Sailing yacht design briefs tend to be relatively straightforward and go along the lines of “Create a safe boat with accommodation for the wife and kids and a plumb bow.” Others are a little more adventurous and may ask for a yacht capable of sailing to remote areas with systems located with access and serviceability in mind. However, every now and again, an owner comes along and injects a shot of adrenalin into the industry, as did Ngoni’s when he asked Royal Huisman to: “Build me a beast! Don’t build me a sheep in wolf’s clothing. This has to be an edgy and innovative weapon; fast and furious!” For a shipyard best known for creating such classics as the J-Class Hanuman and the 90-metre, three-mast schooner Athena, getting its teeth into a hotrod of the seas was a dream project.
With such a wild brief, Dubois Naval Architects were brought in to create Ngoni’s sleek exterior lines, with Rick Baker Ltd entrusted with the arguably more difficult task of creating an interior with its own very creative brief. It was obvious from the start that the Owner was passionate about what he wanted and would soon be challenging Dubois and Rick Baker to push the project to its limits.
“This is some yacht, inspired by an owner looking for the next new, new thing,” commented the late Ed Dubois. And by “new thing”, he meant a “beast”. Initially, Dubois drew a long and slender sloop with a plumb bow, sculpted aerodynamic superstructure and elegant beach deck, dominated by a towering rig. But, the Owner didn’t want elegant, he wanted handsome and aggressive, a sort of floating Jason Statham, if you will. And so, Dubois pushed it further, incorporating a reverse sheer, which for strength purposes has a convex sheer amidships that moves into a concave sheer aft. Superstructure wise, Ngoni was always going to be low slung and sleek thanks to her boom, and Dubois has somehow managed to incorporate large rectangular portholes, a sea-level gym door, a fold-out side boarding platform, crane, garage and a Jacuzzi without spoiling her lines in any way.
Dubois’ minimalistic approach to design is highlighted by Ngoni’s two helm stations. Here, the carbon fibre wheels are sunk into the deck to achieve the right combination of control and helming comfort, with the stations milled from stainless steel. Aft of the helms is a sunpad and an ocean of teak, with arcing stairs that cascade down to the water’s edge. Forward of the helms is the cockpit, which can be accessed via port and starboard stairwells. Here, in the sunken lounge, guests can relax on the sofa and bed, or dine at the 10-seat table aft. It’s here, surrounded by a rich teak and red wine colourway, that we get our first taste of Rick Baker’s flamboyancy – however, the Owner was never going to settle for anything other than unique and gave Baker the straightforward brief of “Don’t design a traditional yacht interior.”
Slipping through the sliding doors is like entering a futuristic gentlemen’s club, with an asymmetrical layout filled with an assortment of bold textures, warm colours and somewhat eye opening artworks. After admiring Dubois’ smooth, sleek exterior, it all comes as a bit of a shock, which is exactly what the Owner wanted, as during the briefing, he requested that there should be no predictable assumption that the styling, colours or finish of the exterior would inform of the sensual experience below. This would explain the suspended rhino, the gorilla clock and the bust of a woman with an artichoke on her head – three items not commonly found in superyacht deck houses. It’s an exuberant space and thanks to its numerous skylights and huge, curved glazing, the interior’s bespoke veneers, distinctive marble and Italian onyx are constantly bathed in bright, natural light.
At the port entrance of the deck house is the stairwell which leads down to the guest cabins and Owner’s suite. Heading down the spiral staircase to the lower deck lobby and the exuberance of the deck house has been replaced with a wood-heavy vibe. However, the guest cabins forward soon remind you of the Owner’s brief, as both are completely different in both looks and also in the materials used. To port we have a twin guest cabin with spacious bathroom and a light nautical feel, with a lighter double guest cabin featuring a Japanese bath to starboard. Both feature quality exotic veneers, marbles and resin finishes, but the execution is completely different.
Heading aft down the corridor, we find the Owner’s study to port. Unlike many onboard offices, Ngoni’s is a standalone cabin and even has its own bathroom. Starboard is a well-appointed gym with a large opening window covering the weight-biased equipment – again differing from the cardio-heavy gyms of other superyachts. Aft is the Owner’s full-beam stateroom, which features bespoke, built-in furniture and a bathroom large enough to warrant two doors.
Here, as throughout the yacht, the Owner can use his iPad to interface with the sophisticated audio-visual system which was supplied by Tijssen Elektro based on Royal Huisman engineering. The Owner also wanted to watch his favourite TV channels without relying on VSAT, so the AV bundles 3G and 4G broadband while close to land via a booster mounted on the masthead, while a 48 terabyte Kaleidescape storage system and a 320 disk vault mean there’s a lifetime’s wealth of music and movies available.
Back on deck we finally get to delve into Ngoni’s sail set up which is based around an advanced and extremely powerful carbon rig and foils. As you can imagine, it’s been designed with performance in mind, with the 853m2 square-top mainsail notable not just for its load-reducing halyard lock, but for allowing the square-top and its supporting diagonal batten to detach automatically and furl neatly into the boom with minimal intervention from the crew.
The development of the rig was a major project in its own right with spar builder Rondal (Royal Huisman’s sister company), sailmaker North Sails and Carbo-Link, collaborating on the design with Dubois Naval Architects and the shipyard team. To further reduce weight and drag, the team opted for continuous carbon shrouds from deck to masthead (70% weight reduction over conventional Nitronic rod rigging) and internal D-Tang connections where diagonal stays meet the mast tube – thus also removing the visual clutter of turnbuckles.
It’s a mightily impressive set up and it works in harmony with the light, yet firm steering; a high aspect-ratio rudder (one of the largest carbon rudders ever produced) and the near-100-tonne lifting keel, to achieve the Owner’s ‘Fast And Furious’ performance.
High performance sailing superyachts are still a rare sight on the oceans, with Ngoni’s flamboyant brief making her a truly unique sloop. Sleek, stylish, with a Panamax busting full air draught of 75-metres, Ngoni dominates the waves, using all of her 3,093 m² of downwind sail to propel her through the waves. When the Owner asked for a beast, he most definitely got it, but he also got a supremely comfortable and lavish yacht: flash and luxurious as well as fast and furious.
|Draft (keel up)||5.30m|
|Draft (keel down)||8.10m|
|Gross tonnage||396 GT|
|Hull speed||17 knots|
|Naval architect||Dubois Naval Architects|
|Exterior stylist||Dubois Naval Architects|
|Interior design||Rick Baker Ltd|
|Lighting design||The Light Corporation|
|Main sail||853 m2|
|Code sail||1097 m2|
|Stay sail||289 m2|
|Project management||Godfrey Cray Maritime Ltd and Captain Iain Cook|
|Builder||Royal Huisman, Vollenhove, The Netherlands|
|Year of delivery||2017|