Elaine Bunting reports from the ice-bound coast of Finland, where Nautor’s Swan build their famous range of luxurious Swan yachts, including the latest Swan 115
First of the Swan 115s
Back in the BTC sheds, the work on the first of the 115s progresses. The deck is fitted, the twin rudders are in place, the engine is installed, as is the huge propshaft and massive Hundested controllable-pitch propeller, a work of art all of itself. The crew will arrive before the launch to familiarise themselves with the yacht and systems and, when the sea thaws, the first of Swan’s biggest superyacht will be launched and sail south on her maiden voyage.
Since modern glassfibre yachts began to be built here almost half a century ago, yachts have grown in size and complexity. Only a handful of brands worldwide have survived these changes. But Nautor’s Swan was never a mass producer of yachts; the company has built an average of 10-15 a year, and of the 2,000 or so Swans ever made, over 95 per cent are still sailing.
How the company can preserve these attributes and increase the volume of boatbuilding is the question for modern times. As gratifying as it is to be in demand as a creator of superyachts, the Swan line needs its diversity. Enrico Chieffi, former Olympic sailor, top helmsman and after 17 years at Nautor’s Swan now its vice president, thinks there are lessons from premium car makers.
Many of these have learned that they can produce greater volumes without tarnishing their brands, and this in turn provides economies of scale to develop new models.
“If you look at most luxury car builders,” he says, “they have decided to develop a small range. That’s where we’ve come from: the 36, 42 and 48. I believe this will come back and there is room for these sizes. There is a huge market of wealthy people who want a boat they can sail in their home waters and they are looking for high-quality yachts.”
At the moment, the smallest Swan in the range is the older, classic Swan 53. But at 45ft or below, Chieffi says, “handcraft is not suited and we would need a completely different mindset on the industrial process”.
Nautor’s Swan is, he hints, exploring the possibility of a sister brand. “We are one of the brands with the widest product range, from 50-115ft, but also this is not very efficient. So the step could be to double the range. There could be another brand within the Nautor Holding Group, to take advantage of existing investments.”
What this range will be he will not say, only that “the next very important project in the company is being developed now”. The story of Swan may be about to take another turn. The superyachts are soon to take flight. Are there some cygnets on the way?
Sayula II. Mexican businessman Ramón Carlin won the first Whitbread Round the World Yacht Race (1973-74) in this production Swan 65. She took 152 days to sail 32,500 nautical miles and was one of the few yachts to have a freezer and full-time cook on board.
King’s Legend. The Swan 65 sloop raced in the Whitbread in 1977/78, crewed among others by Skip Novak, as navigator. She came 2nd, behind Conny can Rietschoten’s Flyer. King’s Legend is owned by Dutch sailor Gijs van Liebergen, who has lovingly restored her and charters the yacht.
Design and build
- Sparkman & Stephens designed approximately the first 1,000 Swans to launch, from 1966 to 1978.
- Ron Holland was the designer from 1978 to 1981 and since then German Frers has been responsible for the design of more than 700 Swans.
- The most popular model to date has been the Swan 38, of which 116 were built between 1974 and 1979.
This is an extract from a feature in Yachting World April 2015