This Swedish company offers a new concept of an aluminium hull with bespoke interior. Does it work? asks Toby Hodges
Buying a new yacht? Generally, you have the choice of a production boat or going the more adventurous custom route. For a superyacht you might employ a project manager to help you through from design to build, to fit-out and trials. At the less fanciful end of the scale it’s more a case of finding a design you like within your budget from a production yard, or braving the bespoke route alone if you can’t.
Adventure Yachts brings some of that big boat mentality to a smaller scale. It’s a new business that neatly fills that grey area between production and full custom builds, by project managing builds using select specialist subcontractors. And it has started by building an enticing 55-footer.
This yacht was nominated for European Yacht of the Year 2016 – see details here
Intrigued? We certainly were when we had the chance to sail her from La Rochelle.
The 55 is a bare aluminium cruiser that is built and fitted out by various specialist yards under the management of Adventure Yachts. The result is a quality bluewater yacht with a bespoke interior.
The concept is the brainchild of Swedish sailor Bo Gummeson, who has a business history in mechanical components and hydraulics. Initially Gummeson planned to build a yacht for him and his wife. “But then I thought it would be more interesting to find a market for this idea,” he says.
The hull was welded and insulated in Germany, where the machinery was also installed. It was then trucked to Sweden for fit-out at Orust Yacht Service (OYS), which owns the former Najad shipyard.
The reason to subcontract to multiple yards is that Gummeson believes that no single company can be specialised enough in all areas.
“We started with what we wanted in an aluminium cruiser,” Gummeson explains. “She had to be fast, with a deep, lifting keel, with Delta lines and a long waterline length.”
He also wanted low maintenance, and for that, aluminium is king.
Luxury in metal
It seems bare aluminium is back in vogue. Some of the most desirable new bluewater cruisers are aluminium and I have often been surprised that more bluewater cruisers don’t choose metal yachts – although the imminent launch of the new Bestevaer Pure 45, plus Garcia’s expanding Exploration range will offer greater choice in this material.
Aluminium is light, strong and corrosion proof (when correctly treated); it requires no maintenance and, unlike glassfibre and resin, it is recyclable. Aluminium hulls are formidably durable. They also provide a comparatively unrestricted shell into which to design your choice of internal layout.
Gummeson stresses that the boat is largely customisable. “The cockpit, superstructure, transom and keel are some examples where we are able to change the outer design. The inner design is only limited by the watertight bulkheads forward and aft.”
The AY55 costs €1.8m inc VAT (£1.4m) – which Gummeson says is pitched at the same price range as the Najad 570 and fitted out at the same shipyard. “But we have included everything,” he adds. It is, however, hard to compare prices when you consider the after-sales service and resale value.
Berckemeyer Yacht Design’s Martin Menzner did the naval architecture for the concept. The hull has an appealing, long, low, modern shape, with beamy aft chined sections and a powerful sailplan.
The inherent stability of this shape is further bolstered by a deep telescopic T-keel – somewhat of a novelty for a bluewater aluminium cruiser, the majority of which have swing keels. Plus her substantial two 1,100lt freshwater tanks can also be used as water ballast.
The need for speed
“For me it was very important to have a good sailing boat, with a fast hull,” explains Gummeson. This focus on performance goes some way to explaining the generous sailplan, which includes a square-top main and laminate sails.
These carbon tape-on-Spectra UK Sails have double taffeta skins to make them more durable, creating a performance cruising suit that “will last eight to ten years,” according to the UK Sails rep.
I was taken by the rig, which is designed and set up like an Open-style racer. So the mast is positioned relatively far aft, creating a powerful area for the non-overlapping cutter foresails, and it is easy to change through the gears from the cockpit while short-handed.
This mainsail provides power up high, which helped her match the light winds we experienced, while the single-line reefing system, combined with efficient running backstays, makes it easy to depower. The genoa and self-tacking jib are on furlers and a large bowsprit aids the setting of flying sails. It’s a superb set-up for enjoying and maximising sailing time when short-handed.
We may not have had the conditions to test the bulletproof potential her raw looks suggest, but the gentle Force 3 was ideal for showing off this performance aspect of her rig and sails.
We were able to maintain 6 knots both upwind and down, the latter reaching with the aid of a generous asymmetric kite in just six knots of dying breeze.
Axel Nissen-Lie, a European Yacht of the Year colleague and editor of Seilas magazine in Norway, sailed the AY55 for 150 miles from Orust to Oslo and confirmed my opinion that she sails more like a performance yacht than a bluewater cruiser. He averaged 9.2 knots over a 50-mile reach. “I have sailed many boats built for long trips, but none has impressed me as much under sail,” he told me.
Nissen-Lie says she can be heavy on the helm when powered up. Equally, during the light conditions we experienced, there was little sensation through the chain steering – perhaps not surprising when you consider the sizeable twin rudders that are designed to help take the load if she is beached.
The cockpit is particularly well laid out for short-handed sailing, with sheets, halyards and running backstays led to six powered winches within reach of the wheels. These electric hydraulic Andersen winches have proportional control. This means they are torque-sensitive to the touch, allowing for instant full power or gradual winding speed.
Hot on hydraulics
Gummeson worked for a hydraulics company for eight years, hence commercial spec hydraulic systems are employed throughout, including for the keel, windlasses, winches, vang and furlers. “There are too many bad solutions in the marine market, so I wanted to do it properly,” Gummeson explains.
All these hydraulic demands are power-hungry though – the AY55 has a 4x4kW 24V Powerpack motor, plus genset, inverter and 720ah of AGM house batteries.
The forward end of the cockpit provides good protection thanks to a combination of deep benches, a fixed windscreen and a sprayhood supported by the mainsheet arch. The arch keeps the mainsheet clear of the cockpit and yet provides standing headroom in the cockpit. The cockpit sole is lined with cork, which felt comfortable underfoot, looked smart and had no stains.
The side decks are wide, the guardrails extra high and there are chunky toerails. Gummeson has employed a neat solution on the inside edge of the bulwarks – Ronstan tracks allow harness lines to be clipped onto cars and slide freely from bow to stern.
The hydraulically operated door to the tender garage, with substantial rubber gasket, is a telling sign of how solidly the AY55 is built. It even has cleats on the outboard end for tying the dinghy to. The volume here is enough for a 3.10m RIB with a 9.9hp outboard mounted. Gummeson admits that they “built a 40ft boat on a 55ft hull”.
The quality mahogany interior of the AY55 is reminiscent of Najad, which is not surprising when you remember it is fitted out by the same yard. “We decided to make this very much like a Najad because that’s the best level of interior you can get,” Gummeson explains. “But you can obviously have it as minimal as you like.”
The raised saloon and two-cabin layout, designed for two liveaboards, feels generous in size, including a coachroof providing plenty of natural light. Instead of a second aft cabin, for example, there is a full workshop abaft the passageway galley, plus an office and a laundry forward. But with the ends surrendered to tender and sail stowage, the internal volume does feel compressed.
Future owners have the scope to change the layout completely. Adventure training types might prefer a series of bunk cabins forward, for instance. Certainly a Pullman cabin in place of the office, with a chart table within reach of the companionway, might have more universal appeal.
The box for the lifting keel is concealed neatly at the forward end of the saloon. The saloon is compact, however, and the sole too low to see out of the coachroof windows. Again this is a matter of individual choice.
“We tried to keep easy access to everything,” says Gummeson. He pressed a button and the saloon floor rose like the bonnet of a pimped-up muscle car to reveal the engine. Once Gummeson decided on an air compressor to lift the large flat-screen TV, he used pneumatic cylinders for a range of pushbutton trickery aboard, including for the companionway hatch and ballast valve. Even the office chair swings out to the pleasant ‘psssht’ sound of forced air.
Other than easing the manual workload, an air compressor can be useful aboard for inflating the dinghy, paddleboards, fenders and even to provide air to dive with under the hull – although a pneumatically controlled chair is perhaps over the top.
Back to the engine, which is mounted centrally for optimum weight distribution and, thanks to the lifting floorboards, has all-round access. The rest of the machinery, including genset and banks of electronics, is meticulously installed in the aft workroom – as well as a proper workbench with vice and a view through the hull window.
LOA 16.75m/54ft 11in
LWL 15.90m/52ft 2in
Beam (max) 4.80m/15ft 9in
Draught 3.05m-1.40m/10ft-4ft 7in
Disp (lightship) 20,000kg/44,092lb
Sail area (100% foretriangle) 152m2/1,145ft2
Engine Yanmar 100hp shaftdrive
Sail area:disp 23.0
Price ex VAT €1m (£778,010)
Price as tested €1.5m (£1,167,000)
Design Bo Gummeson/Berckemeyer Yacht Design
The AY55 is a fusion of different boatbuilding worlds: production and custom yachts; bluewater and performance cruising; a stark metal hull with Swedish refined interior. It’s a clever business concept and a clever boat. Some might argue it feels a bit too clever, somewhat OTT in some of the hydraulic and pneumatic systems – more like a showboat in fact, but then I guess that is what it is.
The performance hull design and rig are superb. Her fit-out could be lighter, but she is still around six tonnes lighter than a similar-sized Hallberg-Rassy or Najad and has much larger tanks. The large tender garage perhaps monopolises too much interior volume in this version.
But I really like it – for its individuality, its inclusion of different ideas, from pneumatic solutions to safety rails, to the protected cork-soled cockpit. As Bo Gummeson says: “The fun stuff is to design and build it… this is the small superyacht way of doing things.”
The question is, will others share his vision or would they rather do a custom job themselves? At least they now have the choice, the ideal platform, a proven boat that they can see and touch, before deciding on a bespoke interior built by Swedish masters of their craft.
This is an adventurous yacht indeed.