The biggest ketch-rigged yacht on the water, Aquijo is designed to push boundaries and horizons. Helen Fretter talks to her designers


The largest Bermudan rigged ketch ever launched, the 86m Aquijo was designed by Bill Tripp and launched last year.

The build came about through a new collaboration between the two Dutch yards of Vitters and OceanCo, combining the former’s superyacht expertise with the latter’s custom motoryacht knowledge to create one of the largest sailing yachts in the world (see video of Sailing Yacht A, the world’s largest sail-assisted vessel, during early sea trials).

The scale of Aquijo is remarkable: at 85m her LOA is considerably greater than the 60m superyacht designs Vitters is more accustomed to working on, hence she was built at OceanCo’s larger seafront site in Alblasserdam, the Netherlands. A steel hull and aluminium superstructure give a gross tonnage of 1,500.

Her twin carbon fibre masts reach 91m above the waterline, with matched main and mizzen. North 3Di sails of over 1,100 square metres each, give a total sail area of 3,247 square metres. Add in a code sail, and the canvas area tops 5,050 square metres. According to Vitters, Aquijo’s lifting keel is the largest ever designed, at 220 tons (200 tonnes) of lead, with a minimum draught of 5.2m and maximum of 11.6m.

The yacht’s range under engine at 13 knots is 3,200 nautical miles and she has accommodation for 30 in total (12 guests, two owners, a captain, three officers and 12 additional crew).

However, her designer Bill Tripp says that it was sailing performance that drove the design. “We designed Aquijo around sailing loads and sheet loads, to keep them in a range that was controlled. She started design life as a sailboat that encompassed the machinery of a motoryacht, but she is not shaped as a motoryacht – she is easily driven.”

He adds: “Aquijo is also a sophisticated machine and brings most aspects of a 1600GT motoryacht with her. But she is for getting out there, and for going sailing. In Greece [last] summer, she would go out for an afternoon of sailing in a 35 knot Meltemi because it is so much fun to sail at 20 knots as if on rails.”

The new ChessieRacing designed by Bill Tripp is a true designer daysailer, but what is she like to sail?

Sail controls

Aquijo is designed for long distance bluewater exploration, hence limiting the air draught to fit through the Panama Canal (46m) was no longer a consideration. That freed up the design team to create one of the largest true sailing yachts ever conceived.

To make raising the enormous sail area possible, sophisticated reefing and sail handling systems have been developed. In-boom furling system allows the main and mizzen sails to be furled or unfurled in just four seconds. Custom built carbon and aluminium 40-ton winches control the sheets and halyards.

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“When we go head to wind we hoist the main and the mizzen together, and I’d say on average that’s a six minute process,” says Tripp. “Then once they’re up you just bear off, and roll out the jib – 30 seconds say. And then you’re off, you have three sails up, and you’re only thinking about those three sails. It means going sailing is pretty easy.”

When sailing at this scale, manoeuvres take a degree of forward planning. “Because we have a staysail, and a heavy weather jib, we have to furl the big jib when tacking,” explains Tripp.

“Vitters organised a system that keeps just a nice amount of tension on the jib sheets furling in and out so that they are not flailing about. It’s not a dinghy tack, but it is safe and orderly. The spinnaker is on a fast furler and furls up in 30 seconds, making gybes less complex.”

Designed to function at up to 20° of heel, Aquijo’s hull has been tested to withstand the full force of rigging and keel, including mast compression and the effects of her 200-tonne keel, in a knock-down situation. Vitters custom designed a steering system to give direct feedback of the hydrodynamic pressure on the rudders to the twin wheels to create the elusive sailing ‘feel’. There are two submarine anchors in a compartment concealed behind a flush hull closing plate.

Consistency of style

The owner’s cabin is situated on its own top deck, with a private outside area. Robert Voges, of Dølker and Voges, which designed the interior, says that the whole upper deck abaft of the wheelhouse is the owner’s area.

The sociable main deck includes the dining room and main saloon, linked to the outside deck by an inside-outside bar. The yacht’s real showcase feature is the ‘beach club’ on the lower deck, which includes a jacuzzi, sauna, hammam/Turkish bath, rainfall shower, and room for gym equipment, with an open walkway through to the transom swim platform. There is a further whirlpool spa bath on the outer deck.

A consistent aesthetic style has been adopted right throughout the yacht, according to Voges, who comments: “The brief from the owner was the whole area should look, if not the same, but be one language. All the details are the same, even in the crew area.”

Materials are luxurious; as the mast runs through two interior decks it is clad in flawless high shine stainless steel complete with integrated LED lighting – the single biggest technical challenge of the interior build according to Voges.

But it is the sea itself that provides the main focal point. Voges comments: “One of the most important things that the owners asked me for was to make everything feel open, to feel that there is not a difference between inside and outside, so you can feel the ocean.

From each position where you are sitting – dining or in the salon, or in the cabins – you can always see the water. We have planned the windows so even from the bed, you can see the water.”

Ambitious plans

Aquijo is available for charter, but the owner also has some ambitious voyages of his own in mind, not least a trip around Cape Horn.

Asked what inspires people to build a yacht of Aquijo’s stature, designer Bill Tripp comments: “They’re not looking for the sure thing, they’re really looking for the unknown. They don’t know what it’ll be like sailing in South Georgia, or diving on a reef with hammerhead sharks at night. These are experiences they will remember all their life.

“On a boat like Aquijo it’s the use of it, and the feeling you get. It’s not about fine wines or great speaker systems, it’s about bringing you to things you wouldn’t otherwise experience.”

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