Yacht Class n°13 (june-july-august 2018)
The Finnish shipyard Nautor and its Swan do not need introduction. The Swan 95 S, with her sleek lines designed by German Frers, allows to appreciate all that modern technology brings to a remarkable know-how.
Written by: : Christophe Varène – Photos : Nautor’s Swan
Boarding a Swan is definitely one of those out of time moments. For over half a century, the Finnish shipyard Swan, enriched by its many achievements, has embodied the history of high-end yachting. It has developed its reputation thanks to the quality of its constructions, but also to its collaborations with the most talented architects. Prominent among them is the American Olin Stephens, from Sparkman & Stephens, designer of one of the mythical pleasure sailboat, the Swan 65. With this superb ketch, the Mexican Ramon Carlin and his cruising family won the first Whitbread (1973-74) on Sayula II, right under the nose of professional sailors. In 1981, the Argentinian architect German Frers became the shipyard’s partner, and designed, among other things, the modern, slim and timeless lines of the Swan 112 in 1999, the Swan 100 in 2002 and this most recent Swan 95.
A moderate upwind list
In the port of Cannes, at the end of the last Yachting Festival, we were given the opportunity to join the quick transportation of this elegant sloop to the Nautor’s base in Villefranche-sur-Mer. A short journey of just a little over 20 miles that promised to be interesting considering the perfect weather conditions and a forecast southerly wind of 15 – 20 knots. With four people aboard, including the captain and one of his regular crew members, LOT 99 casted off under a cloudy sky. Forward, the anchor was raised and the chain cleaned in a single operation thanks to the strong seawater jet on its shackles from the tilting bow roller before, once the procedure completed, disappearing in the anchor well. Aft, the captain managed the exit with the fingertips from the starboard helm station where are located the throttles, the bow thruster and an impressive series of sails commands. Once the port mole passed, the mainsail was hoisted. Installed on a furling boom, its good horizontality should be monitored when hoisted and even more when dropped. The genoa then unfolded and a small upwind tack helped us to bypass the Lerins Island. The list was moderate, but a small foothold could be useful and comfortable in more sustained conditions.
With the tips of the fingers
LOT 99 was extremely soft at the helm, as the two rudders bring directional precision and stability. We slightly bore away during our run towards Villefranche-sur-Mer, the fine hull sliding at 11 knots with a wind at 130° and 17 knots. And, with a gust at 23 knots, there was immediately a sensitive acceleration, the speedometer showing 13 then a 15.1 knots peak. The carbon construction (hull, deck and rigging) provides both rigidity and lightness : the 470 m2 of upwind sails manage the boat’s (nearly) 60 tons while the 20 tons of keel ballast (5.50 m draft in low position) give stiffness to the sails. With its backstays and its four spreaders, the rigging is performant, and should be easily handled by a small crew. Note that most of the settings can also be easily controlled from the control panels near the steering positions. The helmsman even forgets the 29 metres overall length, taking pleasure in each wave passage and watching out for the next gust to vibrate in unison with the hull. Alas, the port of Villefranche-sur-Mer was quickly in sight. We took a last walk on the deck to appreciate every detail of this exceptional sailboat. If the Swan 95 exists in flush-deck (FD), our unit, LOT 99, is a S version (for Saloon) : her superstructures are slightly raised around the cockpit to offer maximum comfort to a cruise-oriented program. To maximize this convivial area, the three-speed four Harken 1120 HL electrical winches are located just in front of the two helms. Sheltered if necessary by the wide hood, the sofas are adjustable to create either a large sunbed or frame two beautiful extending tables. At the stern, the transom lowers and becomes a practical swim platform, unveiling a garage for a 3.50m tender.
A spacious master cabin
After a superb manoeuvre, the Swan 95 S turned on the spot in the small port of Villefranche thanks to her two thrusters. The time had finally come to dive into the heart of this yacht to discover her amenities. These are divided into two main areas with the aft part devoted to the owner and his guests, the front one for the crew. Helped by the vertical bar and the two ceiling handrails, we took the wide companionway leading to the spacious and bright salon. The high portholes bring clarity, but the outside is only visible when standing. The chart table on starboard features a beautiful instrumentation and a large screen and is adjacent to the living room and its an L-shaped sofa.
Facing it, a long table can accommodate many guests and its top can be lowered to create a vast relaxation area. In the center, the lifting keel well blends with the background thanks to a beautiful leather trim. Next to the companionway, a passageway leads to the cabins with the guest ones first, each fitted with two single beds and a beautiful bathroom with shower. The full beam aft features a generous master suite : a large central double bed surrounded by a small lounge and an office area that can also act as a dressing table. As requested by the owner, this cabin enjoys direct exterior access, leading just in front of the starboard steering wheel. The steps seem steep, but the ceiling handrail makes this descent easy. On each side, portholes bring daylight and a wonderful sea view. In the evening, the indirect lighting hidden in the valance and suspended ceilings creates a soft and warm atmosphere. The materials are of quality and the finishes meticulously designed.
An in-house design
Leaving the salon, we head forward and reach the beautiful kitchen. Featuring long worktops, it has a U-shaped layout at the level of the stove and sink, quite useful in navigation. Deck and hull portholes make this space bright and airy. The captain’s cabin is located on the opposite, on starboard, the rest of the crew sharing the last two en suite cabins. A vertical staircase directly to the foredeck. Note that on the more race-oriented FD version, all the interiors are reversed, the crew area being aft and the owner and guest cabins forward. In any case, the entire boat being built at the shipyard in Pietarsaari, northern Finland, special attention is paid to the wishes of customers. On a project like the Swan 95 S, patience is required since between the design and construction, the project takes about two and a half years. For LOT99, the boat captain even spent six months on site to assist and supervise the completion of the work ! But the time had finally come to land in Villefranche. These few hours has allowed us to appreciate the marine qualities of the Swan 95 S, worthy successor of this long line of outstanding yachts. We took one last look at the huge deck. Its teak slats infinitely extending are an invitation to travel and the serenity of the sea, as the marriage of wood and carbon symbolizes the quest for harmony between tradition, know-how and constant search for innovations. Like thousands of enlightened yachtsmen, who value elegance and refinement, we can declaim this final sentence that carries all the respect and admiration for this legendary brand : “This is a Swan !”.