Fair Winds & Following Seas

Captain Michael Howorth looks at the shipyards behind the lure of the tall masts together with the essential companies providing deck equipment, sails and composite construction

Way back in the distant past when I drove superyachts for a living, I remember with horror the day when The Crew Network told me I had been successful in two interviews I had attended in search for a job. The first was the command of a 46 metre Perini Navi, her dark blue hull shining fresh out of refit in Viareggio. The second was a job as Captain aboard a 36-metre classic motor yacht with a crew of five. They asked which I would like to accept, and it was on that occasion, I first seriously looked at the difference between a large sailing yacht and a motor yacht. When it came down to good looks, the Perini had it beat! Hands down she was a stunner and with an exciting programme of Mediterranean summers and Caribbean winters I really wanted to say yes. But it was when I saw the size of the captain’s cabin and the salary on offer, I had to confess I was drawn to the old stinkpot. Why was it so different I asked the recruiter. She said sailors do it for love and motor yacht crews were in it for the money. I confess that with children in education and a mortgage to pay, I chose the old lady and lived to regret it.

A year later I was headhunted to another yacht. She too was a motor yacht, and so once again, I was lured to serving on the dark side and I never did get another shot at another sailing yacht.

Sailing superyachts represent about 15% of the superyacht fleet. With high profile launches and the fact that many owners are trying to show their support of sustainable yachting it is likely that figure will rise slightly in the next decade. But don’t hold your breath and certainly never bet on that figure topping 20%!

There are some stunning sailing yachts afloat and with perhaps the single exception of hideous sailing yacht A, every one of them is a feast for the eyes of a sailor. Who could ever tire of watching Maltese Falcon or Black Pearl as they unfurl those square-rigged sails? Even Jeff Bezos’s Koru, said to have been inspired his time sailing aboard Eos, has the look of a classic yacht. Surely the sight of Sea Eagle II, Aquijo and Athena will stir the soul of even the most hardened lover of stink pots. I was at the launching of Sybaris (now Badis I) in 2016 and remember thinking she was the most beautiful sailing boat I had ever seen, and this from someone who thought Mirabella V (now M5) was the best thing since sliced bread.

In recent years, the sailing yacht market has gone through a tumultuous period but there are positive signs of resurgence in the sailing yacht market. The number of active sailing yacht builders has reduced significantly due to declining demand in new builds. But Arne Ploch, senior sales broker at Camper & Nicholsons has observed recent activity in the segment providing cause for optimism. He says he has observed a shift in the sailing yacht market. “Over the past 10 years, new build sailing yachts became very racing focused, making them super expensive and deterring a lot of clients,” he explains. “I think the racer-cruiser trend is declining because superyacht racing is so dependent on ratings and participating is very expensive – there are less yachts attending the superyacht regattas every year. Clients that want to race are buying smaller one-class yachts and having a big yacht for cruising.”

Sailing yachts designed for cruising are also becoming more popular due to a younger generation entering the market. As Maël Fiolet, sales advisor at Camper & Nicholsons, adds, “A lot of clients are new to sailing but they are attracted by the lifestyle sailing yachts can offer, such as cruising without the engine running. Modern designs also provide much more interior volume and sail well downwind, as opposed to older designs with narrow hulls built for upwind performance.”

This evolving demand has translated into some interesting developments and innovation in the sector, with some very large projects being built in the 80m-plus size range. Sailing yacht designs are also incorporating more features traditionally found on motor yachts. “We are starting to see balconies in the owner’s cabin and stern openings, as well as huge windows in the hull – all motor yacht trends that we’ve never seen on sailing yachts until now,” comments Ploch. Fiolet agrees: “Cruising clientele want more amenities, and, for them, the interior of their sailing yacht has the same importance as on a motoryacht, which was not always the case. There have been big efforts in the sailing yacht market to cater for this clientele by offering the same level of comfort that you can find on motor yachts.”

Due to the limited choice of sailing yacht builders now, and the high cost of new build projects, the second hand brokerage market has some extremely interesting opportunities for prospective buyers. As Ploch advises, “There are some very attractive sailing yachts above 35m on the market now for a fraction of the price of a new build. These are custom yachts built at a very high quality 10-15 years ago – a quality that might not even be possible to build now.” In fact, activity within the second hand sailing yacht market has been very healthy in recent years. This increase in transactions is a clear reflection of improving demand in a market with limited new build options.

ROYAL HUISMANFour of the world’s largest super sailing yachts come from two Dutch shipyards. Oceanco squeezed out Black Pearl and Koru while Athena and Sea Eagle, are Royal Huisman builds. Huisman have currently got Project 410 and Project 411 under construction and are looking to build the world’s largest sloop Apex 850 and the dyna-rig Lotus. Jan Timmerman, CEO of Royal Huisman says, “Sustainability is crucially important for all of us and for future generations. Yacht owners and the yachting sector obviously want to play their part by reducing environmental impact and by limiting the use of valuable natural resources. It is a fact that the level of achievement resulting from these efforts can vary greatly. Royal Huisman has been building vessels with sails since it was founded in 1884. They attracted the attention of highly knowledgeable owners such as Bill Joy, who provided valuable input and encouraged us to take big steps towards the delivery of ever-increasing efficiency. His yacht, Ethereal, was the world’s first hybrid superyacht (delivered by Royal Huisman in 2009) and she remains a fine example. More recently, the owners of Foftein and Juliet decided to convert their yachts to ‘hybrid’, to benefit from the advantages of being ‘energy neutral’ and ‘future-proof’.”

At the smaller end of the sailing yacht market Oyster UK, has seen its market flourish almost exclusively fuelled by those with big sailing ambitions. Oyster’s own World Rally continues to fuel sales. Rupert Knox-Johnston, a sales broker at Oyster UK says, “The rally is still wildly popular, largely because I think people can see how buying an Oyster unlocks access to that supported experience. It’s currently full for 2026 and has a waiting list for the departure after that and many are still coming to us seeking a yacht with that in mind.”

As with many sailing yacht brands, they boost a long and fruitful history and none more so than Tramontana Yachts in Croatia. With ancestry dating back to 1502, the real history began in the 19th century with the Done Frane Ivanisevic and with a new generation now at the helm Tramontana stands as Croatia’s first luxury yacht brand.

TRAMONTANA YACHTSWe asked Tash Pericic the company’s COO about the younger generation of yachting enthusiasts, are they driving a surge in the sailing sector and is it connected to being more eco-conscious? “We would say that the burgeoning interest in sustainable yachting is not confined to the younger generation, it’s a broad-spectrum shift. Today’s yachting aficionados, irrespective of age, are increasingly gravitating towards eco-friendly choices. Our fleet is a testament to this trend, seamlessly blending luxury with sustainability. Our clients appreciate the tranquillity of cruising, whether under sail or motors, rather than racing from destination to destination – exactly as it should be.”

Rodolphe Cadoret from Gunboat is of the same opinion, “Yes, totally. Every year, we see more interest coming from the younger generation, considering that sailing is the future of yachting.” Cadoret continues, “But with many larger brands falling by the quay side of the past 10 years, the business is different, and there are also some small independent yards producing one boat a year. It remains a business driven by passionate people above all. However, we have more clients coming to see us because Grand Large Yachting (our group, which includes brands like Outremer, Allures, Garcia, RM, etc.) represents a guarantee for them to have a boat with the right level of quality and real expertise from the French sailing community. Our boats are made in France by a team of very experienced and passionate people, our shipyard in the South of France is unique and a real asset for our brand.”

MISHI YACHTS“The yachting industry is indeed transforming driven by a new generation of young enthusiasts,” says Mishi Yachts founder and chairman Şakir Yılmaztürk. “Young yachting enthusiasts are becoming more environmentally conscious, leading to increased demand for eco-friendly yachts. Sailing yachts, by their nature, significantly reduce their carbon footprint compared to motor yachts as they utilise wind energy. Of course, this is not a rapid ascent, yet we are delighted that the younger generation values and yearns to connect with nature and the wind.” In summary Yılmaztürk says, “In our opinion, this shift in the yachting industry is not a passing trend but a trajectory that is likely to endure as the values and preferences of the younger generation continue to shape the future of yachting.”

In contrast Jurjen van ‘t Verlaat, Marketing & Communications Direct with Royal Huisman says “Are the younger generation driving a surge? No, this might be the case in general with motor yacht owners. I believe clients who are passionate about sailing are more eco-conscious anyway, while they take advantage of free propulsion power, the wind. They enjoy the eco footprint of their yacht and the significant efficiency advantage. Specifically most sailing yacht clients at Royal Huisman are very experienced. For example the owners of Sarissa and Nilaya had several yachts before ordering their recently delivered yachts. Both yachts have different solutions to increase the efficiency of the board systems too.”

Pericic from Tramontana believes the price/quality ratio is fundamental. “We believe that we are uniquely positioned in the market to meet the demand of yacht builds and refits. With our quality, price, and delivery time, we are extremely competitive. We currently have more projects on the table than we can accept, which is a testament to the reputation we’ve garnered in a
short time, and we’ll take it as a sign of good things to come.”

So while the comfort of motor yachts is (in general) mostly enjoyed by their owners while on location in pretty marinas or idyllic anchorages. Sailing yachts provide the same enjoyment but are also much (more) fun to travel in especially as they voyage towards remote corners of this beautiful planet.

Sailing yachts offer the stimulating experience of seeing the ‘laundry’ hoisted and catching the wind, and the slender bow cutting through the waves to pick up speed.

But we are seeing recent designs leaning away from the ‘racing’ profiles and there is a movement into adding more interior volume.

“We cannot speak for the market,” says Pericic. “But the profile of our yachts is exactly this. We build luxury motor-sailers which we believe are in a class of their own. The focus of our designs is on maximising onboard space to deliver unparalleled luxury and comfort. Our yachts offer expansive cabins, elegant salons, and generous sundecks, rivalling the amenities on 60m+ motor yachts. Our design philosophy centres on providing a serene, enjoyable, and luxurious experience at sea.”

GUNBOATCadoret concurs, “Yes, indeed, we will never lose the GUNBOAT DNA, but we will soon present some projects with larger interior designs. We already started last year with the Gunboat 72 Flybridge. Our innovation and R&D team is constantly looking for solutions to push the limits of the ratio between high living and performance.” But is there a different mentality between multi- hull owners as opposed to single hull lovers? “Things are also evolving,” says Cadoret. “Monohull owners have understood that fast cruising catamarans like Gunboat are the best compromise between sailing performance and comfort. Our catamarans can reach 30 knots, but the majority of our clients are more attracted by the fact that they can sail in 5 knots of wind.”


There is of course no need to leave luxury behind. The 52m Reposado from Tramontana Yachts, set to launch in July 2024, represents the next evolution in the shipyard’s design philosophy. Featuring smarter crew areas, innovative storage solutions, and larger guest cabins. The team have redesigned the layout, moving all guest cabins to one area which opened up space in the salon. The Master and VIP cabins are also larger aboard MSY Reposado for extra luxury and comfort. “And of course Reposado,” says Pericic, “has our signature sundeck with jacuzzi, sun-loungers, bar, grill, and dining area.”

Moving back to design profiles of yachts, Yılmaztürk from Mishi Yachts says, “We have built the 27-metre Mishi 88, it’s a superyacht that strikes an ideal balance between safety and comfort under sail. It has a spacious cockpit space for 12 or more, a bathing platform and foredeck lounge, a huge open saloon and galley, and the accommodation consists of a large master cabin and three further guest cabins. And at the Monaco Yacht Show 2024 we plan to unveil a new larger project, the 31-metre Mishi 102 that develops the same features on an even grander scale. All of our superyachts are fully RINA certified for ultimate peace of mind.”

And about added volume on recent sailing designs Yılmaztürk explains, “We do support this idea. I’ve been a boat owner for years and have learned a few things from my experience. Speed isn’t always the most important factor; maximising usable space on the yacht is. Especially with larger yachts, owners spend more time at anchor or in bays, so the need for comfortable and functional spaces has started to outweigh the need for speed,” and he confirms: “At Mishi Yachts, our concept is to provide the comfort and space of motor yachts in a sailing yacht. The constant pursuit of speed has taken a backseat, while sustainability has become a key focus. In this context, a sailing yacht is the most reasonable solution. When you add spacious interiors to this, Mishi Yachts stands out. However, as we’ve proven with our first model, it’s important to remember that Mishi sailing yachts are fundamentally excellent sailors. This means our yachts offer luxurious living spaces while maintaining excellent performance and seafaring capabilities. Therefore, Mishi Yachts is leading the way, combining sustainability, spacious interiors, and superior sailing performance.”

Gunboat are also delivering new yachts to the market putting on the water three boats between March 2024 and July 2024. “They are currently delivering the most advanced boat in their fleet,” says Cadoret. “The Gunboat 80-02 named AGAVE. She is a real sailing machine with a very refined and elegant interior design. Plus, we will soon announce new exciting projects from a product standpoint. Gunboats are, above all, cruising boats, and we have to meet the needs of people who want to sail in a unique yacht and travel with style and comfort.”

Propulsion by wind will always beat the energy consumption of motor yachts, even when great reductions in fuel consumption and other efficiency gains are achieved. In addition, wind energy is ‘free’ – of charge, of fumes, and of noise. And driving them is great fun too!