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Irisha: Inside the 51m Heesen built especially for dining

Irisha: Inside the 51m Heesen built especially for dining

For the owners of Irisha, their new Heesen is not primarily for exploring or cruising. It’s for dining – in remarkable style, as Marilyn Mower discovers...

They were not planning to explore the globe or take extended passages. They didn’t need six weeks’ autonomy or helipads or room to house a large family.

Irisha’s owners are gourmands and wine lovers and dining on board with good friends is their favourite activity. Their previous boat, of the same name, had introduced them to the idea of having a semi-displacement motor yacht that they could enjoy during Mediterranean summers. On it, they refined their likes and dislikes and developed a pattern of use that augmented an island lifestyle – so they knew exactly what they wanted from their next boat.

During summer months, the owner loves to rise at his villa and go for a swim; then he likes to go to the yacht, read the news and have lunch – and, by the way, “lunch lasts for hours”, says their broker, Jim Evans of SuperYachtsMonaco. “Then later, the guests depart and he and his wife relax and return to the villa.”

The function, then, was clear. They just needed the form that would deliver it. Meanwhile, Dutch yard Heesen had been looking to attract another custom order. The yard often starts well-developed series yachts on spec for owners in a hurry but prefers not to put all its eggs in one basket, so to speak. According to Heesen’s sales director, Mark Cavendish, the best business plan for the yard is a balance between series and custom orders. The builder appreciates the fresh challenges – and resulting technical growth – that a fully custom project brings to the yard.

When Irisha’s owners were ready to move on from their previous boat, Evans introduced them to Harrison Eidsgaard design studio and helped them develop what became a serious bid package. Even though their previous yacht was also a Heesen, that by no means guaranteed the builder the new project. “We got involved when there was a basic design and a target size but the owner was not yet sure of the speed he wanted the yacht to achieve and where he wanted to be in terms of gross tonnage,” says project manager Stuart King, of Technical Marine UK. Once he decided on 25 knots and under 500GT, Heesen became the “obvious choice”.

Heesen had built a similar size and speed of yacht before – Satori, now Septimus – but this was its first project with Harrison Eidsgaard, and the shape of studio founder Peder Eidsgaard’s hull required revising the forward and aft sections’ naval architecture and revamping everything from the main deck up, says King. Even with a pair of 16V 4000 M93 MTUs for power, Heesen put the entire project on a weight budget to meet the contracted speed, knowing it also had contractual targets for sound and vibration.

In terms of use, the original concept envisioned the yacht as a Mediterranean “dayboat”. First and foremost, it would have to seat upwards of 14 people in one place for lunch, primarily, or dinner. It would need a gourmet galley, the equipping of which would be overseen by their long-time personal chef. But anticipating other interests, they decided the new yacht should be able to take them and a few other couples on pleasant cruises with their yacht-owning friends. When work meant they were not using the boat, it could be available for select charter. These two latter interests added multi-functionality to the brief.

But back to the prime directive… dining. To this end, Eidsgaard’s partner Ben Harrison turned a traditional layout on its head. The main seating area is on the aft deck and also offers the perfect spot for the owners to await and greet guests arriving by tender. The deck is well covered and sliding glass panels allow it to be heated and cooled like a winter garden. The indoor saloon and dining room are open plan and can function independently, but for those big and regular lunch parties, the saloon is co-opted and the large dining table expands to seat as many as 22.

“The table, made by Heesen’s in-house joinery company, actually sheds a piece down the centre to get narrower for better service, and then grows and grows some more in length with added leaves,” says Harrison, who was responsible for Irisha’s interiors. Folding door panels at the aft end of the saloon allow the table to extend into the winter garden. Of course, this feature called for a totally flush deck with no sill between indoor and outdoor spaces. Heesen met this challenge with a barely discernible grating and a substantial hidden sump below the teak decking to meet classification rules designed to prevent seawater from entering the living space.

The design of the living/dining space is symmetrical down to a pair of matching doors at the forward bulkhead. The port door opens to a generous pantry aft of the galley, with the door at starboard opening to the foyer. The cleverness of having the same colour scheme and style of furniture in the saloon proper and the aft winter garden becomes obvious. “We were aiming at achieving the balance of pared-down aesthetics while maintaining a warm and luxurious atmosphere,” says Ewa Tasior-Eidsgaard, Peder’s wife, who is responsible for soft goods and furniture.

Another part of the yacht that received considerable design attention for entertaining is the sundeck. Its bar – a pair of bar tops actually, laid parallel athwartships – is placed forward, with eight stools arranged around it, “four of which can rotate so that all eight face forward, creating a magnificent viewing opportunity for cruising ports and harbours”, notes Eidsgaard.

The arch supporting the antenna and radar array flattens into a partial sunshade above an L-shaped seating arrangement in the centre of the deck, forward of a spa pool with surrounding sunpads. The client’s unusual vision meant rethinking the exterior look and materials. Struck by the idea of a dayboat, Eidsgaard wanted to keep the look low and elegant, the raised foredeck almost disguising the fact that Irisha is a full tri-deck. With bands of dark glass, a custom metallic hull colour that strays well above the main deck, and angled bands of white on the superstructure accented by dark navy mullions and mast, it’s a bold look with a nod to trompe l’oeil.

“Our concept profile drawings always featured white paint in general and a slightly darker colour for the hull,” says Eidsgaard. “The window bands are dark, from which the hull should be separated. A medium grey non-metallic paint, however, would make the yacht appear like a naval vessel, and grey metallic was being used for another boat we had in construction. After much deliberation we managed to convince the owner to use a very special medium blue-grey metallic, a colour that changes through the day.”

Taking inspiration from the look of smaller, sporty yachts with raised pilothouses, the wheelhouse is half a deck up from the upper saloon level and its glass windscreen spreads into a canopy, covering the seamless access to the sundeck. “The fact that the yacht was to be a dayboat gave us the inspiration to connect the wheelhouse with the sundeck,” says Eidsgaard.

The wheelhouse is certainly part of the social area with a big sofa and table perched behind the helm station with its Besenzoni carbon fibre helm chairs. It is a precise and attractive space, perhaps compact by 50 metre yacht standards, but the electronics by Kelvin Hughes are sufficient and well planned and the greige suede and chocolate leather finishes by Heesen Yachts’ interiors department are an attractive foil to the dark glass canopy and wood veneers. At the touch of a button, a portion of the canopy and the rear glass bulkheads slide open, linking the bridge to the sundeck. Of course, the sundeck can also be reached the traditional way via stairs from the upper aft deck, but the sliding canopy is such a nice surprise.

For cruising or some quiet time, the master suite forward on the main deck is a lavish retreat. It begins with an office centred by a large asymmetrical desk. The mullions were given special treatment with white paint, grey leather and polished stainless steel for a look that is both artistic and masculine. The suite features a fixed “French balcony” with a pair of built-in loungers certain to invite napping. Because the balcony is fixed behind the bulwarks, separated only from the master cabin by a sliding glass door, it doesn’t require any crew attention to deploy or set up. The master bathroom is a tour de force in magnificent stonework with a stunning pair of rain shower fixtures and a waterfall. Rich and seductive, the deep brown marble reappears in dayheads so others can delight in it, too. Textures are the key to this suite, from the stonework to the various wood grains to a carved headboard, carved carpets and a handmade, custom silk artwork by Claudy Jongstra, a Dutch artist who creates unusual tapestries with wool and silk.

But public areas are special too. Harrison created a memorable oversized foyer, treating guests descending to their cabins or climbing to the upper saloon to a one-of-a-kind staircase that looks perfectly relaxed in its organic and freeform shape. Its engineering and construction, however, were anything but relaxed. More than just a mode of movement, Harrison and Eidsgaard saw the staircase as a way to bring light to the guest lobby below by taking advantage of the fact the stairs flank the full height glass entry doors from the starboard side deck… if only it didn’t have to be partially blocked by a railing and banisters.

“If only” turned into a commission for a clear glass structural railing/banister combination without visible structural supports (the glass banister is given only a soft leather grip at the top edge). The clear glass surround is structural – strong enough to withstand the weight of an adult falling against it or needing it for support.

Glass is pliable up to a point in the forming process but not particularly fond of tortuous curves. To follow the design around the stair column and terminate on the deck below without sharp edges or multiple pieces, the glass panel has to almost double back on itself at the bottom. Forming the piece, King tells us, failed six times. Lucky number seven is in place on Irisha.

Forming the glass railing was one thing, but it had to be fixed to the yacht’s structure for class approval. An aluminium yacht flexes; glass does not. Heesen and the glass supplier worked with engineering specialists to devise semi-ridged framing and a floating support mechanism hidden behind walls and below the floor.

A custom polished plaster surface by DKT Artworks creates an interesting backdrop for the stairs. The surface is tinted cool beige with a hint of pearlescence to make the texture come alive.

The upper end of the stairs arrives at an equally well-lit lobby between the bridge and upper saloon – much more intimate in scale and mood than the saloon below. There’s a bar with three fixed stools, to save enough space for a dumb waiter from the galley, and less formal furnishings, which include an inviting window seat, large recliners and a coffee table hewn from an unusual tree trunk. Barn in the City, a company run by young Dutch artists who transform old barn wood into custom pieces of furniture, created Irisha’s signature upper saloon bar. The luminescent warmth of the dull gold surface created by layers of varnish contrasts with the dark wood panelling. Like everything on this boat, it is a fresh solution to a fresh brief – an example of wisdom rewarded.

Photography courtesy of Dick Holthius and Mike Jones/Waterline Media

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