It’s safe to say that the Spirit 111 Geist is unique, a quality that is a lot rarer than the yachting industry’s love affair with hyperbole might have you believe. Spirit Yachts in the United Kingdom built this modern classic of wood and epoxy. She is a masterpiece of sustainability and a work of art. Gobsmacked is the colloquial British expression that best describes how I felt when I saw her.
Geist (German for spirit or ghost) is thought to be the largest wooden sloop built in Britain since the 1930s. She was designed for a European owner in his mid-30s looking to up-size. He is a repeat client of Spirit Yachts, which also built the 54-foot sailing yacht that James Bond steers up the Grand Canal in Venice in the closing scenes of Casino Royale (Spirit Yachts is set to return to the big screen with 007 in No Time to Die).
The owner’s brief called for Geist to be as eco-friendly and fuel-efficient as possible from the keel up. Hence the Torqeedo electric drive system supported by four BMW lithium-ion battery banks that can power the yacht for 30 nautical miles at 8 knots. Under sail, the turning propeller shaft automatically recharges the batteries, allowing the yacht to operate for four days at anchor without having to plug into shorepower or start the two generators. As long as there is adequate wind on long ocean crossings, she will not need to burn any fossil fuels.
“Right at the beginning, we asked the young owner, who already had a Spirit 52, if he wanted a Prius or a Tesla,” says Sean McMillan, CEO of Spirit Yachts and its head designer. “He definitely wanted the latter. It’s been a challenging journey, which has given us the opportunity to innovate and gain insight for future superyacht and eco-focused builds.”
Arguably, the most remarkable innovation is the yacht’s all-wood interior by Rhoades Young Design—marking Spirit Yachts’ first collaboration with an outside design studio. The interior is a flowing, organic layout based on a “ribbon” that runs through the guest and owner areas. With barely a flat surface in sight, everything is composed of compound curves.
The focal point in the main salon is an oval sofa with a capstan-inspired, glass-topped table that the cathedral skylight overhead illuminates. Former Spirit Yachts employees Will Fennell and Ben Jackson handcrafted the sofa and table out of steam-bent strips of American black walnut. More than 2,000 man-hours went into building the seating alone.
“The owner told us he wanted a work of art, but making it all look simple is actually the hardest thing,” McMillan says. “There are so many complex curves that meet each other, and the only way to build the interior was in the boat.”
The guest accommodations include two double-berth ensuite staterooms aft, a starboard-side VIP stateroom and a forward owner’s stateroom. The berths are partially cocooned inside egg-shaped cupolas, highly sculptural shapes that resemble modernist forms the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí might have devised.
In addition to American walnut, teak is used for the soles, with sipo mahogany for the bulkheads and fitted furniture. All the wood is sustainably sourced, and the sipa was cut from a single log to ensure the grain matched perfectly throughout.
The skill of the craftspeople is evident in every detail, such as the individually shaped pieces of wood used to line the cupolas, which become progressively smaller the closer they get to the apex of the dome. Even the bathroom sinks were sculpted out of solid wood, showing astounding creativity and craftsmanship.
“With the knowledge that Spirit Yachts can make absolutely anything in wood, it was a thoroughly enjoyable process to take Rhoades Young’s beautiful interpretation of an unusual brief and assist in the creation of such a work of art,” says yacht designer Marcus Wright, who acted as the owner’s representative on the project.
The aesthetics aboard Geist are so unusual that it takes a while to realize there are no handles on the doors, which have hidden hand “scoops” as well as sensors that trigger the opening and closing mechanisms. There also are few conventional light switches, as the custom-designed LED system can track movement on board and light different areas accordingly. If someone has to get up in the night to use the head, for example, courtesy lighting illuminates the way, and the bathroom light switches on automatically.
“The system is fitted with a GPS clock that knows exactly when sunrise and sunset are, wherever the yacht is in the world,” says Nigel Stuart, managing director of Spirit Yachts. “Sensors can then detect and replicate the same temperature on the Kelvin scale of the outside light inside the boat.”
The yacht’s flush decks, long overhangs and low freeboard are pure Spirit Yachts styling, and the modern classic lines disguise her high-tech wood and epoxy construction, which provides a rigidity and strength-to-weight ratio on a par with carbon fiber (the yacht’s light displacement is less than 60 tons). She is also one of few yachts this size that can be sailed by an owner-operator without a professional crew—in fact, she doesn’t have any crew quarters.
In 1993, Spirit Yachts was founded to offer bespoke and sustainable alternatives to nondescript, fiberglass production boats. Since then, the builder has earned a reputation for creating beautiful yachts that merge classic grace and craftsmanship with modern technology and performance.
Geist takes this mission to the next level in so many ways, she has to be seen to be believed.◊
For more information: spirityachts.com
This article was originally published in the Winter 2021 issue.