At 34 metres, sloop-rigged sailing superyacht Spirit 111 is the largest build from Britain’s Spirit Yachts to date. The organic, flowing interior of this hand-crafted wooden yacht belies its cutting-edge technology and impressive eco-credentials
| 28 April 2021
It was a visit to a magnificent sandstone canyon in northern Arizona that formed the kernel of inspiration for Spirit 111.
“The initial concept began with a large round capstan-style table in the centre of the interior,” recalls Sean McMillan, founder and head designer of British classic yacht builder Spirit Yachts in an interview with Asia-Pacific Boating. “The rest of the interior developed around this central circle and was inspired by the owner’s trip to Antelope Canyon. If you look at photos of the curved, organic shapes of the canyon you can see the synergy.”
The comparisons of Spirit 111’s interiors with the canyon – sinuous and smooth, somehow frozen outside of time – are clear. The 34-metre sloop-rigged sailing superyacht, launched in October 2019, is the largest single-masted wooden yacht built in Britain since Shamrock V in the 1930s and is the largest build from Spirit to date.
The comparisons of Spirit 111’s interiors with Arizona’s Antelope Canyon – sinuous and smooth, somehow frozen outside of time – are clear
Its impressive interiors were born from the Ipswich-based yard’s first partnership with design agency Rhoades Young, who worked with Spirit to draw up the initial concepts for the interior. The Spirit design team then worked closely with the owner to develop the drawings into final renderings.
The unique, curved interior is defined by sleek contours that bring the walls, bulkheads and furniture together in one flowing design.
Discreet doors and hidden storage ensure smooth lines and a contoured look. Even the door handles were hidden to meet the owner’s strict criteria: to open a door, a guest places their hand inside a hidden recess, and sensors detect the movement and release the catch to open the door. Each of these doors took a month to hand-craft – and there are eight of them.
The seating, which is hand-made from strips of American Walnut timber, took over 2,000 person-hours to build and was designed to complement the ebb and flow of the wooden interior. The smart lighting system onboard is controlled by sun sensors, which adjusts the brightness to ensure there is no difference between outside and inside, explains Spirit Yachts’ managing director Nigel Stuart.
“On the interior, there are no light switches at all – motion sensors will turn lights on and off during the day and during the night, while sensors under the beds will detect if someone is up and light the way to the nearest ensuite. If a guest starts to go elsewhere within the interior, the system will deduce which way they are going and light the relevant areas in a very soft yellow light.”
But while the flowing interior design remains a unique feat, there were plenty of challenges involved in balancing the yacht’s more practical considerations.
“The visual side of the brief made the importance of ‘hidden’ technical spaces even more acute, given the amount of systems and engineering on such an advanced yacht,” says McMillan. “The curves of the interior not only had to look seamless, but they also had to house the functional elements of the yacht and be accessible.
“As well as looking like a ‘work of art’, the interior of the yacht also had to comply to RINA’s exacting classification requirements. This marriage of practicality, safety and beauty to deliver on the owner’s brief made the project a thrilling challenge.”
The eco-credentials of the project were of prime importance to the overseas owner. As a result, Spirit 111 is not only incredible to look at, but is also one of the most environmentally friendly sailing superyachts ever built.
A Torqeedo electric propulsion system using a 100kW motor propels the yacht silently for up to 30nm at eight knots from battery power alone. While sailing, the propulsion system regenerates the four BMW lithium battery banks by rotating the propeller shaft. All power-consuming components have been carefully selected to be highly efficient and use minimal energy without impacting performance or comfort.
The air conditioning uses variable speeds with eco options via battery or shore power, and the galley has also been designed with ultimate efficiency in mind. The fridge and freezer were built with Cryogel insulation to ensure minimal power consumption. Water is heated only on demand, ensuring no wasted energy. Heated water is stored within high-density insulation and high-efficiency transfer coils for rapid heat transfer and temperature retention.
Stuart tells Asia-Pacific Boating that some of the construction techniques and processes used in Spirit 111 will be filtered down to make the yard’s current builds more efficient and sustainable.
“Our technical understanding and knowledge was enhanced by the 111 project, and it has made us look at new builds differently,” he says. “As a result of the 111, we now analyse the construction, operation and (hypothetical) end of life of a yacht and ask how we can reduce the environmental impact at each of those stages. We no longer consider an electric drive yacht or one with complex engineering or electrical systems as a challenge; it’s just the norm.”
Spirit 111 is also one of few superyachts capable of cruising without professional crew. Indeed, there is no dedicated crew accommodation on board. Guests have the choice of two double ensuite aft cabins or a starboard side double VIP cabin. The forward cabin holds the spacious master suite, complete with curved sofas built into the side of the hull, double bed and ensuite. All heads have rounded, solid timber sinks integrated into the worktop and power showers.
A single-masted wooden yacht of this size that can be owner-driven is nothing less than a feat of engineering – Nigel Stuart
Stuart recalls that the level of craftsmanship and skill involved in the build was “eye-watering”.
“Everything from the precision required to veneer the curved ‘pods’ for the beds to matching the grain of the timber for the walls and galley involved an incredible amount of skill,” he says. “It also became clear early on in the project that a major challenge revolved around all the yacht’s systems working harmoniously together to ensure minimum energy consumption without sacrificing the yacht’s performance or the luxury experience for those onboard. It was really important that all the key suppliers communicated and worked collaboratively.”
McMillan adds: “A single-masted wooden yacht of this size that can be owner-driven is nothing less than a feat of engineering. The yacht’s impressive strength to weight ratio, a carbon rig and lightweight, performance sails will allow the owner to compete at regattas worldwide.”
The owner, who spends the majority of his time away from marinas, enjoys sailing and anchoring in bays. The electric propulsion system means Spirit 111 can operate for up to four days at anchor without having to plug into shore power or start the two onboard generators.
“When the yacht crosses the Atlantic, as long as there is adequate wind, she will not need to consume any fossil fuels,” says Stuart. “So far, the yacht has been cruising in Scandinavia and the Caribbean – and the owner is delighted with her!”
Technical specifications: Spirit 111
Designer: Sean McMillan
Interior design: Rhoades Young & Spirit Yachts
Construction: Wood epoxy composite on stainless steel space frame
Displacement: (Light) 58 tonnes, 65 tonnes fully laden
Ballast ratio: 45%
Sail area: 450 Sqm (working)
Rig type: Fractional Bermudan sloop
Engine: Torqeedo electric drive system powered by 4 BMW lithium battery 40kwh units. 2 X 25kw generators
Keel: SG iron blade with lead bulb, ‘T’ configuration
Rudder: Carbon composite spade type
Rig: Fully custom carbon, keel stepped