The 40m Baltic sailing superyacht My Song is as individual as the piece of music she was named after, writes Rob Melotti
The first thing you see on descending into the saloon from the deck of the 40m sloop My Song is a series of eight half models arranged vertically on the aft panel of the keel box. It is a history of the owner’s vessels going back 40 years, starting with an Italian trapeze dinghy at the bottom rising up through the Yngling, Mini Tonner and Mumm 30 and finishing with four luxury cruiser-racers – all named after one of jazz pianist and composer Keith Jarrett’s most famous recordings.
It’s an individual touch, a record of a lifetime in performance sailing, but My Song sitting at the top of the tree also represents progression and evolution in the art and science of designing multi-purpose sailing superyachts.
Every demand for compromise on weight, style or performance was met with a counter-offer to customise – a third way – producing a cruiser-racer on which all assumptions have been challenged, and every avenue explored to satisfaction.
Work began in 2014 on the largest sailing yacht to date for Nauta Design and the company’s fourth cooperation with Baltic Yachts. California design firm Reichel/Pugh did the naval architecture and structural engineering.
But what is really interesting on this yacht, according to Luca Pedol of Nauta Design, one of the busiest yacht and powerboat design offices in the world and a long-time collaborator with this owner, is the construction method. My Song’s hull was built in two halves split down the centreline using a technique more commonly found in the building of racing yacht hulls.
“Basically it allows you to build the hull in the lightest way possible. It gives you easier access and lets you laminate the sides and the bottom of the hull at the same time, which is more accurate and saves time,” Pedol says.
“All of the foredeck and the sidedecks were included in the two longitudinal hull laminates,” adds Sören Jansson, project engineer at Baltic Yachts, who was on board My Song for the yacht’s first and only press event in early May. “Then we put in partial bulkheads, beams and then joined the halves and started installing all the systems. The coachroof and the cockpit was a separate piece to go on top.”
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The project mantra was ‘think weight’ and every detail down to the last screw and bolt was examined to save weight while keeping stiffness and resistance in the construction. Naturally, My Song has a variety of weighty cruising features built in, each of which is customised to the hilt.
None more so than the 36-tonne lifting keel, which reduces draught by over 2m from a performance-enhancing 7m to a more versatile 4.8m. Yet the fin, which is made of high-grade Weldox and weighs 7.5 tonnes on its own, is tapered and designed to be as slim as possible. This reduces weight and drag, but presents a further structural engineering challenge to the designers.
Normal lifting keel fins are straight so that if the yacht grounds with the keel in the raised position, the entire keel edge that is in contact with the keel box can absorb the load. With a tapered keel fin, it’s the keel head that has to take all the load, which requires significant extra structural engineering.
There is also 15m2 of special toughened glass in the topside portholes and deck hatches, but on the coachroof, the thickness of the expanse of tinted glass is optimised: thicker glass where there is no other structural support; thinner elsewhere. This follows exactly the same process as the lamination of the hull, facilitated by the split mode construction method, which saves hundreds of kilograms throughout.
Perhaps the most distinctive design feature from the outside is the 40cm thick bulwark extending the topsides 30cm above deck level. A practical cruising feature, it offers protection for guests and crew while providing a comfortable seat or backrest around the entire deck. Aesthetically, the bulwark also conceals the bulge of the coachroof, creating the impression of a yacht with a completely flush deck.
It also creates usable space, or deck volume, as Luca Pedol explains: “One functional aspect of the bulwark is it can store many line runs and hydraulic rams. This is quite important because on such a low freeboard yacht you have not much interior volume inside to store everything. So they use the deck volume instead.”
Of course, as with the tapered keel, there is a miracle of engineering hidden in the bulwark – a 4m long opening amidships, known as a freeing port. This opening works as a scupper for draining any water flowing aft down the deck and is also positioned adjacent to the saloon windows, enhancing the natural light down below and improving the view out.
Its location coincides with one of My Song’s most vital locations for longitudinal stiffness. “The bulwark and particularly the 4m opening amidships is very spectacular in terms of engineering,” adds Sören Jansson. “[We used] slightly more than 200 layers of carbon on top of this opening section, then it tapers out. There are two pillars – both structural. One of them is for a padeye, the other is for symmetry.”
Elsewhere on deck, the owner’s racing crew was given a free hand to make suggestions and alterations during the design process. The mainsheet trimming position was altered for the benefit of the trimmer, who is left-handed. The headsail trimmers demanded transverse jib car controls – pumps for which had to be located in between the keel box and the mast foot.
The enormous headsails – the 1,300m2 A1 alone weighs over 400kg – are all on furlers, but instead of stowage on deck when not in use, these 50m long tubes of sail are wound around a drum fitted in the cavernous bow locker located forward of the owner’s master suite.
For cruising, the bowsprit can be removed and a new configuration at the masthead can be installed to remove the twin running backstays. This is done using a detachable mast crane developed by Southern Spars for Baltic’s 2016 launch, Nikata. The crane can be hoisted to the top of the rig to provide an attachment point for a standing backstay, enabling the square top main and twin backstay rig to be swapped for a pinhead main with single backstay in a matter of hours.
The rain finally cleared in La Spezia as we left the dock and motored out past the Riva yard, catching sight of the Perini Navi yard in the distance on our way out through the breakwater.
In ten knots with cruising main and J3, My Song easily exceeded wind speed at 45° off the breeze. The wheel felt light and responsive and in the shifty conditions I quickly found a groove using a mix of distant headsail telltales (good eyesight needed) and the digital wind angle readout on the mast.
Needless to say, with racing sails and 30 crew on the rail, this performance would improve. The optimum heel angle upwind, according to racing crew manager Giorgio Benussi, is 34°; there are ramps built in to the deck beneath the helming positions.
Turning downwind with the A3 unfurled, the breeze dropped but the speed still improved. In seven knots of true wind, My Song hummed along at 12 knots in the flat sea off beautiful Porto Venere.
Benussi and the yacht captain, Paolo Sandrin, who has been with the owner since the 1980s, both wield tablet computers at various points during our brief sail, displaying a matrix of rolling numbers and acronyms in different colours and sizes.
This is all part of the programmable logic system that prevents accidental damage being caused by over-application of hydraulic winch power or other control systems. It also reassures the crew that the rig is coping with the sailplan that is set.
Luxurious touches on deck include pop-up speakers from the glass panels atop the coachroof and electric seating integrated into the flush decks that is specifically designed to be comfortable and usable at up to 20° of heel.
The anchor is housed in a fully retractable arm, all of which stows neatly below deck in a dedicated bow locker. Once at anchor, an array of deck lounging areas can be configured with biminis and a stern platform opens up the tender garage.
Built to accommodate six crew and eight guests, My Song features two full-width spaces below deck: the main saloon directly abaft the keelbox is located just ahead of the point of maximum beam, while the master suite, forward of the mast is slightly narrower.
Headroom in the saloon is 2m and there are plenty of handholds in the ceiling at an easy height for most. Some of the taller guests on board had to watch their heads. There is no excess headroom built into this yacht. The owner wanted a sleek, low-profile coachroof partially hidden by a raised bulwark. And with a central saloon sited atop the engine room, this is a space you could cross safely while at heel.
Access to the forward cabin is via a wide-open corridor to port of the keel box – “quite a big hole to have in the structure so close to the keel box” according to engineer Sören Jansson. To starboard of the mast foot is an owner’s studio area that can be transformed into a guest double cabin with its own heads.
Peering inside the mast box, the forward end of the keel box features bulges of laminated carbon strips where reinforcement for side loads and grounding loads are built in. The mast foot is built with slotted holes in the heel allowing its position to be altered depending on the wind strength.
However, this is not an ‘on the fly’ setting. It requires a pair of bolts to be loosened and the Cunningham cylinder to be stropped to the mast foot slider.
The two main guest cabins are abaft the central hatch – both with en-suite heads. The passageway leads to the galley, which has an eating area built in, then through another door to the navstation, which sits below the aft hatch located between the steering wheels. The three crew cabins with bunk beds and en-suite heads are all accessed from the navstation.
“All the interior furniture is carbon composite – just a veneer of carbon on the exterior surfaces so the weight is very much reduced,” says Luca Pedol. Indeed, the locker doors were so light it hardly seemed possible they were built to last.
“Just 105 tonnes for almost 40m LOA with so many functions and comforts on board is a very good result,” he continued. Baltic even went so far as to replace the stainless steel cable trays as specified with carbon ones to save weight.
Fabric – linen in particular – plays a big part in the design and decoration of the interior. The soft furnishing in the saloon is upholstered in treated linen from the specialist yacht interior range at Loro Piana, the exclusive Italian fashion house. But it goes even further aboard My Song.
Taken to extremes
“The owner asked us to panel the interior with many different surfaces, so many of the counter tops in the galley as well as ceilings and floorboards are made of linen coated in resin,” explains Luca Pedol. “The percentage of linen to resin depends on the texture and colour required and as well as the area to be covered.
“The owner worked all his life in fashion and clothing industries so he has a very high sensitivity for materials, textures. We tried dozens of different attempts for laminating the right percentage of linen and resin to obtain what he really wanted. The final result is really good.”
Sören Jansson was also heavily involved in perfecting this technique over the 22-month build period, describing the resin-linen floorboards as “decorative and durable”.
“The interior design by Nauta was quite a challenge – to get everything to match with their vision,” he continued. “We did quite some work to save weight on this boat.”
Jansson highlighted the tongue-and-groove effects on the wall panels, all of which are made of Nomex foam with painted carbon veneers. “Of course this looks easy and if you do it in plywood you just make a groove, but since this is laminated it takes special tooling to make these grooves. It’s a lot of effort behind every single detail to save weight to the maximum.”
Baltic Yachts offers owners the chance to visit the yard in Finland and view the interior before work starts by making life-size mock-ups, typically of half, or one aspect of a room. It is a service offered to all custom yacht owners.
“This one was taken to extremes, though,” commented Henry Hawkins, Baltic Yachts CEO. “Normally a mock-up is visited once and the owner likes or doesn’t like… for My Song, the owner was back and forth four times.”
“We set up half the saloon and half the master cabin in one of the workshops in Finland,” explains Nauta’s project manager Martino Majno. “It was a huge effort – we started with a mock-up based on the initial drawings, then there was a chance for the owner to come and change this or that.
“We had different visits to the mock-up – maybe three or four iterations. For instance, the library, the book shelves all the detail, the chamfer, how the shelves are suspended, how high they should be. All the details of this part were changed a couple of times. Baltic Yachts made possible for the owner to see for real with the final surface finishing exactly how it would look.”
“This was also part of the linen technique,” adds Sören Janssen. “We tried a lot of colours, different grain effects, how much would the grain be visible, how smooth… lacquer, matt or high gloss.”
Keeping it quiet
Another interior feature of My Song is the level of soundproofing that is built in (and weighed) at design level. “On this boat it has been a very high priority from the beginning to keep the noise levels down,” explains Sören Janssen. “[There is] slightly more than 5 tonnes of sound insulation built in. That’s why we need to keep everything light so that we can afford to install so much sound insulation.
“The floorboards in the saloon are lightweight, but also we have used cork material and rubber in the composite to keep the noise from the engine room below at bay. Also in furniture panels between cabins there are special noise-dampening materials for added privacy.”
The battery bank – 100kW of lithium-ion cells – is positioned just forward of the mast box making use of its weight for additional righting moment in the centre of the yacht. There are two Panda generators including a small one for silent for use at night, though the battery bank is sufficient for eight or nine hours of silent running.
Underwater, My Song is fitted with Baltic Yachts’ latest Retractable Propulsion System (RPS), which not only leaves the hull entirely flush when the propeller is retracted, but also acts as a stern thruster as the highly efficient forward-facing, pull propeller unit can be turned through 90°, port or starboard.
“One of the biggest challenges for us was the RPS,” admits Soren Jansson. “When the yacht was delivered we put as many hours on the engine as we could because we knew we would then have time to make adjustments over the winter.”
The bronze propeller is 900mm in diameter producing a top speed of 14 knots. At cruising speed (9.5 knots), My Song’s range is 2,000 miles. For manoeuvring, the rpm is fixed and the helmsman simply directs the thrust and feathers the prop, controlling the angle of attack of the blades to control power.
My Song made her racing debut at Les Voiles de St Tropez last year, racing against the likes of Rambler 88, Leopard and Spectre and two J Class yachts, Velsheda and Lionheart. Her launch earlier that summer was a family affair in Finland with invited guests including all the staff at Baltic. She then spent the winter in La Spezia being fine-tuned and is now ready to compete in earnest.
LOA: 39.62m (130ft)
LWL: 36.78m (120ft 7in)
Beam: 8.52m (27ft 11in)
Draft (keel up): 4.80m (15ft 9in)
Draft (keel down): 7.00m (22ft 11in)
Displacement (lightship): 105 tonnes (231,485lb)
Ballast (fin and bulb): 36.25 tonnes (79,917lb)
Fuel capacity: 7,000lt (1,850 US gal)
Water capacity: 2,400lt (634 US gal)
Engine: Caterpillar C8.7 480kW/650hp
Sail area (upwind): 910m2 (9,795ft2)
Sail area (asymmetric): 1,300m2 (13,993ft2)
Approx build cost: €22million