Michael Schmidt’s powerful new Y7 combines genius ideas with a keep-it-simple theme, says Toby Hodges
What is your idea of simple sailing? To a wooden yacht enthusiast it may be the pleasure of hand hoisting and trimming sails via block and tackle alone, where an owner of a modern glassfibre yacht might baulk at the amount of upkeep timber demands and prefer the ease of push button sailing.
Others might look back whimsically to their youth and the joy of simply dragging a dinghy down the beach and sailing without any maintenance or financial woes.
Michael Schmidt’s latest creation is his solution to simple sailing at the luxury end of the scale. The decorated sailor who founded Hanse Yachts believes in a keep-it-simple philosophy with his models, which you may find hard to believe when looking at this new 70-footer and the levels of technical complexity that must lie beneath its carbon fibre/epoxy skins.
But having sailed the Y7 in precisely the light wind conditions for which it was designed, and felt the thrill of helming a perfectly balanced, potent and contemporary fast cruiser, I can vouch that it does have a theme of simplicity, which becomes dangerously enticing.
“Sailing fun is made possible by a simple ship that has been reduced to the bare essentials without sacrificing comfort,” Schmidt believes. We’re not talking a yacht stripped to engineless minimalism here. The Y7 is, to all intents and purposes, a scaled-down superyacht, which has been kept approachable, performance-oriented and comparatively easy to manage.
I quote Schmidt not simply because he is the founder of the company, but because he is a veteran boatbuilder, sailor and visionary of the industry. Having built up and then sold Hanse Yachts, and extensively cruised its largest model at the time, the 630e, he searched fruitlessly for a larger, lighter boat that could better harness the softer breezes typically found in the Mediterranean.
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Michael Schmidt Yachtbau, now Y Yachts, is the brand of luxury carbon cruisers he created, a German firm that aims to use the best technology available to simplify the sailing. Schmidt also believes a yacht needs aesthetics that will distinguish it from the pack.
This philosophy underpinned his first model, the Brenta 80 (now Y8). Schmidt has since cruised that test boat, Cool Breeze, thousands of miles. And while many reportedly liked that concept and design style, they found it too large for their needs.
‘A 70ft yacht you can sail alone’ became Y Yachts’ target. The result is a fast cruiser with no backstay(s), a self-tacking jib and winches and lines that fall to the hand of the helmsman.
The design echoes the style of the Y8 and sees Schmidt maintain his penchant for high topsides (from his Hanse days), combined with a flat, low coachroof. Schmidt doesn’t like having to rely on crew and typically sails two-up.
Nevertheless the beamy and voluminous Y7 includes a crew cabin within the interior (rather than stuffed in the forepeak), with private access to the cockpit.
Bill Tripp was tasked with targeting lightweight performance to ensure the boat would offer enjoyable sailing in single figure windspeeds. A key attribute of the Y7 is that it shouldn’t need to motor in light airs.
That said, it can motor very efficiently thanks to the inclusion of two engines; Schmidt values low fuel consumption, good manoeuvrability and systems redundancy.
Carbon sandwich construction with an epoxy outer skin results in a moderate/light displacement of 29 tonnes and a good balance of impact protection and noise control. Although Schmidt built some of the earliest carbon race yachts, he now subcontracts hull and deck moulding to specialist lamination yards in Poland and Slovenia, then fitting out in his new 3,000m2 facility in Greifswald.
The structural work and finish of the first Y7, Bella, is certainly to a high standard, and the sub-€2m starting price for this 70ft carbon composite cruiser explains the appeal of the new design and demand to see it in action. The second hull has been handed over, the third is in build and the yard is now set up to produce one boat every four months.
The price is a significant factor. The Y7 represents is a lot of carbon yacht for the money. At this price point, potential buyers might be tempted to compare it to a large semi-production cruiser such the CNB 76 or Euphoria 68. However, those who are looking for comparable performance would need to look at lighter composite yachts – and the Swan 65, for example, costs another €1m.
Bella certainly looked very much at home nestled among the superyachts at Port Adriano marina in Mallorca. The flat coachroof was adorned with sunbeds and a table and chairs were set up on its large flush foredeck.
The large bimini shading it hung from the mast, forestay and shrouds – a clever idea to use the foredeck to create a shaded area away from dock. Bella also has a removable cockpit bimini, mounted on four carbon posts.
When sail trialling a yacht, you always hope to get the type of conditions for which it is primarily designed. I favour moderate winds to ensure I can get a proper feel for the boat. So I did fret a little as we motored out of the marina and met a sloppy sea and a gentle breeze.
However, that long afternoon and evening we spent under sail proved perfect for demonstrating the Y7’s capabilities, and particularly for appreciating its ability to be able to keep on sailing in light winds.
In just 10 knots of breeze, typical midsummer Mediterranean conditions, we were already heeled and powered-up, sailing at 8-8.5 knots. The modern, beamy hull shape, with a long waterline and generous sail area, all help produce such speeds. The sail area to displacement ratio is a huge 33.4, a figure that confirms this design’s significant power aloft. Consequently, she will need to be reefed early.
The square-top fully battened mainsail has 184m2 of sail area alone, which could be a lot to handle without sufficient crew. An upgrade to the winch package would be on my option list, as it took an age to hoist this sail from the lazyjacks.
However, the helmsman feels the benefit of this sailpower immediately. Tacking the boat is an addictive, one-person affair. The 30° sweptback spreaders avoid the need for a backstay, and allow the use of a self-tacking jib.
We found more breeze once out into the bay and continued our beat west away from the island. The outboard position of the wheel pedestals helps give the helmsman clear views over the flat, low coachroof.
The helm is generally light, as you’d expect with twin rudders, but with a pleasant increase in weatherhelm when the boat heels and powers up. There is also plenty of grip from these rudders, which are positioned relatively far outboard.
It is less comfortable for crew, however. Such is the beam aft (over 18ft) that it can feel unnerving to cross the cockpit or to stay seated to windward when at a high heeling angle. Comparable yachts of this size tend to have a mainsheet winch plinth with rails or a support/crash bar between the wheels. Y Yachts says it can offer the latter, which is an option I’d certainly recommend.
The long cockpit with split tables has room for eight to sit around, with more space on the large aft-facing seats. The portside seat has access to the crew quarters neatly integrated beneath. The aluminium frames that form the backrests for the cockpit seats are freestanding of the coamings, a clear indication that this boat is aimed at warm weather sailing.
Push button reaching
I thought the Y7 might be all about the upwind sailing experience, keeping the apparent windspeed up and heel on, but then we hoisted a Code 0 for the long reach back.
At the push of another pedestal button, an electric furler fitted in the end of the bowsprit unleashed an enormous amount of sail (acquired, it transpired, from a Maxi 72). With this code sail set, we picked up pace and were able to match the 7-11 knot wind speeds all the way home.
The single point mainsheet is led forward to the mast and aft to one winch. This arrangement, together with the other sheets and halyards, results in a mass of rope tails in the cockpit. Unusually (and commendably), there are generous-sized rope tail lockers between the winches to keep all these lines from getting too unruly.
The deck is stepped in line with where the guest cockpit meets the sailing cockpit, so there is easy access out onto the sidedecks. Here, the double guardrails reduce to single rails to meet the bulwark and pushpit.
This low rail invites the helmsman to sit right out to leeward and enjoy the clear views forward. However, the wide-open aft deck and low rail do little to promote a secure feeling if you are in the sailing cockpit.
Nevertheless, as I perched to leeward, and with a light hand on the wheel, the sailing was truly memorable, and we footed along effortlessly under the Code sail.
The Y7 certainly has a slippery hull design – so much so that it was only as we approached the marina that I remembered that the Y7 is fitted with two shaft-drive propellers. Twin Nanni engines were chosen as they are simple to repair, with few electronics, and their relatively small size means the saloon sole and thus coachroof can be kept low and streamlined.
However, problems with the installation on this first boat resulted in unacceptable noise levels, an issue the yard now reports has been resolved. It says all future models will have saildrives.
Under power, the boat doesn’t quite spin on a point like a catamaran – the props are quite close together – but the twin engines certainly aid manoeuvrability and mean that you are much less reliant on the bowthruster.
Below decks, the styling matches the impressive look of the exterior, and is akin to a designer apartment. In Bella’s case, it was customised specially for Michael Schmidt. Hull number two is said to have a much lighter, less masculine trim.
Schmidt was inspired by modern architectural designs he saw in Copenhagen, and this is reflected in the feel of the finish, from the choice of fabrics, to the lighting and overall interior shapes.
Smart thinking and styling
Multiple layout options are offered including three or four cabins, and the choice of a central transverse galley or passageway galley aft. Abaft the aft port cabin is a clever, if super-compact, crew cabin, which contains two bunks at right angles to each other, a heads and private access to the sailing cockpit.
The semi-raised saloon creates the impression of a huge space. The yacht’s large beam accentuates this by exposing the curves and structures of hull sides. On the test boat the saloon has a wide-open space extending as far as the galley, sited amidships. To help you traverse it, there are sliding leather grabhandles on the deckhead for when moving about.
I like the use of vertical glass coachroof windows, which let in plenty of light without producing too much heat, but to provide better ventilation I would prefer to have more opening portholes and some coachroof hatches.
The galley is relatively compact and is open along the centreline, a layout that is perhaps not ideally suited to life at heel. That said, it boasts a large area of fiddled work surfaces and generous amounts of refrigerated stowage, and the yard does offer the option of a larger, enclosed galley aft, which connects through to the crew accommodation.
A central island berth in the forward cabin suggests this, too, is designed more for use in port than at sea. Hull number two has an offset berth here, which will be more practical at sea.
The Y7 is undeniably a lovely yacht to spend time aboard and one that can be handled with relative ease. The ‘keep it simple’ philosophy is felt mostly in the sailing, trimming and manoeuvring. The helmsman can easily manage lines and controls from the wheel – though would need help with setting, stowing and reefing sails. From the design of the tender garage, the installation of twin engines to a myriad of neat fixtures and fittings, the Y7 is packed with novel ideas, all born out of Michael Schmidt’s enormous experience. Below decks the Y7 feels as much like a luxury apartment as a yacht, and the style can be customised to suit an owner. I loved the exterior and interior design of Bella, although I think the layout is more set up for use at rest than at sea. The contemporary styling is bound to divide opinion. But the Y7 boasts superyacht quality at a size that is properly rewarding to sail. This powerful yacht boasts a level of performance that is guaranteed to excite.