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Pink Gin VI: On board the world’s largest all-carbon sloop sailing yacht

It would be easy to say that the Murano glass chandeliers hanging from the boom, the lavender baby grand piano or the velvet-upholstered end tables establish the theme for the sixth Pink Gin. Many probably came away with that impression, or perhaps a new appreciation for pewter surfaces, after seeing the yacht at the Monaco Yacht Show.

But if that was their takeaway, they missed if not the entire point then at least the driving force behind Hans Georg Näder’s new Baltic, a plumb-bowed beauty that, at more than 53 metres, is the world’s largest all-carbon fibre sloop.

“The brief was to assess everything we had learned from the previous boat and to improve and update it,” says naval architect Rolf Vrolijk, of Judel/Vrolijk & Co, who designed the previous 46 metre Pink Gin, also built by Baltic. The fourth Pink Gin (now Ngoni) was a 29 metre Baltic, showing the arc of the owner’s sailing trajectory. That his earlier yacht was a 17 metre Baltic named Bionic Elk, with a canting keel, shows Näder’s sense of humour.

Näder is the third-generation owner of Ottobock, a German orthopaedics technology company that creates advanced prosthetic limbs. He’s an inventor, an engineer and an imagineer, who teases innovation out of those around him by challenging the status quo.

He funds a working laboratory in Berlin called Open Innovation Space, where development engineers can work on multi-disciplinary solutions to product development. Näder, who holds more than 1,000 patents, is also the majority owner of Baltic Yachts since taking over the yard in 2013. Thus Vrolijk knew he could have any technological tool at his disposal and the yard’s full support.

Näder likes to cruise and quickly, but comfort is essential as he entertains on board a great deal. The priorities for the last boat were simplicity and quiet. Those issues checked off the list, the goal this time was for improved stability under sail without sacrificing performance or a sloop rig necessary for the typical light air conditions of a Mediterranean summer.

“I have enjoyed most of the summer on board and we have cruised 7,000 nautical miles. Despite her large size — in fact, because of her size — she still provides an ideal platform for relaxing and hanging out with the crew,” says Näder.

“Compared to the previous Pink Gin, [this] more U-shaped hull produces more stability for her size,” says Vrolijk. Pink Gin VI is designed with a maximum heel angle of between 20 and 22 degrees for comfort and efficiency (as opposed to Vrolijk’s racing boats that stay sailing — without easing off — with up to 27 degrees of heel).

In addition to hull form stability, Pink Gin VI has 75 tonnes of ballast, 71 tonnes of which are in her torpedo-shaped keel, which can extend to a draught of seven metres, or lift to under five metres to access shallower anchorages.

Baltic Yachts has developed a true mastery of lightweight construction since its founding in 1973. It was an early adopter of vacuum bagging and on the front lines of prepreg carbon fibre laminates. The new Pink Gin is just as cutting edge.

The design, which started at 50 metres, grew to its final 53.9 metres to accommodate both technical and lifestyle enhancements, one of which is the real technical whiz-bang feature of the yacht. It came from a year of design discussions and problem solving.

A bigger boat means more guests, and more provisions coming aboard, and getting more guests and crew on and off the boat. Näder and his former captain Henry Hawkins, who moved ashore to be CEO when Näder bought the stake in Baltic, noticed how hull doors on the crew side of some large motor and sailing yachts facilitate bringing stores aboard and serve as a discreet crew entrance.

“On many [other] yachts this size, anything coming aboard [when the boat is at anchor] has to gain access via a side ladder, move up on to the deck and then down into the accommodation,” says Vrolijk during the sea trial. “We wanted to make that easier. We thought, let’s bring things aboard on the level they will stay.”

Näder also liked the idea of opening superyacht balconies near water level, previously seen only on metal hulls. The GA for Pink Gin VI showed a great place in the transition area between the lower saloon and the galley that could be enlarged to make an entrance lobby.

The only drawback to the plan was that sort of amidships location on a sailing yacht involves a huge amount of load stress, which tends to induce bending and there was no possibility of welding in a heavy metal ring frame to carry the load.

When the engineers, naval architect and composite specialist Gurit stopped looking for ways to transfer load around the hull door and instead made the door part of the load path, the solution gelled. The hull stresses experienced when the boat is sailing and the rig is tensioned are transferred through the 1.89 metre by 2.64 metre door and its carbon frame via six 90mm stainless steel locking pins that secure the hatch in place and the hinges. So snug is the system that the backstay has to be eased in order to provide enough tolerance for the hull door to open.

The solution, developed through finite element analysis and certified by DNV GL, was such an “a-ha” moment that Näder asked if they could do two of them, the second to be a slightly smaller version to function as a balcony and the ultimate picture window for his master suite.

Matching the technical wizardry of all this, and the 200 layers of carbon fibre that make up the keel trunk, the British firm Design Unlimited created interior and deck lounging areas that are eclectic, comfortable, engaging and equally memorable.

The studio also created the previous Pink Gin’s interior, but that project would not be the starting point of this one, except for the general layout and two favourite pieces that were brought forward: a chandelier over the dining table and a vintage Louis Vuitton trunk serving as a coffee table in the saloon. Mark Tucker, founder of the studio, says the interior style defies classification. “She pushes boundaries, she surprises and she inspires,” he says.

Surfaces, finishes and textures create an artistic environment. The oak plank floors throughout Pink Gin VI are painted with a layer of gold and a topcoat of silver. Then joiners went to work with sandpaper, scuffing down the silver and gold paints, in places down to the bare wood, to create a patinated effect that will no doubt get even more interesting with use.

A soft wine colour repeats in the carpets and velvet upholstery. It’s an appropriate shade for an owner who says the boat is his place of relaxation, adding: “I don’t do yoga, I drink red wine.”

The owner’s suite and all guest cabins save the VIP are forward of the saloon. Pink Gin VI’s added length allows an extra guest cabin forward and a much larger master suite with a separate superyacht office and a walk-in wardrobe/dressing room.

The furniture in the suite appears freestanding, which increases the sense of scale, while the opening balcony creates a resort atmosphere. The fact that the en suite’s sink area is open to the cabin visually enlarges the space while the toilet and shower rooms are tucked discreetly to the sides.

The eclecticism of Pink Gin VI’s décor is best seen in this space. The exuberance of mauve velvet nightstands from Promemoria, a stingray and bone wrapped desk, a bulkhead faced with a reclaimed wood artwork and a curved leather sofa make the suite look “collected” rather than “designed”.

The hull door that opens to create the owner’s terrace can be hidden behind sliding doors that mimic vertical blinds, matching the treatments over the portholes in all the cabins. “I like to surprise people with a different design approach and innovative materials,” says Näder.

The en suite’s hardware in a deep oiled bronze colour is inspired, especially as it contrasts with the hammered copper sink and custom light fixtures. You want to look for the next unusual surface. It’s worth pausing to note that the en suite décor throughout Pink Gin VI is consistent in its steampunk look — exemplified by the hand finished bronze hardware that looks like valves instead of levers. Rippled glass, meanwhile, complements the white subway tiles and dramatic Edison-style light bulbs.

The owner has a fondness for cruising in Cuba, no doubt related to his fondness for cigars. But he also likes modern art and his travels brought him into contact with two contemporary Cuban artists, Roberto Diago and Roberto Fabelo. The latter is responsible for the life-size sculpture of a sea nymph that graces the guest foyer. A sketch of the head of the creature also appears as a portrait. “The interior volume allowed me to express myself and provide the space that the art needs to be effective and impressive,” says Näder.

With the lounge to starboard, a dining table is to port in the lower saloon and it is a conversation piece. Danish artist Marcin Rusak has captured flower petals and leaves in a dark resin given a satin polished surface. It’s a stunning piece that looks at first glance as if a tapestry is spread across the table.

Pewter is a recurring theme as well. The cockpit table is inlaid with pewter floral patterns while the bar top and buffet table have solid pewter surfaces. It looks like “leathered” stone but it will never have to be polished. “The whole point of Pink Gin is to be able to enjoy her as a whole,” says Näder. “Wherever you are on the yacht you can find comfort and entertainment, whether it’s from the artwork, the piano, the bar, or indeed, the sailing experience!”

As for sailing technology, Pink Gin VI has a Rondal carbon fibre mast 16 metres higher than a J Class sloop and flies a massive 1,322 square metres of sail upwind. Smooth hydraulics, however, get the 755 square metre main hoisted and locked for sailing in just two minutes.

Pink Gin VI should manage 13 to 14 knots in moderate conditions and Vrolijk expects her crew to tuck in a reef when true wind speeds exceed 16 knots. Downwind, she carries a bright pink 1,838 square metre asymmetrical sail that weighs nearly a quarter of a tonne, says Hawkins.

The yacht’s high aspect rudder extends to a depth of 4.4 metres and has a surface area of more than 5.5 square metres. Electrically powered rams muscle the rudder but, to give the helmsman essential feedback, Baltic’s engineers and Swiss specialist firm Esoro developed a power steering system that mimics loads and movement caused by waves and side forces and relays them to the wheel via a control sensor, for a realistic sensation akin to direct steering.

Returning topside, the Murano glass chandeliers twinkling overhead act in complicity with the soft fabrics and the deep cushions, as if keeping a secret about the power Pink Gin VI is poised to deliver, while the eclectic art and novel light fixtures deliver the knowing wink of an owner who does not take things too seriously. It might be strange to hear the owner of a shipyard say “you don’t need a boat”, as he said in Finland.

“But — and there is a but — you need family, friends and love; that is the most healthy cocktail of life. It just happens that the ocean is the best place to enjoy this cocktail.” And Pink Gin is one powerful cocktail.

First published in the December 2017 edition of Boat International.

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