To paraphrase a vintage Orwell, all are queens of the sea, but some are more “queenly” than others. Among the 21 beautiful boats that are competing in the waters of Porto Cervo, we were struck by the beauty of Gaia, a 100-foot (30.6-meter) wooden boat that combines an old-fashioned design with a modern drift plane.
THE ALL “BRITISH” ELEGANCE OF SPIRITS
There are boats that convey excitement just by seeing them, and the Spirits are among them. The British shipyard based in Ipswich, 100 km northeast of London, has produced in recent years 45 “cameos,” ranging from 12 to 30 meters, built looking back to the Golden Age of yachting of the Fyfe, Stephens and Herreshoff but making use of the enormous technological advances of the new millennium. Each Spirit is born from the most traditional of materials, wood, combined with classic aesthetic lines and an ultra-modern sail and drift plan.
Some time ago Sean McMillian, owner of the shipyard and designer together with Michael Newman, when questioned about the choice of wood as a construction material, explained how this is certainly an aesthetic but also a technical/practical advantage: “the first reason why we use it is because with the strip planking technique (literally “covering in strips,” the planking in strips is glued longitudinally with epoxy resins) we are able to obtain boats that are not only very beautiful but also incredibly light, saving up to 50 percent of the weight compared to traditional fiberglass constructions. The 100-foot Spirit with a displacement of less than 50 tons is a flyer capable of reaching 27 knots of speed.”
SPIRIT 100, TRADITION AND MODERNITY
How was the Spirit 100 built? On the male mold is placed the bulwark (beam arranged in the lowest part of the hull) made of Douglas Fir where 24 Sapele frames (150×80 mm) are laid, “ribs” of an external “skin” composed of three different layers with different functions: the first of 35 mm is a longitudinal planking in Brazilian cedar (essence of limited specific weight) which, assembled with the strip planking technique, gives lightness, insulation as well as being a valuable interior finish; the second of 9 mm composed of three layers of Khaya mahogany laminate oriented at 45° increases rigidity and resistance to loads; the third of external finish provides a cover with two layers of mixed biaxial fiberglass fabric and Mat to guarantee smooth and compact masonry.
The hull, up to this point upside down, is flipped upside down and filled with fully customizable interiors that know how to enhance rather than hide the fine bones of the body. The deck, composed of mahogany beams and marine plywood planks, is finished with an outer layer of 9-mm teak for the deck and varnished mahogany for the gunwale, deckhouse, and handguards. All enhanced on and off the water by a touch of high tech: strictly carbon rudder and mast and special steel blade keel with lead/antimony alloy torpedo and stainless steel studs. The construction practice and materials are more or less the same for each Spirit, the only consistent difference being on the strong sizes where H-shaped steel reinforcement structures (laser cut) made integral with the corresponding ordinates (laser cut) are used at the points of greatest load (mainsails, mast, keel, rudder, etc.).