Yachting World's superyacht expert, David Glenn sails a German Frers sloop in Auckland, NZ 6/3/06

The last time I was on the bustling waters of Auckland Harbour was a fateful day in 2003 when Team New Zealand’s America’s Cup defence literally fell apart. Pundits feared for the country’s vibrant superyacht industry as the Cup circus upped sticks and unceremoniously left town.

Returning to the same waters yesterday was not to pick over the debris of an industry that some thought would go into freefall, but to witness its success as clients continue to turn to New Zealand in the knowledge that they are going to get a quality job well done.

On Sunday afternoon we went for a quick spin aboard Vesper, the latest superyacht to emerge from Ian and Blanche Cook’s Auckland-based composite boat building firm at Beachhaven on the North Shore.

She is the third German Frers designed sloop to come out of Yachting Developments Limited in recent years and at about 95ft loa appeals to clients who want superyacht finish, performance and volume but are anxious to retain the sailing ‘feel’ that larger sailing yachts sometimes can not deliver.

Vesper, run by the highly experienced Andy and Sandy Burridge, was built for an American owner who was looking for a rewarding but easily managed sailing yacht with plenty of comfort in a traditionally finished accommodation.

Part of the reason YDL got the job – the owner’s previous yacht was a Swan 77 and they had also investigated Oyster’s proposed 100-footer – was because Ian Cook was sure he could have Vesper in the water in a year. It was a tough call and a commitment Ian looks back on with some astonishment! But he and his team hit the deadline and Vesper’s build standard is undeniably world class.

Vesper was launched at the tail end of last year and named in January. When the bottle broke across her bows it was the first time her owner had seen the NZ$14 million yacht! The project was managed by Ian Cook and the Burridges who communicated with the owner by email, sending hundreds of digital pictures and descriptions as the design and detail evolved.

When the owner eventually saw Vesper he was ecstatic. “It was quite a tearful occasion,” recalled Sandy Burridge who worked with the owner on all the furnishing and many accommodation details.

Frers has ensured a pedigree sailing machine, evolving Vesper from K2 and Symmetry, similar composite hulled yachts built by YDL. Vesper is marginally narrower in the beam at deck level but slightly wider on the waterline giving her more form stability. She has a single point mainsheet and the deck in general is cleaner as the owner was keen to be able to move about with ease.

As we threaded our way through the angling enthusiasts out in their fishing boats for a bit of Sunday afternoon sport, a gusty south westerly had Vesper charging along at 10 knots and anyone on the wheel could immediately sense that Frers had got it absolutely right in the ‘feel’ department. She is a great boat to sail, responsive and genuinely fun to handle.

Vesper’s owner has already been cruising extensively in New Zealand waters and following some more forays into the Pacific she will be boarding a Dock Express and heading for the eastern seaboard of America.

We’ll be bringing you more detail about Vesper and some stunning pictures in an upcoming issue of Yachting World.

More from the Auckland waterfront?

We joined Vesper in Viaduct Harbour right outside the old Team NZ America’s Cup shed, which will soon be pulled down for new apartment development. We were a couple of pontoons away from Michael Illbruck’s brand new and immaculate looking Reichel Pugh designed 72ft mini maxi which will be heading for Europe for the Med circuit this summer.

She was also built by YDL. On the other side of the harbour was Janet of Wyoming, a giant Dubois design from Alloy Yachts, and Zulu, another from Ed had just arrived fresh from Fitzroy her builders in New Plymouth on New Zealand’s west coast. We could also just see the stern of Alfa Romeo poking out of a shed as she was being prepped for shipping to the northern hemisphere. Unconfirmed reports are that Neville Crichton has sold her.

And just outside on the hard standing was a new TP52, also for Michael Illbruck, fresh from her builders Cooksons in Auckland. Mick Cookson’s about to launch yet another TP52 ?watch this space.

David Glenn, Auckland