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Q&A with owner of Spirit 111 sailing yacht Geist

1 June 2021

BOAT catches up with the owner of the new 33.9 metre Spirit 111 sailing yacht Geist, which was delivered in 2020. 

Why this design, and why Spirit Yachts?

I have owned a Spirit 52 for 10 years now, and I have never, for a single day, regretted owning her. I have spent wonderful times competing and enjoying her with friends, and I’ve sailed her solely with my wife, exploring those parts of the Mediterranean that remain untouched. I am very fond of the boat. During the 10 years of ownership, I have grown to implicitly trust and respect the team at Spirit Yachts – I knew they would listen to my ideas and I was confident they had the skills to execute the project. The 111 is a testament of love to the little 52. Now, I require more space to include family and friends, yet would not want to sacrifice performance, elegance or the way she immerses me in the elements.

What was the brief?

In most larger yachts, space is gained at the cost of detaching yourself from nature (a higher freeboard and bulwarks, for example). Being close to the water and to the environment is what drew me to yachts in the first place and this became central to my inspiration. I sat down with Spirit Yachts owner and founder Sean McMillan and discussed this from the early stages. He was keen to take on the design brief, and he gave me the confidence to push on with the project. The first drawings were very encouraging and gave me confidence that, together with interior designers Rhoades Young, we could carry the vision further. The aesthetics of the yacht, inside and out, were always of paramount importance, closely followed by the aim of being as self-sufficient as possible and minimizing the impact on the environment that inspires and motivates me.

Geist is the largest wooden sloop-rigged yacht to be built in the UK.

Tell us about the yacht’s green ethos

The environment played a strong part in early discussions on the project. I spoke at length with Spirit Yachts’ managing director Nigel Stuart about the technology available. We compared the project and its goals to a “Tesla of the seas.” It was always very important to me that the yacht does not play a part in destroying her natural environment. Spirit examined the build, operation and end-of-life phases of the project to lower the carbon footprint at each stage. I enjoy being at anchor in a tranquil bay away from crowded marinas, so regeneration of the batteries was important to allow this self-sufficient way of living on board. We have generators as a back-up but I plan to enjoy her under power created from a day’s sailing.

Geist's saloon. "I didn't want any clutter inside"
Interior images: Mike Jones/Waterline media.

What is the atmosphere like inside?

I didn’t want any clutter to distract from the beauty and warmth of the timber and Spirit’s craftsmanship. Light was key to the interior design and a lot of consideration went into how natural light could warm the interior and create a calm atmosphere. The daily pattern of natural light was balanced with the responsive lighting system so the interior would always feel peaceful and never interrupted by harsh, bright lights.

The Spirit 111 combines classic beauty and green technology with beguiling grace.
Credit: Mike Jones/Waterline media.

How did you want to sail her?

I wanted to be able to sail the yacht short-handed. I will have some support to start with, but the goal is to be able to cruise her with just my friends and family. I also love racing at the classic regattas on my Spirit 52, so the yacht needed to be similarly competitive with a performance rig and sails. I have been very impressed with her sailing so far; she is fast and beautifully smooth to helm.

What are your favourite things on board?

My favourite things are the details. I spent a lot of time considering the door handles, for example. When the doors to the VIP and master suites are closed, the curved door handles are at different heights, so they look like uninterrupted waves rippling over the timber. The ends of the salon seating, where the timber bends around to a very small radius and looks like it has grown that way over many years, is also fascinating.

How will you use her?

She will be used for cruising and exploring new and old destinations with family and friends. I will also race her at regattas.

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