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The wolf wears silk

Carrswood Yachts

Yacht Racing Podcast

Carrswood YachtsExhilarating yet easy to sail with an unmatched racing record, Savannah is arguably the most successful Spirit of Tradition yacht ever built.

Imagine a yacht with all the elegance and grace of a J Class, scaled down slightly for a major reduction in operating costs, with fully optimised modern underwater sections, keel and rudder. That yacht is Savannah.

This perfectly proportioned, swift and versatile 27-metre (90ft) beauty has a credible claim to be the most successful Spirit Of Tradition yacht ever built. She has only had two owners since her launch in 1997, one of whom, Hugh Morrison, used her as a trial horse for his current J Class Shamrock V. Savannah has earned iconic status within the classic yachting fraternity. And she’s for sale.

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Under sail or at anchor, Savannah’s cockpit is a fantastic place to be.

Savannah’s all-carbon composite construction, concealed beneath a finely crafted finish of traditional timber, is engineered and built to last more than a hundred years. She shares a design pedigree with two America’s Cup winners and dominates her class on the regatta circuit, yet is also easy, comfortable and rewarding to daysail or cruise with a minimal crew in a very wide range of wind and sea conditions.

Design
Savannah’s story begins in the mid-1990s when her first owner, Randolph Watkins, conducted an exhaustive study of classic yacht aesthetics before commissioning the naval architect David Pedrick to design a cruiser-racer with a brief to create ‘the most beautiful yacht conceivable’. Her hull shape, with its long overhangs, low freeboard, slight sheer and subtle tumblehome, is inspired by William Fife’s perfectly proportioned Hallowe’en and the iconic J Class Endeavour.

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Above the waterline her lines are inspired by William Fife’s Hallowe’en and the J Class Endeavour.

Beneath the waterline Savannah is a different beast. With a moderately shallow canoe body, deep fin keel and high-aspect rudder she is more akin to a modern high-performance cruiser or indeed a late 20th century maxi. Pedrick had already designed the 12 Metres Courageous and Stars & Stripes, and some of the finest, fastest IOR maxis from Kialoa III to Nirvana, so it is perhaps hardly surprising that Savannah exceeded all expectations in both aesthetics and performance.

The styling of her deck and cockpit is a clean, uncluttered take on the traditional layout of a vintage racer with low-profile lantern skylights, dorade vents, coamings and capping rails. From a technical perspective, however, the deck plan is informed by practical sail-trimming considerations with a modern rig and hydraulics, and designed above all for easy handling by either a full or shorthanded crew. The sightlines from the helm are superb. When she’s daysailing or anchored there are great swathes of open deck for friends and family to lounge on. When sailing offshore her comfortable cockpit is snug and secure.

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Her deck plan is clean and informed by modern sail-handling considerations.

Construction
The quality of Savannah’s build by Concordia Custom Yachts is world class. A major factor in her exceptional performance and acceleration is her composite construction, cutting edge when she was built and still state of the art today. Her displacement is notably light for a yacht of this type, she’s very robust and impressively stiff.

The carbon fibre laminate hull has S-glass and E-glass skins with Kevlar in areas where chafe or abrasion might occur. The deck is carbon and Corecell sandwich with carbon beams underneath and laid teak on top. Her traditional teak hatches, companionways and skylights are all reinforced internally with carbon.

The rig is conservatively built and thus extremely robust with the mast and slab reefing boom in high-modulus carbon and rod rigging. An under-deck hydraulic headsail furler is used with racing as well as cruising headsails, which makes her easier to handle with fewer crew on board. The runners are tensioned in strong winds but the movement at the top of the rig is only slight. Even without them the mast is more than adequately strong.

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Performance
So how does she sail? Most boats have a sweet spot in either light or heavy weather but Savannah excels all the way through the wind range. Four to five knots of breeze is enough to switch off the engine, whereas most yachts of her size need 8-10 knots to get going. She carries her full No1 genoa up to 24 knots before changing down or furling, and the mainsail doesn’t need reefing at all until it’s blowing 30 knots plus. Thus she’s well suited to typical summer conditions in any of the world’s sailing hotspots, from the often fickle breezes of the western Med to the steady trade winds of the Caribbean and all the way up to a full-blown Meltemi in the Aegean.

Carrswood YachtsUpwind performance is crucial both for cruising and for inshore windward-leeward racing and it’s one of Savannah’s key strengths. She points incredibly well and is close-winded, making very little leeway. Optimal VMG is achieved at 26° in any breeze over five knots true. She has ample righting moment in stronger winds and is a dry boat to sail in a seaway.

Off the wind she flies a big asymmetric rather than using a symmetrical spinnaker, which again makes her easier to handle and requires fewer experienced crew on board. She has logged up to 18 knots downwind in her current ownership.

She’s very rewarding on the helm: well-balanced, responsive and nimble, as one would expect from a boat with her design pedigree, and also quick to tack and accelerate. She surfs well in following seas and is remarkably stable with an easy, comfortable motion.

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All of the interior joinery is solid mahogany, exquisitely built and finished.

Despite being set up primarily for day sailing and coastal passage-making she has crossed the Atlantic in both directions often enough to prove her blue water sailing potential and she excels in heavy weather.

With six hydraulic winches on deck, for cruising and delivery trips she only needs a permanent crew or two or three to sail her well. For racing a full crew of 12 is ideal. In either of these modes there is ample space to also have a good number of guests on board.

Down below
Just as exceptional as her build quality and performance under sail, Savannah’s elegant interior was designed and styled by Jon Munford who has won more awards for his yacht interiors than almost anyone else. Warm and inviting, luxurious and exquisitely detailed, it’s an impressively authentic trip back in time to the 1930s with the big difference that it’s far more comfortable at sea or in harbour than any yacht from that time, with clever use of space and plenty of natural light to brighten the saloon and cabins from above.

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The white-painted beams overhead look traditional but they’re actually carbon fibre. Savannah’s saloon is well lit and comfortable with an abundance of space.

The white-painted beams overhead look traditional but they’re actually carbon fibre, part of the meticulously engineered, planned and integrated modern structure and systems that lie behind the panelled mahogany and beneath the buttoned leather seats. The saloon and the owner’s suite both have their own dedicated companionways leading up to the deck and cockpit, and there’s a separate companionway on the foredeck for the crew’s accommodation.

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The master suite has its own dedicated companionway.

Enough weight was saved in her carbon composite construction to allow solid hardwood to be used for the interior joinery rather than the usual veneers or plywood.

This also allows for some wonderful period details like the roll-top enamel bath in the en suite bathroom of the master cabin, and the library and wood-burning stove in the saloon, without any significant impact on her sailing characteristics.

Rather than cramming in extra beds that are likely to be used only occasionally, Savannah’s two-cabin layout (with separate crew’s quarters) enables the owners and two guests to enjoy an abundance of space.

She hasn’t yet been chartered but the quality and style of her accommodation would be a unique asset for that purpose – as would her looks and sailing performance – and with her short waterline length the process of coding her for commercial charter work should be relatively simple.

Results
While she undoubtedly has great potential for any sort of cruising, Savannah is best known for her astonishingly successful track record on the Mediterranean Classic Yacht Circuit where she has notched up a large number of victories in each the last 20 years (except during Covid lockdown when racing was cancelled).

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Authentic details include a wood-burning stove in the saloon.

She has been the boat to beat in the Spirit Of Tradition class for the full 15-year extent of her current ownership and has a very competitive rating in IRC, ORC and ORCsy. From 2007 to 2019 she won most races and her class overall in both Antibes and Mahon.

She has won her class eight times at Les Voiles de St Tropez and the Club 55 Challenge Cup both times she entered. In the Yacht Club de France Autumn Cup she raced against the J Class and beat them all on IRC handicap.

She has also won the Loro Piana Maxi Cup, the Corsica Classic Regatta, the Spetses Classic Yacht Regatta twice, and too many others to mention.

Beyond the Med her wins include Antigua Classic Week, British Classic YC Regatta, NYYC 175th Anniversary regatta in Newport, RI and a variety of RORC races.

The last word about Savannah comes from her designer, David Pedrick, who quite recently said she’s the best yacht to come out of Concordia and perhaps even the best ever to come out of Newport. That’s one heck of an endorsement.

Click here for more information on Savannah at Carrswood Yachts or call Alastair Shove on +44 (0)747 6888 939

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