Modern classic Savannah returns to Newport
by Nick Jeffery
One of New England’s most celebrated yachts is returning to Newport this summer for the first time in almost 20 years. Launched in Newport in 1997, the 27.43m modern classic Savannah has spent the intervening years turning heads whilst cruising and racing successfully in the Caribbean and Europe.
Savannah was conceived by her first owner, Randolph Watkins, after studying the lines of two dozen yachts and homing in on Halloween by Fife and the J Class Endeavour by Charles E. Nicholson. Elizabeth Meyer’s J Class Management had been originally hired to develop the design before the celebrated Newport designer David Pedrick was tasked with her naval architecture and exterior design, along with John Munford for the interior.
Pedrick introduced Nigel Ingram, of MCM Newport, to manage the construction at Concordia Yachts, which ceased trading during the build – meaning pulling a team of experts together at Portsmouth, Rhode Island, for her completion. Ingram regards Savannah as his favourite yacht out of some 75 projects that MCM has overseen.
The brief was to “build the most beautiful classic yacht conceivable”. This mission, allied to an uncompromising build specification, state-of-the-art technology and a beautiful aesthetic produced immediate results, with Savannah winning the ShowBoats International Design Award for Best Sailing Yacht. At her launch, she was described by BOAT International as: “A tour de force of single-minded aesthetic purity made possible by the intelligent application of modern boatbuilding technology”.
It wasn’t just the exterior and the performance that turned heads. John Munford, whose run of over 20 international awards was topped in 2013 with the ShowBoats Design Award’s Lifetime Achievement Award, says: “Savannah is the ultimate classic sailing yacht evoking the grandeur of the 30s J Class at but at reduced scale with the comfort and elegance of a classic styled interior. Behind this is an integrated structure of modern systems and engineering for today’s cruising and racing with the interior finely crafted around disguising the hours of craftsmanship and detailing”.
Munford’s use of panelled mahogany joinery and buttoned leather upholstered seating, to say nothing of a wood-burning stove, library, oil paintings, and roll-top enamel bath in the master cabin, makes for a warm and inviting interior, reminiscent of a London Club.
Hugh Morrison, Savannah’s current owner, first set eyes on her early in her life. She had just won the 2001 Concours d’Elégance at the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta and was alongside in Falmouth Harbour, surrounded by an admiring throng. As owner, he first helmed her in the 2007 Palma Superyacht Cup. Savannah made it on to the podium, beating two of the original J Class on handicap and outpointing legendary maxis upwind.
Savannah is based for eight months of the year in the old port of Saint-Tropez and spends the rest of the year racing and cruising all over the Mediterranean and in UK waters. Her regatta plans this summer include the NYYC 175th anniversary regatta, the Candy Store Cup and the Nantucket Classic Regatta before she crosses back to defend her Club 55 Nioulargue trophy at Les Voiles de St Tropez in October.