Swan 65 S&S, the iconic boat (19m) that is every sailor’s dream


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Swan 65 S&S – Shirlaf

There are boats somehow destined to populate our dreams, growing to become sorts of obsessions. Hulls that can offer an otherwise unattainable sense of freedom, slicing through the water in a riot of adrenaline and excitement, as if no longer objects, but living creatures keen to be understood, domesticated. Sacred objects to become symbiotic with. And, perhaps, it is even more true when we look back on those icons and exceptional Classic Boats who have continued to leave their mark since the last century, sweeping an entire era: timeless classics. And none reaches her, iconic among Pietersaari’s swans, the  Sparkman & Stephens’ Swan 65, winner of the first Whitbread Round the World Race (1973-74).

Nautor Swan 65

Making its debut in the early 1970s, the Swan 65 is the largest hull built by the shipyard, an ambitious project and pinnacle of Nautor Swan’s production. Designed by Sparkman & Stephens, it is an excellent boat, perfect marriage of performance and luxury. Sleek and streamlined, she meets all IOR Mk III(International Offshore Rule) standards, and qualifies as an ideal response to the growing demand for larger and higher performance hulls. It would be produced in as many as 41 examples, from 1971 to 1989, and would soon become the cruiser-racer by definition, the canon of many designs to come. For Sparkman & Stephens it is the culmination of a line of development leading to the great racers of the ’70s, glorified by Sayula II’s incredible victory at the 1973/74 Whitbread Round the World Race and subsequent successful participations crowned by a 2nd and 5th place finish in the 1977/78 edition.

Sayula II
Swan 65 S&S – Sayula II

SWAN 65 S&S – Design and Navigation

At 19.86 meters long (LOA) and 4.98 wide at maximum beam, the Swan 65 is a strong design from the long collaboration between Nautor and Sparkman & Stephens. A particularly clean flush-deck characterise its lines, maturation of solutions already fine-tuned on the Swan 48, while the interior compartments are excellently taken from the Swan 55, a luxurious crowning glory for a hull already excellent in performance. As a classic design, typical of the 1960’s heritage, the stern has a traditional sleek cut out of the water, and the waterline length (LWL) fully demonstrates this, with more than 5 meters difference from the overall length (LOA 19.86 m – LWL 14.33 m). A feature that on the 65′ favors close hauled runnings, the boat heeled, increasing its waterline length and, consequently, the breath and speed of the boat.

In sailing in noteworthy winds the Swan 65 transforms, in fact, into something unique, a pure extension of its crew. As soon as the gust begins to lay the hull down, with the washboard towards the water, it is amazing how it immediately seems to come to life, fully revealing its needs so that they can be met, facilitated. Although loads and forces are particularly noticeable, it feels slender, light, and keeping it balanced is almost instinctive. The water opens up under the hull with a rare naturalness, and the onboard experience is almost unlike any other, with the hull blatantly alive underneath and the sky-high loads dragging it along, as if asking for more. Yet, despite the abundant sail areas and volumes, the whole is mostly manageable with ease, with gentle water lines and a well-balanced sail center that make her ‘docile’ at the helm, placid despite all the energy that seems as if trapped in the hull, ready to break through.

Swan 65 S&S - Kanenas #40
Swan 65 S&S – Kanenas (#40) upwind (author’s photo)

Made entirely of GRP (Glass Reinforced Polyester – Fiberglass), the Swan 65 has significant volumes and tonnages, with a displacement-ballast ratio ranging from 31 percent of the first 19 hulls produced, to 39 percent of all subsequent ones. In fact, an increase of over 3.5 tons of ballast varies between the two versions, with 31.8 tons total (10.t of ballast) in the early examples, and over 35.3 in the later ones, including as much as 13.9 t of ballast alone. A solution aimed at increasing hull performance, especially in particularly harsh sea states and wind conditions, where the new righting torque helps with overall handling.

Swan 65 S&S - Sayula II - Image Courtesy The Weekend Sailor
Swan 65 S&S – Sayula II sails heavy seas – via The Weekend Sailor

The deck and deckhouse, on the other hand, are made of sandwich, with a foam core covered in fiberglass, thus lightening the high weights as much as possible, where the subsequent teak coating is then added. Structural reinforcements are always made of fiberglass, and run along the hull to stiffen all of its load-bearing components, while the keel results in hanging and bolting. The engine is also located as low as possible, amidships, in the dinette, just above the bilge, where an 89 / 149 horsepower engine is easily accessible on each side, just below the floorboards.

SWAN 65 S&S – Armo

Primarily Ketch rigged to aid sail area distribution and balance, the Swan 65 was also produced Sloop rigged, a solution that increases mast height to keep the sail center balanced. In both versions the masts run through the deck, with two orders of spreaders in the main and a single one in the mizzen. The rigging is classic, with forestay at the masthead rather than fractional riggings. The masts are in aluminium, and the riggings and fixed riggings are made out of stainless steel.

S&S Swan 65 – the sloop rigged King’s Legend, 2nd place achiever in the ’77-78 Whitbread Round the World Race

As for sail plans, both rigs include a large set of bow sails, with a 150% Genoa of 126.3 m² in the Ketch rig and 141.4 m² in the Sloop. The forward triangle provides coverage of up to 84.2 m² in the ketch and 94.2 m² in the sloop, where the mainsail covers about 78 m², while it is reduced to 57.6 m² in the ketch, to which, however, 25.3 m² of the mizzen is added. In addition, in the Ketch rig, a 66.4 m² mizzen foresail, or a carbonera in alternative solutions can also be hoisted. Finally, both riggings provide a spinnaker, with surface area of as much as 303 m² in the Ketch rig, and 339 m² for the Sloop. To avoid the perils involved with maneuvering a spinnaker pole (over 7 meters in lenght) in difficult conditions, two spinnaker poles are provided, one per side.

Sail Plan / Sail Plan
Swan 65 Sloop
Swan 65 Ketch
339 m²
303 m²
Prodiero triangle / Fore triangle
94.2 m²
84.2 m²
Genoa (150%)
141.4 m²
126.3 m²
Mainsail / Main
78 m²
57.6 m²
Mezzana / Mizzen
25.3 m²

Mizzen staysail /
Mizzen staysail
66.4 m²

Livability and Interior

To approach the interiors and livability of the Swan 65, it is, first and foremost, necessary to contextualize the type of boat and era referred to and, more importantly, the uses to which a design is intended. Entering production in 1971, the Swan 65 is a child of the 1960s philosophies, recovering and improving many of the solutions developed on earlier models. In fact, the deck features a wide teak flush-deck, with a curvilinear forward plume that softly draws the deckhouse, running from the main to the stern, where it demarcates and protects the cockpit and wheelhouse.

In this respect it is a spartan, essential boat, where form follows function (this is outlined in a classical tradition, with separate rigging spaced far apart to best facilitate crew use) in ergonomics that always allow for easy positions. An excellent example of this are the aster winches, positioned on the shoulder between the cockpit and deck, which are ergonomic both in interior use and straddle the shoulder itself, providing support and protection even when the boat is heeling.

The wheelhouse is set back, almost fully aft, so that any waves and breakers on deck will lose intensity before they reach it by opening to the sides deflected by the deckhouse. Beyond the mizzen mast are the mainsail and second forestay sail riggings, while, unless modified, most of the fixed rigging is at the mast foot, where two guardrails are installed to protect those working. Access below deck is to a center-boat, one-third of the way between the two masts, and leads directly into the large living area.

Swan 65 S&S - Deck Layout
Swan 65 S&S – Deck Layout

The interior does not, of course, match the modern standard. They are, in fact, designed to be as accommodating as possible while sailing and rendered in such a way as to be comfortable in most weather conditions, especially the worst. We have, therefore, a boat designed, first of all, to be marine even below deck, with lights that are not particularly bright to ensure greater safety and thermal containment. The entire length is populated with ceiling-mounted handrails to facilitate any movement, and every corner is suppressed, blunted to limit any risk. The volumes are in turn designed to provide support and handholds, as in the case of the galley, where spaces accommodate no more than one or two people, but ensure comfort and safety even in the most demanding sailing.

Swan 65 S&S - Interior
Swan 65 S&S – Salon (CCBY)

The layout is classic, with central access overlooking the dinette, here there is a galley on the port side and a large chartroom to starboard. The living room offers a large C-shaped sofa with a center table and a second sofa opposite. Proceeding toward the bow are two twin cabins, with single staggered bunk beds, each equipped with a private bathroom. From the starboard cabin, one proceeds further to the forward cabin, designed as a sail cove but capable of accommodating two bunks by eventuality. Aft, however, is a large full-beam master stateroom with private bathroom, charting and possible sofa or second berth.

When sailing, the interior spaces, which are sometimes a bit gloomy by today’s standards, prove to be a godsend by offering safety and freedom of movement even in particularly unpleasant conditions, with a heeled boat, sickle in the water, and with significant waves. In these specific cases, there are no better interiors than those of tradition, where every step is assisted, every edge eliminated, and every flight or stumble reduced by a neighboring element that welcomes friend.

Swan 65 S&S - Interior
Swan 65 S&S – Interior

SWAN 65 S&S – Market

In market terms, the Swan 65 becomes a significantly more complicated boat than it is to sail. In fact, given its iconic status, excellent build quality, and the relatively ‘few’ examples produced, it not only retains nearly the same market value it may have had at the time of its purchase (at updated prices, of course), but is also highly sought after. In short, hard to find one under 400,000 thousand euros, and often the condition at such ‘low’ prices is not the best, requiring quite a lot of investment for a possible refit. Of the 4 hulls on the market at the time of writing this article, the average is, in fact, around €510,000, with peaks close to €700,000.


SWAN 65 S&S – Data Sheet


Length Over All (LOA) 19.68 m – 64.57 ft
Length at Waterline 14.33 m – 47.50 ft
Baglio Massimo 4.96 m – 16.40 ft
Fishing 2.9 m – 9.6 ft
Displacement 31800 kg – 70000 lbs
Ballast/ Ballast (first 19 hulls) 10400 kg – 23000 lbs
Ballast / Ballast (from the 20th hull) 13900 kg – 30600 lbs
Series Engines (3 variants)
Volvo Penta MD32 89 hp – Perkins H6.354M 115 hp – TMD41A, 148 hp
Fuel tank 1000 l
Fresh water tank 757 l
Cabins 3+1
Sleeping places 6 (+2 +2)
Bathrooms 3
Hulls Products #41 (1971-1989)
Design Sparkman & Stephens Inc.
S&S Swan Association: https://www.classicswan.org/swan_65.php

Article based, in part, on the author’s experiences, who sailed on hulls #27 and #40.

 by D.D.L.



2 thoughts on “Swan 65 S&S, the iconic boat (19m) that is every sailor’s dream”

  1. mike farrell

    Sailed on hull 16 TALINA. Did the Swiftsure and Southern Straits. Delivered her from Newport Beach to Seattle in December,1981 Owned by Dr, Jack Cahill

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