The 74ft Spirit of Galatea is not just lovely to look at, she hides some impressive engineering beneath her rich mahogany exterior, finds Toby Hodges

Spirit 74

Spirit of Galatea is not just lovely, but hides impressive engineering.

Beauty can be distracting. So when even Sean McMillan, the founder and designer of Spirit Yachts, says his new Spirit 74, Spirit of Galatea, is “undoubtedly the most beautiful boat we’ve built so far”, I can be forgiven for intially overlooking that the 74-footer also includes the finest engineering by the Ipswich yard in its 20-year history.

McMillan was given carte blanche to build the best, most beautiful boat possible. But look below the glossy brightwork and stainless steel deckwear and you find systems for easy maintenance and evidence of much thought about weight centralisation, noise and vibration. She is also the first Spirit with a full hydraulic power package.

Nevertheless, it is the coachroof design that is likely to catch your eye first. Galatea’s owner, a UK client who lives mostly in Greece, fell in love with coachroof fan windows McMillan sketched for a concept 130-footer five years ago. Their effect is just as striking inside – the glass cost £38,000 alone. “Every piece of glass is a compound 3D curve, massively toughened,” McMillan explains. The glass is tempered to prevent the interior becoming too hot.


Faster than the wind

Barely a zephyr disturbed the Solent’s surface for our summer’s day trial, but Galatea ghosted along. With a jib-top reacher, she exceeded true wind speeds, making six knots in just nine knots of apparent breeze. This lightweight hull is nothing if not easily driven. Her epoxy strip-plank construction creates a stiff, light structure, to which a modern rig and appendages add performance.

The 53rd Spirit, Galatea includes many of the features that have made her sisters so popular. Ruby-rich mahogany is everywhere, including on the large surrounding caprails. The anchor roller is carved precisely out of the fine stemhead and provides a tack point clear of the hydraulic furler for asymmetric sails. The joiner work by master craftsmen is exceptional, but the compact keyhole-shaped cockpit is also practical thanks to deep benches.

Galatea’s cockpit and saloon are close together – her owner wanted a boat to use socially with friends and family. The linking companionway is steep, but the effect of entering directly into a wide saloon is striking. The elegant interior has the air of a gentleman’s club thanks to the satin-finished mahogany and button-back seating. That fanned glass centrepiece above floods in natural light.

A comparatively full shape forward provides plenty of beam for the saloon and athwartships galley. The engine is positioned centrally for optimum weight distribution, so insulation was critical. The owner asked Spirit to keep the systems as quiet as possible. Halyard’s anti-vibration Aquadrive system takes noise out of the shaft by transmitting thrust to the hull not the engine. And there’s a custom-built lift silencer for an engine positioned on or below the waterline. “It’s quite a jump in system engineering for us to go to this level,” admits Sam Whit-worth, head of Spirit’s mechanical engineering.


Systems upgrade

Spirit admits it used to have a reputation for good-looking boats without the systems to match. Over the last four years it has focused on electrical and mechanical engineering. Bar the engine and fuel systems, most machinery is in the rudder room. Small soundproof bulkhead doors from the aft cabin provide access for servicing the generator, air-conditioning unit, PTO (power take off) pumps, etc. These surround the carbon quadrant and stock.

The hydraulic package by South African company Meridian was chosen for its reliability, general manager Innis McGowan says. Until now hydraulics had only been used for rig trim. Aboard the 74 they also operate the thruster, windlass and furler. Both PTO and DC power can be sourced and the hydraulics can still be pumped manually if the electrics fail. A touchscreen beside the navstation provides complete diagnostic control.

Spirit Yachts’ stiff construction should instill as much confidence as their engineering. On Galatea a wide flange helps spread keel loads and a stainless steel cage absorbs the keel, mast base and shroud loads. The delivery crew reported 35 knots of wind and 15ft waves between Ipswich and the Solent and remarked how quiet and solid she felt.

Spirit has always produced yachts of distracting beauty, but now it engineers them to a standard to match. Galatea may be a few metres short of accepted superyacht size, but she oozes superyacht quality. And those good looks are sure to draw eyes away from any larger boat.


Spirit 74

The rich mahogany exterior reveals a stunning interior


LOA       22.70m         74ft 6in

LWL       15.60m         51ft 2in

Beam       4.80m         15ft 9in

Draught       3.00m         9ft 10in

Displacement        22,000kg         48,500lb


Ballast ratio       40 per cent

Sail area        222m2         2,390ft2

Fractional sloop

This is an extract from a feature in the November 2014 issue of Yachting World