This 31 metre sloop is the fruits of a quarter-century of relentless perfectionism
YACHT CLASS N°9 (June-july-august 2017)
No excess, no revolution, just the breathtaking stroke of Bruce Farr's pen and the detail perfection dear to Southern Wind to elegantly power this 31 metre sloop, who sits in the firmament of exceptional yachts…
Text : Emmanuel de Toma - Photos : Giovanni Malgarini
Bruce Farr is an icon, a guru, an undisputed tenor of naval architecture but actually the master of 17 Sydney Hobart winners now enjoys a peaceful existence in Maine. Some would have seen him at the wheel of a Lotus, some others at the helm of a trawler catamaran... Yet, his touch remains very present at Farr Design Studio, which now employs eight architects and engineers under the presidency of Patrick Shaughnessy, a sailor and naval designer with a degree of the University of Maryland. All eight speak with one voice to explain the introduction of this 102-foot within an already extensive range. "After the stunning success of the Southern Wind 100, thirteen units in six years, it seemed interesting to slightly increase the waterline and the sailplan to provide better light wind performances. This new hull features wider aft sections and a single rudder, and now has much in common with the 110-feet.
Thus was born on the 613 Third Street in Annapolis the spirit of this SW 102 RS (RS for Raised Saloon). This was in 2011. But, this journey is long from the American engineers to the technicians of the South African shipyard. Especially since in Italy, in Genoa precisely, a decision-maker have been observing and supervising every stage of the gestation of future prodigies for the last 25 years. This man ? Willy Persico. His history deserves to be told considering that his passion for sailboat is only matched by the strictness and perfectionism he shows for their design. So early 1990's, Il signor Persico, a Neapolitain, president of Pegaso, a company involved in petrochemicals, and a seasoned sailor, went to Cape Town with a Ron Holland plan. His dream sailboat! He had an appointment with Cenmarine's boss, a shipyard the architect highly recommended. Discussions were bitter. He wanted to see everything, to understand everything, to validate everything. Not a single thing could escape his eyes. Ultimately, the boat was taking shape when the shipyard suddenly filed for bankruptcy. As usual in such cases, the bailiffs took over the assets, both the premises and all that was therein, including the Ron Holland under construction. Willy Persico could only weep for the loss of his 72-feet. Or… Or he could sell all his oil stocks and buy back the shipyard. And so did he. When he returned to Italy, many friends ordered him the same sailboat. And ten units were thus built. The shipyard, named Southern Wind, employed back then thirty employees. Nowadays, they are no less than two hundred and fifty for an average production of three to four units a year. Pegaso is in charge of sales and marketing in Genoa while the venerable Signor Willy Persico patiently oversees the improvement of each model, without looking for an evolution nor a revolution. Thus, in Genoa's Porto Antico, where all units arriving from Cape Town get the final touches from the Pegaso team, we discover Crossbow, the fifth SW 102 who, like her sisters, sailed the 7 000 miles from her birth place. Long enough to refine a few details... Crossbow was also the name of the sailboat who crossed the 30-knot threshold in 1980. Pegaso evokes the winged horse of the mythology. Her two names give the tone. And a few tacks to La Spezia will not disappoint.
A very fine hull
As the breeze is slow coming, the 300 hp Cummins 6-cylindre engine propels the streamlined hull and its equally delicate superstructures on the quiet sea. A discreet deckhouse elegantly stretches its white coamings towards the stern. First surprise: the engine is practically inaudible on the helm station. Only the dashboard instruments prove its operation and display a truth that speaks volumes about the talent of architects who designed such a fine hull. At 2 000 rpm, Crosswbow's 64 tons sail at 10 knots! Inside, the saloon and the two forward cabins, including the owner's, are also sheltered from the decibels. Hovewer, the two aft guest cabins and the crew quarters cannot ignore the engine, which by the way causes no vibration. Back to the deck via the main door, a gentle companionway connects the immense cockpit to the equally vast saloon. The crew has its own aft staircase to join its three cabins, the kitchen and the navigation station. Right above their head, its workplace features more than 40 m2 of teak flanked by two helms, four huge Harken 1120 winches and many storage around the transom tender garage.
A true pleasure at the helm !
At the appointed hour, the Southwest wind rises in the Cinque Terra. Immediately, the 250-kg mainsail deploys along the carbon mast. The halyard is unfurled from an electric winch located in a trunk of the indoor passageway and operated from the mast foot. At the helm, the skipper makes some adjustment with a single finger, then, with a neighboring switch on his dashboard, he unrolls the genoa whose sheets is tighten in five turns around one of the large hydraulic winches. Despite the lightness of the nascent breeze, of barely 12 knots, the boat reacts without delay. The architects have reached their objective: with only the slightest breath of air, the 513 m2 upwind sail awakes the sailboat. The wake remains imperceptibly while, thirty meters ahead, the bow discreetly splits the nascent chop. We are overwhelmed by an impression of calm, of immobility even, but a simple glance at the speedo shows that many things can happen in silence: 9.5 knots with 12 knots of real wind! At 15 knots of real wind, Crossbow cheerfully crosses the 10-knot threshold. And the most surprising is her windward sailing angle in calm sea since she maintained 10 knots up to a 33 degrees of wind. Long live to Bruce Farr's fine hulls!
However, despite the ballast four metres below the surface, the heel quickly makes an appereance. This is quite normal for a monohull this powerful and with so much sail area, but it makes any displacement delicate on her flushdeck of about seven metres wide. Teak footrests wisely and regularly placed would undoubtedly improve comfort and safety when listing without altering its elegance. Far from the passengers cockpit and its comfortable sofas, we discover the paradise of sailing lovers : the helm! Ergonomics first: a perfect view on all sails and on the deck as far as the bow, an easy access to all manoeuvres via the dashboard, plus an adjustable floor. Last but not least, the touch at the helm balanced spade rudder is ideally placed and, with a cable transmission, gives an exceptional perception on this Southern Wind. Luffing and jibing are finely carried out to maintain the speed while the sensations at the helm on a close-hauled is such that we can feel the tiller ready to anticipate any winds. In short, unlike some units where we long to connect the autopilot, we would not have let go the helm of this 102-feet for anything in the world.
Simple, timeless and marine
We reluctantly leave this quaterdeck devoted to manoeuvres for the luxurious world generously offered to the passengers. First, this central cockpit. A vast open-air lounge that can be protected from the wind and sprays by a large canopy concealed in the deckhouse coamings. The sun's ardor can also be mitigated by an equally ingenious awning along the boom. Such as all the indoors, the saloon first seduces by the abundant natural lighting provided by the large bay windows, the twelve hull portholes and the thirteen deck opening panels. Regarding the interior layout, Nauta Design had demanding and precise specification: simple, timeless and marine. On this basis, the designer perfectly married elegance to practicality and ideally used light materials to chase away the demons of claustrophobia. Walnut floors, raw fabrics, white linings and light oak furnishings enhance this sense of space and well-being. In the dining room and the lounge, such as in the cabins, we can only acknolewdge the contemporary touch and the meticulous work of the materials. The precise assemblies and the frame adjustments meet the shipyard's requirements. As for the marine aspects, we were not disappointed. Thus, the elegant director's chairs can be fixed to the ground when required by navigation and beds are all endowed with high anti-roll canvas. A cloth can even be stretched to separate the double beds ! In addition, to comply with weight concerns that guarantees good performance, all furniture and partitions are in honeycomb. An unsuspected finesse under the perfect oak veneer. Lastly, note the many storage volumes, discreetly concealed but all accessible and smartly compartmentalized. Undeniably, this Southern was made to sail far away and very well. And this is what most of the lucky owners of the brand do. Remains the questionable choice to place the master and the VIP forward. While being full-beam gives them a volume to match their ambitions, we are all aware that, off the coast, the sea movements are less severe aft, where are located the two guest cabins and the crew area. However, these apartments will be the quietest at anchor. Many major shipyards have opted for this layout. But the debate is nevertheless open...
The word of the Skipper
At 47 year-old, the skipper Andrea Balzarini has much mileage on a large number of units over 100-foot between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. After six months at the helm of Crossbow, he shared with us his feeling about this sailboat he describes as exceptional : "This is a light boat, smooth to sail. The bow never dives, even in rough seas. She just needs some helm work to avoid slams. Considering her great sail area, to be careful, we'll put in the first reef over 20 knots of real wind but I never tire of the performances of this unit, endowed with amazing ergonomics and manufacturing quality". He broadly smiled when crossing 10 knots on a close-hauled as we approached La Spezia. "Even in the worst weather, we always feel safe on this boat", he concluded before lowering the sail at the port entrance.
- Overall length : 31,71 m
- Lengh of waterline : 27,72 m
- Beam : 6,90 m
- Draft : 3,95 m
- Light displacement : 64,5 t
- Upwind sail area : 513 m²
- Engine : Cummins QSB6 305 ch.
- Material : sandwich composite (Carbon, Kevlar, Epoxy, Corecell)
- Fuel : 4 800 l
- Water : 2 400 l
- Price : 9,8 millions d’euros H.T
- Architect : Farr Yacht Design
- Exterior designer & Interior : Nauta Design
- Builder : Southern Wind-Pegaso (Gênes – Italie)