Nautor’s Swan has shaken up the market with the birth of its latest dream-maker, the ClubSwan 50. What is it about this aggressively styled new 50-footer that holds so much appeal for a wide variety of sailors and budgets? Yachting World’s Toby Hodges, who has tested two different models, remains stricken by its looks and character on the water.
Although Nautor’s Swan, the brand most synonymous with sailing, build a wide range of sailing boats right up to 130 ft superyachts, this is a company with a prestige that transcends size. For the majority of purist monohull sailors, a Swan is the archetypal dream yacht. So what sort of design did Nautor’s Swan choose when launching a new model to celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2016? They wanted something spectacular. A yacht that would turn heads in any port. So the Italian-owned Finnish company encouraged a real contemporary beast to be born. The resultant ClubSwan 50 is the most extreme looking production yacht to date. It also holds genuine multifaceted appeal. It’s a high-end race yacht that is paired with an international racing circuit for owners to enjoy proper spirited and strictly controlled one-design competition. And it is an ideal flashy plaything for short cruises and day sailing as well. Above all else though, it is ferociously cool.
“We held a contest among the best designers in the world to create an innovative design that would include new technologies and materials, be stylish and iconic, high performing yet easy to sail,” explained the Chairman of Nautor’s Swan, Leonardo Ferragamo. “The result is the ClubSwan 50, a stunning yacht that will appeal to the young and competitive, while still allowing the pleasure of cruising in the true spirit of Swan.” This is the first Swan that hasn’t been designed by German Frers in four decades. Fellow Argentinean designer Juan Kouyoumdjian (Juan K), the winner of Swan’s design competition, drew aggressive, flared lines for the ClubSwan 50, which are powerful to the point of muscular.
The design strikes a delicate and precise balance between a performance cruiser and a Grand Prix-style racing yacht. This means it can produce serious adrenaline rides yet can still be handled by an amateur owner-driver. Formula 1-style race yachts can typically be too twitchy to handle unless a helmsman has ample experience with them. The large twin rudders on the ClubSwan 50 help make it a manageable yacht for an owner-driver to get to grips with. It can be raced with less professional crew members than a pure race yacht like a TP52 and for less than half of the running costs. The owners’ club aspect of ClubSwan is also an important factor. Owners of prestigious vessels like to associate with like-minded people with similar interests. ClubSwan 50 owners get access to both new and existing races and events in a one-design class presided over by German Olympic champion Jochen Schuemann. This culminates in the Nations Trophy, the first of which was held in Palma last October. Like Wally Yachts, the ClubSwan 50 has a dual purpose and an after-life, as it has a cruising mode too. It can be converted for weekend cruising, and has two double cabins, plus a galley and heads compartment down below. So it is a yacht that will hold its value significantly more than a pure race boat.
The real reason that Nautor sold 20 of these ClubSwan 50s in 15 months alone, however, is that they are utterly, addictively delicious to sail. Here is a yacht that is so slippery that she needs little encouragement to create her own wind, especially once some heel is induced. The whole structure is built in carbon epoxy to keep her displacement to an aggressively light 8.25 tonnes. The modern looking interior is all constructed in carbon and dressed in wafer-thin leather and teak veneer. Even her keel fin is carbon, something only normally seen in high-end race yachts. The result is a seriously slippery yacht in even the lightest of breezes. A clean wake will quickly part from her transom as she slides onto the plane in single-figure wind speeds. Although this particular Swan uses race boat design, technology and build processes, she remains a manageable yacht to sail and blissfully rewarding to helm. The rudder blades are deep enough to give owner-drivers assured and direct grip, but a combination of their outboard placement and high aspect shape means they still feel supremely light on the wheel. As yachts increase in size, that connection typically dissolves with the amount of gearing required between the rudder and wheels. Take over the helm of the ClubSwan 50 however and one feels totally and gratifyingly in tune with this performance machine.
The trick to ensuring a thriving owner’s club is having fair competition and a boat that is fun to sail both upwind and downwind. The ClubSwan 50 is designed to sail at a steep angle of heel, which is a buzz when beating into the wind. And the combination of her planing shape and lightweight build means she has the capability to really light up when reaching with a spinnaker hoisted.
The interior is, like the exterior, so refreshingly different and contemporary, yet still exudes that air of Swan luxury and calm. The design is by Leonardo Ferragamo’s trusted architect Michel Bonan and uses leather, teak and clear-coat carbon as dominant materials to style a space that suits both racing and short cruises. Virtually everything is made from foam-cored carbon to save weight, yet without impinging on the sharp Italian look. Nautor shapes the carbon panels and furniture at their Finland yard before they are sent to leather upholstery experts Poltrona Frau in Italy. The forward cabin has that real air of Swan class. The teak veneer used on the soles, running boards and hatch surrounds gives a warm effect, plus there is plenty of leather around the berth and incorporated into the collapsible fabric wardrobes. The switchover from leisure to racing modes is well considered. The twin sofa beds in the saloon have backrests that clip up to form berths for race crew. The tan leather hanging wardrobes all remove, as does the forward berth, to create sail stowage and packing space. Nautor’s Swan is a name known to any sailor for producing pedigree cruiser racers and yachts with timeless, graceful lines – but here we see some of the most aggressive design angles and innovative build solutions of current times. It is a bold move that has clearly paid off as the ClubSwan 50 is now the foundation of a new and enticing ClubSwan chapter, and a new era of brazen luxury sports craft.