"Every boat has a soul,” says Yann Dabbadie. From America’s Cup racers to the superyacht builds he project manages at Southern Wind Shipyard, each yacht he has had a hand in has emerged with a distinctive character. So, what is the soul of Morgana? He laughs: “She is wild!”
Morgana will slip along as meek and quiet as an otter but set her in full canvas in a stiff breeze and she’ll bite your head off. The sharp lines of the striking Nauta and Reichel/Pugh 30-metre fully custom yacht hint at the latent power that ripples through this “performance cruiser”. At the touch of a few buttons beside the wheel, her owner can simply engage prey drive and this easy-mannered, comfortable boat will transform into a house-trained predator.
Late last year, when Morgana was launched from the Southern Wind yard in Cape Town, the build team got its first taste of what this sophisticated cruiser could do. Dabbadie was on board and recalls easy speeds of 12 to 14 knots.
“That was without pushing,” he says. “When we were bearing away we got 18 to 19 knots without trying. This is a boat that could do 25 to 30 knots downwind easily. In stronger winds, you feel like you are riding a wild horse. You have to be on top of it.”
From her livery of dark blue and brilliant green – traditional spiked with modern – everything about Morgana says “just you watch”. Her lines are pin-sharp, running from a staunch plumb bow to the very slightly raked transom in an almost straight sheerline. A slender coachroof tapering aft to the guest cockpit coamings is so wispish the yacht looks almost totally flush-decked.
Towering above the hull is a high modulus carbon rig and a powerful sailplan; below the water, a single rudder and a deep lifting keel that extends to 6.1 metres. These are all parts of a complex puzzle, for which every single piece had to be weighed and measured. Morgana’s muscular power is rooted with a fine balance.
The owner’s brief was that his new yacht, a successor to his 22-metre Farr-designed mini maxi from 1992, should be comfortable for living on board for long periods, quick in the light airs of the Mediterranean, ready to win races, yet fit for cruising anywhere in the world.
For a sense of the sophistication of the project, simply take the design hours expended. “From the blank sheet and preliminary design to choosing the naval architect and to the end of the design, we put in 3,500 hours,” says Mario Pedol, co-founder of Nauta Design. “That gives you an idea of the amount of decisions that had to be taken.” This doesn’t include the naval architecture time, the systems and sails optimisation work, or even the two years that the carbon composite construction and fit-out took the 250 people who work at the Southern Wind yard.
If the promise of 30 knots downwind and of logging 800 to 950 kilometres a day across an ocean weren’t enough, consider the form the freshly launched Morgana showed on her maiden voyage. This first passage was from South Africa to Europe, the equivalent of two transatlantic crossings back-to-back, and sailed hot after sea trials.
“I don’t think I am overstating that in this range we really know what we are talking about,” says Andrea Micheli, Southern Wind’s commercial director. “We don’t want to have a boat that looks fantastic in the magazines but is not usable or fixable or has to be corrected because it has been developed too aggressively. We are happy to use high-end tech and to raise the bar, but also this boat has to go out and sail 7,000 miles [11,265 kilometres].”
The Morgana project brought together a team that had worked on some of the most cutting-edge sailing superyachts of recent years. Nauta and Reichel/Pugh had worked together on Pier Luigi Loro Piana’s 39-metre Baltic 130 My Song. Carlo Torre had, among other projects, managed the design and construction of the radical WallyCento Tango. From all these designs came the basis of multiple ideas and innovations.
One exacting conundrum always at the heart of the design and build was how to keep weight and drag low. The yacht had to be wide and powerful, with high form stability, yet not have excessive wetted surface area. A deep keel was needed for performance, but it had to lift to reach almost any cruising ground, and can be raised from 6.1 metres to four metres. More than half a tonne of weight – 600 kilograms to be precise, or 20 per cent of the total keel weight – was shed from the middle of the boat by producing a steel keel head with a semi-cylindrical rather than rectangular shape and building the keel trunk in solid carbon.
The inner and outer skin of the hull were made in full carbon with a foam core, but lighter Nomex and pre-preg carbon were used for the foredeck, sidedeck and bulkheads at the extremities. During the build, the weight of every item was calculated for its contribution to the target and eventual trim of the yacht.
Torre, a naval architect and the managing director of specialist superyacht consultancy Monaco Yacht Temptation (MYT), optimised the sails, sail handling systems and keel. He adapted the sailplan, increasing the size of the J4 staysail and introducing, in collaboration with Doyle Italy, a furling but cable-less Code 1 that would be easy to handle and stow when cruising. The wardrobe includes a top-down furling gennaker on a cable, and a smaller J3 jib for stronger winds. Asymmetric spinnakers are coming soon for racing.
But the ride was not the only challenge. “The atmosphere of a boat is always a process,” observes Nauta’s Pedol. “Owners want to show their living ambience and [Morgana’s owner] wanted to keep the feeling of his previous boat of the 1990s but in a contemporary way.”
The trick was not only to create the right aesthetic but, at a basic structural level, to fit an owner’s suite and two generous guest cabins in the interior space without it being chopped and segmented into three parts by a full-height keel trunk and engine room. The answer was to position the engine room starboard of the centreline, making room for a port side guest cabin aft of the saloon, and a TV lounge and second guest cabin on either side of the keel trunk.
As you descend from the cockpit into the saloon, hull windows on each side and a large skylight allow light to stream in and emphasise Morgana’s length and size. The impression was central to the whole design. “It gives you this sensation when you step down the companionway, with the deck length in front,” explains Pedol, “but these functions were not easy to arrange.”
Morgana’s interior is a synthesis of the modern and the traditional. The furniture is in a mixture of teak and oak veneer with a reddish tone redolent of the owner’s previous yacht. The joinery looks sturdy but it is in fact all super lightweight, made in-house at Southern Wind in honeycomb or foam sandwich construction.
The owner’s suite, right forward, is positioned where there is the most privacy and quiet from cockpit and crew movements. Modern materials surface in details such as bookcase edges made from titanium, the almost sculptural free-standing carbon saloon table, carbon countertops in the heads and inserts on the grabrails each side of the companionway steps.
Underneath its sophisticated simplicity is the secret beating heart of Morgana, a hugely complex network of power, electrical and hydraulic systems. This is the most advanced yacht yet built by Southern Wind and she boasts the capability to execute sailhandling manoeuvres in seconds. “This is a new generation of boat, faster and powerful. I don’t know what the limit will be,” says Torre. “There are thousands of small improvements; together they make a difference and you find yourselves at another level.”
When Morgana lines up for racing, she is expected to be highly competitive in a class that includes some of the most pulse-quickening yachts in the world, such as Inuoï, WinWin, Missy, Ribelle, Kiboko and the WallyCentos. This is where some of the most dramatic and photogenic clashes in all of sailing take place. For now, Morgana is set to go cruising, but watch out: this newcomer is poised and ready to tear into the pack.
Morgana’s secret muscle power
A decade ago, most sailing superyachts were rather unwieldy, slow to make sail, slow to tack and gybe. The racecourse was not their natural habitat. Technology has advanced rapidly, however, to evolve systems that allow yachts to hoist and gybe a spinnaker, for example, as fast as a dayboat. This has opened up manoeuvres and tactical scenarios that would have been unheard of in the past.
“There have been huge developments in hydraulic systems and high-speed winches,” says designer Jim Pugh of Reichel/Pugh. “Now you can hoist a spinnaker in 12 seconds. Before, you’d gybe and then have to slow down to wait for the new sheet to come in. Now, you can sheet in as fast as the boat can turn.”
“It’s so much faster,” agrees Carlo Torre of MYT. “Knowing that a gybe takes 40 to 90 seconds to complete, you can take the strategic advantage of gybing on a shift in half the time. We have taken the time for trimming out of the equation.”
On Morgana this is all made possible by Harken 1235 winches so powerful that, Torre explains, you “can trim up to 900kg and hoist and gybe in first gear if you have enough oil”.At the helm pedestals there are gybe and hoist functions. When the gybe button is pressed, 70 per cent of the hydraulic power is allocated to the sheet winches, while the hoist button is used to favour oil flow and pressure to the mast winches.
Morgana draws power directly from a lithium battery bank and has two 48v DC variable speed generators producing 40kW. The Programmable Logic Controller system (responsible for the automation of many common tasks) was designed by MYT and can run in silent mode. Morgana will behave with the same quiet agility as any full-on race yacht.
This feature is taken from the April 2021 issue of BOAT International. Get this magazine sent straight to your door, or subscribe and never miss an issue.SHOP NOW