A superyacht with a performance yacht feel, the SW105 Kiboko Tres is a winning combination of experienced owner, semi-custom design and clever build
Repeatable designs are where the safe money is being spent in sailing superyachts today. While some custom yards are still attracting one-off orders, in recent years it has been designs such as the Swan 115 and the Hoek Truly Classic 128s that have secured multiple orders. And in the 80-110ft sector, Southern Wind has long dominated this market.
We were given the chance to trial a prime example of its latest design in ideal conditions off Palma, Mallorca. Kiboko Tres is the third Southern Wind for this particular owner and shows the benefits of consistency and reliability that using a tried and tested recipe brings.
But what about the pizzazz, the magic? Some might wonder if, on a yacht this size, the helmsman can still feel that connection to sailing that a yachtsman craves.
However, as I was very happy to discover, to stand at the windward wheel when heeled to a gunwale and fully powered up, is to feel on top of the yachting world.
It may be superyachting, but it is most definitely still real sailing. And that is the essence of what the serial yacht owner of Kiboko Tres wanted when he upgraded from a SW94 to this SW105.
Perfecting the recipe
The brief was for a performance-oriented yacht for superyacht regattas and family sailing, but which should be easy to handle. Southern Wind consistently uses a design partnership of Farr and Nauta for its mini-series runs, resulting here in a powerful design with wide aft sections and an open transom.
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Kiboko, the second of three hulls already delivered in this series, is optimised for performance with a larger sailplan, three tonnes more lead in the fixed keel and twin rudders.
“This calculation of additional sail area and weight provides 3.5% more stability and a higher sail area/displacement ratio,” says Jim Schmicker, vice-president of Farr. He adds that the sail area and stability parameters were chosen so it could compete on the Mediterranean superyacht circuit.
Weight is calculated meticulously at Southern Wind – more on that later – and the yard favours vacuum-infused epoxy sandwich construction with carbon used for the hull, deck and bulkheads.
The choice of appendages is key to the type of sailing its owners seek. A fixed keel was chosen for Kiboko for best performance to cost ratio and maintenance benefits, whereas hull number one has a telescopic keel and number three a lifting keel.
Kiboko’s owner, a friend of the founder, the late Willy Persico, is a serial Southern Wind owner and now one of the shareholders of the company. His SW72 launched in 2006, followed by a SW94 in 2010. Raimon Pasco has been employed as skipper for all three yachts, and has followed the builds through construction.
“The idea for the boat was to keep it as simple as possible,” he explains while showing me over the systems. “So the passarelle, for example, is manual – it’s 60kg less weight and much more simple. The owner enjoys the boat, sailing and the sea. He doesn’t want anything fancy; he wants to sail and trim.”
I asked why the owner wanted to keep upsizing. The skipper explained that it involved a balance between finding the ideal space on board for his large family and finding the right number of professional crew.
“But the big challenge for him was to go bigger without losing touch with the water,” says Southern Wind’s commercial director, Andrea Micheli, of the 94 and 105 Kiboko upgrades.
In comparison with the SW94, Kiboko Tres has room for a second genset and watermaker and a garage for a proper size tender. “Yes, it’s going bigger, but not too big.”
Another benefit to upgrading to the SW105 is that it has a wider groove to sail in, thinks Micheli: “You can push harder while staying comfortable. And owners liked the fact it’s fast in all conditions. When cruising, it’s very rare to sail in less than five knots – which means this keen sailor is always helming.”
“He’s also a good businessman and he sells when the time is right,” adds Pasco. “He sold the 94 to the first client who saw it.” He points to the timeless style of the interiors: “Always up to date but not necessarily fashionable.”
The combined experience of owner, skipper, design team and yard helps ensure a quality product with good resale value. Southern Wind now has three decades of experience with semi-custom composite performance cruisers.
The Italian-managed Cape Town yard, which built 13 of the SW100 in four years, has built a reputation for combining technology with seamanlike design.
After launching in the autumn of 2018, Kiboko sailed to her Palma home berth via Cape Verdes. She took part in the Loro Piana Superyacht Regatta in June where she notched up an impressive 2nd in class.
Speed and power
Kiboko is Swahili for hippopotamus and the name was chosen to reflect speed and power. Those are certainly two of the most dominant impressions you get when sailing her.
It was thrilling to take Kiboko out in ideal conditions to witness this exhibition of her power. But, as mentioned, what also struck me is how connected you feel to the sailing, something that’s hard to achieve on a superyacht.
Ideally, size should be irrelevant to the helmsman of a performance yacht – although you do feel the increase in power and scale – but that communication between the sails, hull and wheel should remain. Southern Wind has helped to achieve this using its very direct connection to the quadrants.
Short-run Vectran steering cables link the chain and sprockets in the pedestals to a car running on an athwartships track that connects the rudders stocks, a system favoured on offshore racing yachts.
Setting sail on a particularly hot day with 12-15 knots blowing across Palma Bay, Kiboko quickly powered up and felt utterly in her element.
I looked up from the numbers on the mast base repeaters, remembered I was sailing a 100-footer and could not suppress a broad grin.
We were immediately up to 11.5 knots in 15 at 45-50º to the true wind. Pasco says that, with her wide transom, Kiboko likes to heel at a relatively high angle of around 25°.
So those wanting thrills can foot off a little, pop the windward rudder clear of the water, hold on and enjoy!
With temperatures in the mid 30°Cs, and 30 knots of apparent breeze now blasting over the decks, it felt like having a hair dryer constantly blowing in your face. Whether sitting to leeward looking at the telltales or standing to windward, way up high with full visibility over the low coachroof, it was truly absorbing.
A B&G readout showed 14 tonnes of forestay pressure as we sliced upwind, with speeds now nearing 12 knots in 18 true. With the breeze continuing to build at the south-east end of the bay, we reached the upper limits of the full genoa.
Personally, I’d have liked to have kept pointing a little higher to see how she handled when you feather the gusts a little, but with the boss due to arrive the following morning, the skipper was understandably keen not to push the boat.
Depowering is a simple tweak of the joystick-controlled mainsheet from the pedestal – the hydraulic captive winch responds almost instantly. Indeed, the boat is well set up for two or three people to be able to trim and get the most out of sailing her.
So on the outer edge of each pedestal are push button controls for the cunningham, vang, outhaul and backstay. An ‘active’ button, which you need to hold down when you select the desired option, is an intelligent way to prevent anything from being activated accidentally.
There is plenty of hydraulic flow available from two gensets and a PTO, allowing the crew to give full torque to any winches or furlers that may require it. We were able to furl, gybe and deploy the genoa without losing much momentum. There is also a powered padeye further forward on the stem for a code sail.
Below the aft sailing cockpit is a garage that includes a particularly clever system for launching the fore-and-aft stowed 4.3m/14ft tender. The yard built an H-shape high beam carbon crane within the garage, which spreads the load over its two longitudinal beams.
It’s a simple manual system that uses jib tracks to slide the tender along and a winch to lift it without placing any stress on the transom door, which means that you can use it in more swell than you can with most tender garages.
The steering system is still easily accessible from the deep quarter lockers, from where you can change the toe-in of the rudder angle, too.
Further stowage is found in a cavernous sail locker. Here the chainlocker is offset and mounted vertically, adding to the useable space, while a longitudinal partition helps keep the sails to one side.
Southern Wind has replaced the hydraulic rotating motors it used previously for retracting anchor arms with a lighter system that’s easier to maintain. This employs two hydraulic rams to pull lines attached to a quadrant and allows for a manual back up as well.
Micheli went on to describe how every piece of equipment is itemised and weight tracked before it goes onto the boat to help calculate the exact centre of gravity.
The yard was reportedly 300kg below overall target weight for the RP90 Allsmoke. “We monitor the weights so carefully during construction because we know they will be sailed loaded,” says Micheli.
A crew companionway leads directly from the sailing cockpit to the nav station and crew area. This tried and tested Southern Wind layout is a hard one to better for big yachts. It separates the lion’s share of owner and guest accommodation forward, while giving full separate access to the working areas.
Meanwhile, from the shallow, beamy guest cockpit, with its split tables, it’s a gently angled descent into the tranquil raised saloon. An extra wide, sliding curved companionway hatch pours light into this area, which is split between dining to one side and sofas to the other.
The light Nauta styling is punctuated by Mallorcan-style blue and white upholstery. The interior design is based on simplicity. “Show, don’t hide, was the key,” says Nauta’s Massimo Gino. “Furnishings, suspended from the yacht’s structural elements, let us showcase the shape of the yacht and bring out some of the elements of her construction.”
As well as creating good views through the hull and coachroof ports, the raised saloon format buys the space to house the engine and machinery room below. On a lower level forward is a snug area with day bed, facing a central longitudinal bulkhead and huge flatscreen TV where the optional lift keel would be concealed.
Guest accommodation is in a double ensuite cabin forward of the saloon and identical twin cabins, before the crew area, with all cabins having an inviting feeling of space and light.
A hallway into the forward owner’s suite provides space for a generous allocation of stowage. Moving into the tastefully furnished cabin, with low central walkaround berth (with leecloth fixings), it again feels welcoming and light thanks to a large hatch and portlights, light upholstery and trim. After a hot day’s sailing, it felt decidedly calming and comfortable below decks.
Moving aft from the twin cabins, a sliding door can close off the galley and crew area. The skipper has, quite sensibly, allocated himself a comparatively large double ensuite cabin (considering the two other bunk cabins share a heads), while all crew berths can be canted to suit the heel angle.
Showing me around the engine room, Pasco explained how he insisted on having a workbench area and tool stowage in the control room – in an area that, surprisingly, has less room than the SW96.
The beam in the engine room at this length makes up for that a little, with plenty of volume and access around the engines and gensets.
Both the insulation and the attention to ventilation are noteworthy. Numerous air intakes on deck allow air to enter passively through watertraps, which, together with a constant extraction of air, results in a healthy circulation without using too much power.
The shipyard has worked with Dutch specialist Van Cappellen for the last few years to ensure rigorous levels of sound insulation.
For example, according to Micheli, there is 800kg of fire and sound insulation in the engine room alone, a mix of mineral wool and aluminium cladding with melamine foam, covered with a plywood, cork and rubber laminate.
Different materials are used for different applications and frequencies. “The key is not to protect the user from the source but to isolate the source,” says Micheli.
Performance and comfort
The consistent theme is the yard’s methodology of using the right amount of material to boost performance without sacrificing comfort. Matching that to the needs of each owner is, for Micheli, the thing that defines Southern Wind: “We like to bring our opinions to the table, which can make things more challenging, but works for a more practical boat in the long run.”
So although it does build custom boats, the company’s focus on semi-custom small series has created a winning recipe for refined yachts with less lead-time. And the ability to enjoy engaging, fast sailing with only a small crew is invaluable – in Kiboko’s case it allows her owner to take his 100-footer daysailing easily from Palma.
This isn’t simply glamour superyachting. Take the helm of a yacht like this and you quickly appreciate it is designed and engineered for sailors who want the best experience.