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Double take: The refit that left 55m Feadship Cynthia unrecognisable

Double take: The refit that left 55m Feadship Cynthia unrecognisable

The dramatic refit of 55 metre Feadship Cynthia is so exhaustive that her past has been all but erased, says Cecile Gauert...

A top-to-bottom paint job, technical tweaks, a brand new interior… and a well-known Feadship has a whole new life as Cynthia. Her new owner joined forces with American interior designer Claudette Bonville Associates and his captain on the makeover. Respectful of the yacht’s pedigree, they decided to enhance the existing features on his first Feadship rather than tear things down, but the transformation is amazing.

“Most people have a hard time figuring out which Feadship this used to be and that means we accomplished our goal,” says Timothy Silva, the yacht’s captain. In her original incarnation in 2005, the 55.5 metre was known as Twizzle, and later cruised as Drizzle, Issana and, most recently, Madsummer. Only the keenest observers could recognise this elegant modern classic as the former Twizzle. Although subsequent owners had changed the interior décor, the exterior had remained essentially as it was when the yacht was built – classic lines with contemporary touches. The original royal blue paint around the superstructure windows blended visually with the glass and formed two continuous dark stripes at the main and bridge deck levels. It gave the yacht a decidedly modern feel, in spite of traditional lines by De Voogt Naval Architects.

New white paint on mullions and around the windows, plus the accent of varnished teak on the aft main and upper decks to frame the entrances, have resurrected the yacht’s inherent classic features for the new owner, who says his taste in boats is more traditional. He started out with a 7.6 metre Sea Ray, which he truly enjoyed. “Being on it, I felt like I died and went to heaven,” he says. His largest yacht to this point was a 35.4 metre Burger, which he refitted in 2012 before building a 26.2 metre custom Rybovich sportfisher. “I loved the boat but I didn’t particularly care for fishing, so I decided that I really wanted to buy another motor yacht,” he says. “I was hoping to find a traditional-looking boat, like a Feadship, and when I saw Madsummer I really appreciated the lines and I was extremely comfortable with the layout,” he says.

The yacht’s original owners had wanted to build a boat for the family and that is essentially how this owner also intends to use Cynthia – luxury, says this CEO, is all about family time – so there was no real need to take down bulkheads. A comfortable main saloon, private dining room next to a nice-sized galley, large master suite on the main deck, comfortable lower deck cabins, a cosy upper saloon and a flybridge ideally laid out for intimate groups were just right for family time and, potentially, select charters.

However, he envisioned a very different interior style. “What I wanted to do was to create a look that was extremely sharp and crisp but also with a sense of fun,” says the owner, whose favourite other boat is a 6.7 metre tug painted bright red, named SS Lollipop. With 35 years of experience in the construction business, as well as having carried out previous refits, he decided to be the main point of contact for the interior redesign and surprised his wife with the results. “A refit is something that I have done before and I enjoy it. It is therapeutic in many respects,” he says.

He chose Claudette Bonville Associates, an award-winning firm based in Fort Lauderdale, after seeking recommendations for a designer “thoughtful in approach, who would do the work cost-effectively and really create value for the owner”. He felt at ease with Claudette Bonville and her team, daughter Lauren Bonville and Cindy Gunther. “All of them were very responsive. I provided Claudette with a high-level guideline of our appreciation for blue and mother of pearl, two features that we were looking to incorporate in the boat in some capacity. She took that direction and introduced a vocabulary that I think brought the boat back to life in many respects.”

From subsequent conversations and frequent text messages – the thumbs-up and thumbs-down emojis were a helpful guideline – the designers gleaned more information that helped create the overall theme. “The owner has a great eye for small details and craftsmanship,” Bonville says. Except for a few beautiful teak chaises from Summit, the new furniture on board is custom made, with many pieces by Miami-based bespoke furniture firm Arquitek Inc.

To meet the aggressive deadline for the relaunch, Bonville worked with artists and artisans from India, China, Italy, the US, South America, France and Vietnam. “The longer lead time items we did first, like the custom cabinets from Latin America, the mother of pearl inlay work and the wool and silk carpets from China. These had to be ordered first,” says Bonville, who provided the owner with handmade renderings and colour boards. “One thing I found out is that there is a limited supply of mother of pearl at any one time, and I think that between the furniture company and the floor company we bought it all up, at least for a period of time,” she says.

Bonville introduced the delicate iridescent nacre throughout the yacht as inlays in custom-made sofas, a wall in the master head, a delicate rope design set in steel surrounding a blue starburst on the lobby floor, buttons on shades, and a coffee table in the main saloon, among other places.

She’s incorporated references to New England, one of the owner’s favourite cruising areas. A nautical chart decorates the ceiling of the upper deck saloon, and steel-framed serigraphs from Nantucket artist Eric Holch grace the guest cabins and other areas. Other décor related to the area includes delicate compositions of shells inside octagonal frames known as sailor’s valentines, by American folk artist Sandi Blanda. “I knew my wife would really enjoy that,” the owner says. “And she also appreciates the colour blue, and so I picked a palette that I knew was consistent with what she really enjoys.”

Blue is a leitmotif that recurs in different shades and materials, most notably on dyed eucalyptus wood and leather covered banisters, as well as the exterior upholstery by Pierre Frey. Except for the guest bathrooms and two pieces of furniture in the saloon, everything was either replaced or reimagined. The original yacht design by RWD had been understated, and Bonville says the neutral background was helpful in creating a new interior. To keep the ensemble crisp, she incorporated glass and stainless steel. It is put to spectacular use with a sculptural dining table under a composition of glass globes, both made by Seattle artist Scott Chico Raskey.

The redesign extended to the crew area, which was updated and refurbished. The owner was very keen on improving the comfort levels in this area. “I think most boat owners would say this – it’s not so much the boat itself, it’s about the quality and the experience you have with the crew,” he says. The crew of 11 will no doubt appreciate the mess, fitted with a beautiful glass-top table in front of the newly reupholstered leather sofa, and the cabins’ comfort. Each cabin has dual televisions, and the sheets, from Italian firm Grace Linens, are of the same quality as those in the guest bedrooms.

The galley was also redecorated, with tiles made in Vietnam, blue quartz worktops and flooring by Amtico. It was also fitted with new appliances without changing the layout. “This worked well with almost plug and play installation, with a few minor alterations,” Captain Silva says. “The chef was consulted and he was happy with all the equipment that was already in place.”

“I think the quality of the food and the dining experience are extremely important. Boating is all about the experience, and the chef is central to that conversation,” the owner adds. He likes healthy, fresh food, and fitness is very important to him, so he decided to add an outdoor gym. The best space to install the new Technogym equipment without disrupting the layout proved to be one of the yacht’s two tender bays on the bridge deck.

The yacht’s technical spaces weren’t forgotten either. “People typically look at the rugs and they look at the lamps and the furnishings on a boat but at the end of the day you really have to look at the guts of the boat – the wiring, the air conditioning systems, the mechanical systems, the electrical systems,” the owner says. “I really feel on a personal level that I’ve got a responsibility to restore the boat back to its original standards, and whether it be the engine room or different features of the boat, I really wanted it to be a showpiece.”

He was very impressed with what they discovered when lifting up floors and looking behind bulkheads. “In my 35 years of business, I’ve never seen better workmanship,” he says. With use comes some damage, however. The engine room was repainted and its floor plates restored to a vibrant nickel chrome. The boat, the captain says, needed some tender loving care but was in good shape and already fitted with essentials such as anchor stabilisation. Cynthia has an Atlantic crossing in her future. Accordingly, the bridge also received a thorough spruce up, with a new banquette in cross-stitched leather reminiscent of a Bentley’s interior, new Hatteland displays encased in stitched tan leather, radar scanners and other electronics, plus framed vintage photographs of the Feadship yards as décor.

On 15 June, days before her captain was due to pull off the dock in Fort Lauderdale, the beehive of activity was typical of most projects in the last few days before delivery: the saloon looked a bit like a clearing house, panels were still being installed, furniture unwrapped and linens put away. As is often the case, timing was a challenge. The owner signed the contract in December 2017 and was planning to use the yacht for the 2018 summer cruising season. One of the trickiest aspects was co-ordinating the paint work executed by Virgin Yachts and the interior outfitting without disrupting the schedule. “We did eight to 10 months of work in about five,” Silva says. “The boat went into the Derecktor yard on 18 January and was back in the water on 18 May.” It took another month at the dock to ready the yacht for its first cruise with guests. It all worked out and the owners are over the moon. Cynthia is every bit the showpiece her owner had envisioned.

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