Breaking new ground in performance sailing, the new Nautor Swan My Song is a futuristic one-design racer on an unprecedented scale. Elaine Bunting experiences her under sail.
Spray thrown by My Song’s angular bow fizzes to leeward. The towering, black blade sails and reverse sheer make her seem as if she’s about to pounce. Even on a flat sea, the yacht rips out a wake with breeze of her own powerful making.
My Song, the new ClubSwan 80, is a futuristic racer-cruiser designed to provide an adrenaline ride for an owner-driver in the Maxi yacht race circuit yet be suited to short cruising. Its builder, Nautor Swan, hopes this will be the first of a one-design class for owners to vie with each other on level pegging, as they do in its smaller ClubSwan 36 and ClubSwan 50 designs.
It is a punchy move by the Finnish-Italian company. It is joining battle with some of the world’s best custom designs and intricately rehearsed pro crews. The ClubSwan 80 may take time to fully prove itself. In the meantime, its looks can kill. That big, square top mainsail, hard chines and sloping shape not only defy convention, they make much of the competition look suddenly dated.
My Song is the latest in a succession of yachts of that name, owned by Italian businessman Pier Luigi Loro Piana in his 40-year sailing career, and was born from a very personal catastrophe. His previous My Song, a Baltic 130, was being transported on a ship in May 2019 when she fell over the side and was holed from the impact. The yacht was a total loss.
The boat was only three years old at the time, one of the finest high-performance sailing superyachts to be built, and her destruction was devastating. “It was as if my home had burnt down,” Loro Piana confessed. When your dream yacht is in ruins, where do you set your heart next? “I really loved that boat,” he says, “but afterwards, I wanted a different choice.”
At the time, Nautor was building the ClubSwan 125 Skorpios, the largest of its high-performance ClubSwan one-design racers by Franco-Argentinean naval architect Juan Kouyoumdjian (a surname so tricky to pronounce that everyone just calls him Juan K). The company had plans to flesh out a racing line they began with the ClubSwan 50 and ClubSwan 36 with a model that slotted into the elite Maxi class.
Racing under a big asymmetric spinnaker during the yacht’s crucial maiden regatta, the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, in Porto Cervo in September
The ClubSwan 80 would be intended for owner-driver racing and the regattas that cater to them, and be the basis of a cost-contained, level playing field for other owners to join. The team assembled for the project included Pure Design & Engineering for the engineering and Nauta Design for the interior, while the carbon composite build went to a strategic partnership with race-boat specialists Persico Marine.
As its first owner, Loro Piana and his sailing team had the chance to shape the characteristics of this new design for the inshore races that were their target. These are Mediterranean regattas such as the Rolex Giraglia, the Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup, PalmaVela, the Rolex Swan Cup and Les Voiles de Saint-Tropez, as well as offshore regattas such as the Rolex Middle Sea Race, RORC Caribbean 600, and Palermo-Montecarlo.
With headsails on furlers and an internal spinnaker retrieval system, it is possible to race My Song with just 16 to 18 crew
While the ClubSwan 80 is an all-rounder, My Song’s team wanted to optimise the design for light winds – “upwind in seven to eight knots of true wind”, says Loro Piana’s long-time team manager Giorgio Benussi.
Some key aspects were changed. The original Juan K design featured a 4.75-metre canting keel and a rotating C-foil for sailing in “skimming” mode (similar to the other yachts in the ClubSwan range). That was changed to a canting keel and a single rotating canard.
The keel ends in a 6,500-kilogram bulb that can be canted up to 43 degrees. The four-metre-long canard, or daggerboard, minimises leeway when the keel is canted, and can be angled hydraulically or fully retracted downwind to reduce drag. It can be rotated plus or minus eight degrees to mode between pointing higher and sailing slower, or going low and faster, depending on fleet tactics.
Nautor developed the ClubSwan 80 as the largest one-design racing yacht in the world
“The leitmotif of this boat is reinventing what it is to go racing and fast cruising,” says Juan K. “An 80ft [24-metre] yacht that is very light displacement – just over 19 tonnes – achieved with a canting keel [that] allows the same righting moment with 25 per cent less displacement.”
The huge sail area, 447 square metres upwind, and displacement of just over 19 tonnes make this a fast and very responsive boat. The boat is fully powered up, keel canted, in just nine to ten knots of true wind. It is easily capable of reaching speeds of 12 to 13 knots upwind. Downwind Velocity Made Good (VMG) target speeds are two knots quicker than the true wind.
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