Large classic sailing yachts.

  • Published on June 18, 2020


Classic sailing yacht are single decked small affairs. When they are not exclusively used for racing, they tend to be converted fishing smacks and pilot cutters more suited for the occasional traditional boat rally… or are they?

There is a marked trend these days to go for sail rather than motor with some prospective owners. The arguments are comfort, silence, environmental awareness, you name it. But what if an owner wants a large yacht able to carry toys and offer long range cruising abilities, and why not exploration? Could it still be a classic?

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Let’s review the options in three categories: New build, refit and originals.

1)   New build.

In a previous article, we have mentioned “Jessica” (pictured above), now “Adix”, and “Atlantic”, both very classic but still single deck racing affairs. Granted, they can be used for serious cruising but they will still be challenged to carry the suitable tenders and toys in style. Yacht such as “Baboon” did have more extensive deckhouses and larger displacement, making them almost two deckers and allowing to carry luxury tenders.

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Then, in 2004, Huisman built the schooner “Athena” (above). That yacht epitomizes all that is classic inside and outside, but with the volume of a large motor yacht. The larger “Eos” (more modern rig) and several smaller vessels with the same philosophy have been built since, but in my mind, “Athena” is still the largest true classic sailing yacht… at least new build.

Some architects such as Olivier Van Meer or Gerard Dijkstra have plans on their books for large sailing yachts, sometimes in dual purpose with sail training or otherwise.

2)   Conversions and refits.

In 2007, a Dutch owner bought the former research vessel “Dana” to convert her into a sail training vessel for classes afloat. She became the “Gulden Leeuw” (pictured below). Of course, she is not a luxury yacht, but she could have become one. Many of the sail training vessels operating today could be converted into very nice floating palaces. They have good displacement, large internal volume and often a long history of proven sailing ability.

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While most large sail training vessels do not have the “yacht” look, there is one ship that was actually designed with a smaller yacht in mind. Inspired in part by the schooner “Gloria”, the “Star Clipper” has the flat bowsprit and long counter overhang of much smaller racing yachts. I fiddled a bit during long winter hours to evaluate the volumes available in her for a conversion from 160 passengers to 36 luxury yacht guests.

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In the same vein, the former STA schooners “Winston Churchill” and “Malcolm Miller” have been converted to yachts, one better than the other. Both have lost the charm of the gaff rig though.

3)   Existing yachts.

Large sailing yachts went out of fashion in the late XIX century. Some of them became famous, like “Sunbeam” à Lord and Lady Brassey (below). But If an owner could afford a large yacht, he could also afford the comfort and reliability of steam. Nevertheless, some wealthy people, few and far between, wished for the quiet, peace and cleanliness of sail. Some of the resulting vessels are still around, albeit in a very modified form. They traded till recently, some still do, as passenger or tourist boats, for instance with the “Winjammer” cruises.

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One of the largest sailing yacht ever built is still sailing under the name “Sea Cloud”. She has had a very exciting and checkered history, but remains as beautifully timeless today as she was when built in the thirties as “Hussar V”. She is also one of the 8 remaining pre-war yachts over 80m.

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Would you refit one, or have one built?