had a specific dream: to sail around the world on a modern fast carbon cruiser with a lifting keel. There were plenty of aluminium yachts on the brokerage market in their size range, but very few existed in carbon. So why buy and refit rather than build new?
“I was hoping I could do it a lot more quickly,” says the owner. That didn’t go exactly to plan though. “Big projects generally cost more and take longer than you think. It certainly applies to this sector – it applies even more than I had expected.”
The couple’s search for their first large yacht ended when they spotted Cinderella IV, a 39-metre carbon sloop built by Vitters in 2009 that had been languishing on the market for the better part of three years. It was an attractive buy and a high-quality yacht, and they quickly got to work reimagining it as their dream boat. They retained its original naval architect, Bill Tripp, whose mandate included scrapping the aft deckhouse in favour of an open flush deck. To realise their ideal minimalist interior – pretty much the opposite of dark, traditional Cinderella IV – they commissioned Nauta Design, who would work on the transformation at Pendennis in Falmouth.
What they all achieved is astonishing. G2 emerged from the yard 18 months later virtually unrecognisable. The new aesthetic, inside and out, is clean and contemporary without being cold or stark. It’s bright and soothing, with a cool colour scheme, bigger portholes and large expanses of glass added to the coachroof. Rearranging the layout forward also gave the couple a more comfortable master suite.
To get there required removing the original interior. “To that extent it was like a new build. I actually stood in the empty hull after they had taken out what was there and started again,” says the owner, who acknowledges that the stylistic aesthetic likely matters more to him than the average sailor.
“Light and space is really important to me,” he says. “That was the theme we were trying to achieve and you can’t really visualise it before you’ve done it. I think it not only met expectations, but it’s even nicer than I imagined it would be.”
The process did cost them one Med season longer than expected, and a lot more money than initial calculations suggested. Part of the extra time and expense came down to an increase in the scope of the work. The glass panels in the coachroof were a significant add-on, as was painting the superstructure. The initial survey also had missed some big-ticket items. In addition, the owner, who describes himself as “naïve” going into the project, quickly learned that refitting comes with challenges. “You have some highly skilled craftsmen doing some great work,” he says, but to achieve the result “you need a lot of them doing the right thing to the right quality and on time”.
The secret to refit success in the owner’s opinion? It’s all about teamwork. “The team that you assemble is really, really important,” he says. “It’s not sufficient to have the right naval architect or the right interior architect, or obviously the right yard. It is really the combination of those people and the extent that they have previously worked together that’s extremely valuable. In my case they hadn’t.
“Take your time, get good references and meet people,” he advises. “Don’t be shy to meet a few candidates for every position you want to fill. That really pays off afterwards, rather than rushing into it and maybe taking unnecessary risks or cutting corners.”
He also learned that having a captain from the planning stage would have been hugely beneficial. When Cinderella IV’s captain left the boat, he warned the owner that it was a mistake not to have a captain on straight away for the refit. The owner thought the comment was self-serving – as the captain would have liked to have stayed on longer – but in retrospect he realised it was just good advice. “It is extremely useful to have a captain that not only has this kind of refit experience but also seems like he is like-minded in terms of quality control and taking ownership of the boat. I was extremely lucky to have that, but it was quite late.”
In the end, the couple got what they wanted: “a boat that we have created, so I’m really happy with the experience. And I would do it all again – a refit versus a new build,” says the owner.
After warm-up seasons in the Caribbean and the Med, G2 headed back to the islands to prepare to sail further afield. She flew her spinnaker for the first time in the Superyacht Challenge Antigua in March just before the lockdown started. G2 sat out the summer in Antigua, and as we spoke to the owner in late July, he was preparing to fly down to sail her from St Lucia to the Galápagos. After that it would be on to New Zealand or what the owner calls “a very nice Plan B”, Costa Rica. “I’m very excited to explore the world – starting this weekend.”