Years of research, a curious mind, a professional team and a couple of newcomers to the world of yachting have produced Kenshō, a yacht Sam Fortescue discovers under the Tuscan sun.
Gleaming in the golden light of a Tuscan evening, there is absolutely no mistaking the boat I have travelled so far to see. A much larger 140 metre Lürssen nearby should dominate the view at The Italian Sea Group’s shipyard in Carrara, but the eye is instantly drawn to the flowing lines and metallic blue-green hull of Kenshō lying quietly in her shadow. It is apparent before I even step aboard that this is not a normal yacht.
Don’t think for a second that Kenshō is small. She measures just over 75 metres from stern to slightly bulbous reverse bow, filling 1,989 gross tonnes. She is the most significant launch to date for the ambitious The Italian Sea Group.
While no such project can be successfully launched without efficient collaboration between many parties, Kenshō was an owner-driven project. His relentless questioning of the status quo and smart design work mean that all four of her guest decks are entirely given over to accommodation, with all the technical space fitted onto the tank deck. She offers seven guest cabins – two that can also be used for staff – and a vast owner’s suite, leaving room for 23 crew.
But these are all just numbers. To understand what this boat is really about, how she took six years to create, and why her hyper-engaged owner chose to name her with the Japanese word meaning “seeing one’s true nature”, you have to step aboard. And step back in time to 2016, when the foundations for this project were laid.
It began with a relentless programme of yacht visits by the owner and his broker, Will Christie, who sold the yacht when he worked for Y.CO, but has since set up Christie Yachts. Together, they saw perhaps 100 of the world’s great boats. “I investigated many landmark motor yachts to find out what they did better than others,” remembers the owner. “Will and I even measured the interior dimensions of every area of these yachts with a digital tape measure, which caused more than one surprised face from the crews over the years. They thought we were on some kind of industrial espionage mission, but we learned a lot through this process.”
It allowed him to build up a picture of what he prized in a boat: high deckheads and minimal side decks; efficient interaction between crew and guests; large, calming volumes; and no main saloon. It brought him to the understanding that nothing yet afloat would do. “I wanted to do something really new, something better from my point of view, and I knew that would be possible only with a radical and disruptive move.”
It took time to assemble the team that would create this disruptive yacht. First came the experienced designers at Dutch design and naval architecture firm Azure, who, in concert with Berlin-based archineers.berlin, penned the exterior of the boat. “We approached this project from the inside out, as we optimised the layout for maximum guest spaces, great views and a standard 2.7-metre ceiling height,” says Azure’s director Onne Logger. “The overall shape started as a monolithic solid shape, which looks like it is shaped by the forces of the sea – making it look dynamic and smooth.”
The trick was to disguise the physical height of the boat, created by those incredible deckhead clearances inside. And to achieve that, Azure and archineers.berlin drew lines that seem to rise from the aft deck up towards the bow, defying the standard wedding cake geometry. Holger Schulze-Seeger, founder of archineers, describes how the bulwarks or “ribs” help to make the boat look lower. “The top of the aft part of these ribs is always higher than it is forward,” he says. “It’s like an asymmetrical arrow, developed over months to create a streamlined design. It reminds you of an element of something that is living, organic.”
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