The Southern Wind 96 and 105 follow the SW100 and 102 into a growing market for semi-custom large yachts around 100ft. Elaine Bunting reports

One of the conspicuous growth areas of yachting, albeit a specialised niche, is performance cruisers of around 100ft. This is being fanned by the intensifying seriousness and maturity of superyacht regattas, and an improved ratings rule.

An indication of the demand is two new designs announced in June, the SW96 and SW105 from Southern Wind, the Italian-based company that builds semi-custom production series in Cape Town.

The yard has already had much success at this size with its SW100 – 13 built to date (see video clip below) – and the SW102, of which hull no 5 is under way. These were designed primarily for bluewater cruising, however, whereas the new designs have racing squarely in view.

Branching out into custom building

The diversification came about through the design of a custom carbon Reichel/Pugh 90-footer for a repeat customer who wanted something different. This branching out for the first time into custom building gave company CEO Willy Persico and his team the confidence to follow the trend for high-performance yachts and custom builds.

“This gave us the experience of custom rather than mini series and brought us the idea to develop other yachts that are performance-orientated. So we decided to develop a 96-footer. We found the client after having developed the design and then we tuned the design to race, so [hull no 1] is a racing boat,” says Persico.

“Then we had a third client who was talking to us about a 100-103-footer and who liked the 96, but he wanted it expanded, so we had a third yacht designed, the SW105. This is a performance cruiser with a huge garage to accommodate a tender and a jetski, which is unusual, but the client is not sure if the yacht is going to be for cruising or racing, so this is a solution that satisfies both.”

Southern Wind has always worked with both Reichel/Pugh and Farr Yacht Design and it was to Farr that the company turned for the 96 and 105.

Southern Wind 96 from the stern

Southern Wind 96 from the stern

“Our work with Southern Wind has gone back a long time and you can see a progression,” explains Patrick Shaughnessy, president of Farr Yacht Design. “Previous designs were round-bilged and had narrow transoms. These new designs are more powerful in the bilge, quite a lot wider and are quasi-chined. There are twin rudders and they have quite a lot of immersion to inspire confidence in an owner that may not be very experienced and they will be hard to broach.”

“We are stepping in a lighter direction, but not aggressive in engineering and construction,” Shaughnessy adds.

The two designs are indeed sporty- looking, with straight ends and open transoms. The SW96 has a lifting telescopic keel, which is also a first for Southern Wind, but a feature regarded as essential by many big boat owners wishing to race and access wider cruising grounds. The SW105 can have a fixed or lifting keel.

The interiors of both yachts are by Nauta Yachts, with whom Southern Wind has also worked for many years. Both yachts have four guest cabins and crew quarters aft.

Hull lamination of SW96 hull no 1 is complete already and fit-out has begun, and a second yacht is already in the order book. The first hull of the SW105 is currently being laminated and both the new builds will be delivered next year.

The first 96 is being built in carbon pre-preg and Nomex and will have a Southern Spars high modulus carbon rig. The 105 is less extreme and the first yacht is being built in carbon/epoxy resin, but this design can also be built in carbon composite.

SW105 can have a fixed or lifting keel. Hull number 1 is being build in carbon / epoxy resin. Carbon composite option is also available

SW105 can have a fixed or lifting keel. Hull number 1 is being build in carbon / epoxy resin. Carbon composite option is also available

Dimensions SW96

LOA 29.23m/95ft 11in

Beam 6.95m/22ft 10in

Draught 3.4-5.4m/8ft 2in-17ft 9in

Displacement 54.6 tons/120,371lb


Dimensions SW105

LOA 31.97m/104ft 11in

Beam 7.32m/24ft 0in

Draught 4.5m/14ft 9in (fixed) 3.65-5.6m/11ft 10in-18ft 4in (telescopic)

Displacement 68 tons/149,913lb

See also David Glenn’s review of SW94 ‘Go Kiboko!’