The Vandal, an artfully designed supercar of the seas, puts the yacht owner at the wheel, and guest comfort at a premium. Risa Merl enjoys a dry run.
It’s one of those fresh Côte d’Azur days when the wind is blowing just as hard as the sun is shining. The kind of day that will leave you covered in salt spray, and certainly spilling your cocktail, if you dare to cruise at speeds of 40 knots, as we are doing on board the new 14-metre Vandal chase boat. My hosts apologise for the blustery weather, but I am secretly grateful for it since it will allow me to see what this boat – designed for an exceptionally dry ride – is really capable of.
We head out of Port Grimaud bound for Pampelonne beach, passing Saint-Tropez along the way. As we round the point, the wind kicks up even more. We pass tenders that are bouncing erratically over the waves, yet the Vandal zips along, cutting through the water with her vertical bow. Make no mistake, the ride is exhilarating. A smile is fixed on my face as I perch at the helm, yet it’s also extremely comfortable and dry. Even on the aft sunpads, I don’t feel a single splash, and upon returning to port there isn’t one drop of water on the forward deck.
"The ride is exhilarating"
“This isn’t a race car, it’s a supercar – you go as fast possible, but in comfort,” says Ernest Menten, co-founder of Vandal and the custom tender builder Tenderworks, both based in the Netherlands. The car analogies run thick as the boat’s builders and designers discuss their new boat. With a beautifully curvaceous exterior crafted by RWD, which counts automotive designers among its staff, the Vandal was inspired by supercars.
The brief was for a fast, open boat with strong yet simple lines. Built entirely of carbon fibre, with titanium detailing, the Vandal is a study in organic shapes. “We wanted it to feel like you had started with one massive block of carbon and we were chiselling away at it to create this boat,” says Adrian Chisnell of RWD. “All of the elements needed to feel connected in some way. To create that in a carbon boat is unbelievably hard because you have to join the boat to the deck at some point.”
The interior of the 14 metre open chase boat
The result is one simple and sensuous form. It is nearly impossible to see where the hull and bulwarks end and the bimini top – which mimics the air intake of an F1 car – begins. It’s not merely about looks, though: the bimini is sturdy, stiff and well-proportioned to the boat itself. “The bimini stood up on its own before it was fitted. The centre of gravity was in exactly the right place,” says Chisnell.
The Vandal is one of those rare boats that looks beautiful on the water – turning heads with her soft curves and white-to-grey ombré paint job – yet is even more interesting when you get up close. Every piece is properly finished; every hinge, handle and cleat is hidden. “Like a very good car, all the shut lines are carefully placed and hard to see, and a lot of the hinges are custom made,” Chisnell says. Other elements, like the cap on the flagpole that has a V for Vandal, were 3D printed in-house. A recess line runs around 60mm below the top of the inside bulwark, which creates space for a titanium handhold to be concealed. With LED-lit insets under the seats and cabinetry, the furnishings in the cockpit look as if they are floating.
Exterior design has been handled by RWD
The stepped hull was courtesy of Farr Yacht Design, the Maryland-based firm known for creating racing yachts for the America’s Cup and Volvo Ocean Race. And powered by twin MarineDiesel VGT500 engines, the Vandal reaches a top speed of 45-plus knots, cruises comfortably at 35 to 40 knots, and at 30 knots she can travel 360 nautical miles. “The owner could say to his captain ‘I’ll see you in Portofino’ and meet his superyacht there,” Menten says. This is the essence of what Vandal is trying to create – a boat that looks great, moves well and gives the owner a taste of freedom. “A lot of superyacht owners are stuck on their boats,” he says. “They always have the best, of course, but that comes with having a lot of crew and people around them.”
Menten says there are owners who enjoy luxury but also want to get behind the wheel. “At home, they might get picked up by a Bentley, but they don’t drive it themselves. Instead they have a garage full of supercars which they take out,” he says. Vandal seeks to fill a niche in the market, for a chase boat that an owner will be proud to drive – and have fun doing it.
Vandal seeks to fill a niche in the market, for a chase boat that an owner will be proud to drive – and have fun doing it.
One owner was so taken by the Vandal that they have ordered two for their in-build 90-metre-plus Feadship: one limo tender and one customised open Vandal. The latter is almost identical to the standard model, but its roof lowers so it can fit snugly in the tender garage. “The tender is often an afterthought. We did it the other way around – we built a big boat with the tenders in mind,” says Captain Niels Ackermans of the Feadship project. “It’s a real boat, not a little tender. We can turn it from a supercar to adventurer – stocked with all the scuba diving gear. If you want to go to a dive site 10 miles away it’s not a problem, and you can do it all in comfort.”
Chisnell says the Vandal is “for people who understand boating, who understand refinement”. Menten echoes this sentiment, and though he doesn’t want to give an exact price, it’s implied that the Vandal is much more expensive than your typical chase boat. “You could certainly buy a cheaper boat,” says Chisnell, “but anyone who wants to have one of these will know as soon as they lay eyes on it.”