When Michael Schmidt was looking for a large yacht for himself a few years ago, he couldn’t find any format on the market – either new or used – that even came close to meeting his rather high demands. It had to be 80 feet, easy to handle, with no vulnerable components and, of course, look as good as possible.
Most people in this position would explain their ideas to a designer and commission a shipyard to build this single solution. But Schmidt – ex-Admiral’s Cup winner, ex-head of one of the world’s largest production boatyards and, in general, one of the most creative minds the German sailing scene has ever produced – would not be Schmidt if he did not generate a business idea from it.
And so he built the 80-foot-long Cool Breeze – as a start-up, so-to-speak, and initially with a fairly manageable team.
The fact that this, with a design by Lorenzo Argento (exterior) and David Chipperfield (interior), was very well received by potential customers was not entirely surprising. Schmidt was thinking like a customer, not a CEO. He had identified a gap in the market and started building a new shipyard immediately after the delivery of Cool Breeze and at an age when other people are actually enjoying their retirement. In the meantime, after a good six years at high speed, a double-digit number of yachts has already been delivered with construction stretching well into 2024. The Y Yachts brand is making an international splash in a segment that is actually under pressure.
Meanwhile, after delivering some 70 and 80-footers, the company has already entered the 90-foot yacht segment. In 2021, the custom-built Prevail, with an exterior design by Bill Tripp and an interior design by Andrew Winch, was delivered to an American customer, and in July the shipyard launched its second 90-footer. Bella is thus the first Y9 to join the Y7 and Y8 series. The world premiere was celebrated at the Cannes Yachting Festival.
‘The yard’s new flagship Y9 is born from the ambitious idea of building a lightweight masterpiece of craftsmanship following the company’s philosophy to reduce sailing to its essentials and serving all customers’ needs,’ says Dirk Zademack, managing director of Y Yachts
‘With a length of 29.71m, the Y9 presents – due to clever construction and transverse garage aft – the same volume as a 100ft yacht with a private owners’ apartment to offer maximum privacy, comfortable guest cabins and a large and flexible crew area. The exterior design and naval architecture was drawn by Bill Tripp while the interior is the result of styling by Norm Architects and the experience of Design Unlimited.
‘Like all YYachts models the Y9 is built completely from carbon fibre, optimising performance and making her extremely competitive. With her length of 90ft, the yacht has an interesting rating and is for sure able to win some trophies at the St Barth’s Bucket, the Superyacht Cup or the Maxi Rolex Cup,’ Zademack says.
Designer Bill Tripp shares his thoughts about the Y9
When Michael Schmidt and I first talked he asked for a boat that you would immediately want to sail at first sight, that embodies modern beauty, simplicity performance and ease of use, along with the capability to go anywhere.
Michael identified that many yachts in the 70–100ft range are built as a one-off and there was an opportunity to present a world class yacht built in series through process engineering. We have worked with MSY to design a series of boats that are constructed from the best materials in a production process that is based on the assembly of parts already finished outside of the boat. This increases the ease of making a highly finished boat with a level of flexibility in the configuration of the spaces. The result is a high-end series built production boat that is not only appealing, but obtainable.
Our thought is to also attract new people to the sport and to tug people out of powerboats into something far more interesting. The overarching principle is to keep the boat easy to use. Thus we have designed a boat that can comfortably be sailed by a few people. Equipped with a self-tacking jib, hydraulic furling code sail and staysail, these boats can sail well in blue water in the worst conditions and have light air performance to attract the keenest of sailors. The boats have two engines, a bow and stern thruster and joystick controls, making it easy to manoeuvre both when docking and sailing.
They are built with identical structures in carbon/epoxy composite with twin rudders and fixed or telescoping keels. They cover a range of displacements with constant vertical and longitudinal centres of gravity, and bulbs and rig sizes designed and built to match the displacement and stability. The result is that the boats are well balanced between performance and luxury.
The first Y9 semi-custom result, Bella, evolved somehow from Prevail, a custom Tripp 90 built by Y Yachts. She is somewhat heavier because she is equipped with a hydro generation package from Oceanvolt, a large hard top bimini with 14 square metres of solar panels, and an extensive battery package. These features will allow the boat to generate fossil fuel free energy both when sailing and moored.
I have no interest in designing boats that are cluttered or slow. The flared topsides allow for great deck spaces and added stability, a win-win that leads to a better boat. The hull shape is optimised for 15 degrees of heel which is the most typical when globe-trotting. This is also a good average for café racing as well as distance racing. The boat has a high prismatic form for high speed ocean sailing, with a large sail plan that also makes sailing in six knots of breeze a realistic pleasure, a low centre of gravity to carry the sail plan and a moderate LCB location to improve sea keeping in waves.
The shape, while generally of a dinghy oriented lineage, is modified for sea-keeping and reduced slamming. The hull’s beam to depth ratio (known as BTR) is low to keep the hull shape from being a frying pan upwind in big ocean waves. The bow is finer than some for the same reason and keeping the prismatic high while doing this, and the LCB from going aft was a challenge that appealed to us.
Designing a luxury yacht for extended series production is a unique task for a naval architect and means we must design the boat so that it can have different features in keeping with a client’s needs as well as be able to sail ably in different configurations to suit the owner’s mission. With a total of five different cabin configurations, the Y9 has something for everyone interested in this size boat. The next delivery will be a raised saloon version with its own personality yet the same DNA. The latest hull shapes combine more usable volume with speed. The flared topsides allow for great deck spaces and added stability, a win-win that leads to a better boat.
This balanced combination of speed, reliability and comfort is ideal for an owner seeking a world cruising boat that will be fast in the fun regattas that have ascended in the last decade, at a price point that is unbeatable in today’s market.
According to Zademack, several discussions with owners were decisive for the development of the Y9: ‘Actually, customers were interested in 100ft in length. However, from this size upwards in my experience yachts become disproportionately expensive because many custom-built components have to be installed. With our expertise, we have therefore implemented the comfort of a 100ft yacht on a length of 90ft. With our new Y9 we are entering the superyacht segment,’ he explains.
Happy crew = happy owner
The Y9 generates an incomparable volume due to her transversely arranged tender garage in the stern and even has a separate owner’s apartment which consists of a private office, a dressing room, a bedroom and a bathroom with double washbasin including a separate shower and a separate toilet. A maximum of privacy is guaranteed, which the owner can enjoy with family or close friends. Great importance was also given to the design of the crew area.
As it is an unwritten law in yachting “happy crew = happy owner”, the crew cabins on the Y9 have been designed extra-large, with well thought-out storage space and an additional crew lounge. The captain’s cabin can be converted into a saloon during the day, for example – cabins on the Y9 do not have to have a single predefined purpose.
Following this concept, the interior layout options can be customised with the Y Yachts design department to satisfy all customers’ desires and to preserve the exclusive style of the boat. YYachts offers no fewer than five different layouts for the Y9. And it is available on request as a Pilot Saloon version and as a Y9 Custom with almost unlimited freedom of choice when it comes to design.
The interior of Bella was jointly developed by two design studios. Norm Architects from Copenhagen, Denmark and Design Unlimited from Lymington, UK, combined their architectural and yachting experience and created a Scandinavian elegant look for the Y9 that follows the principle of “soft minimalism” – oiled oak and grey fabrics and panels determine the colour palette.
Katrine Goldstein, managing director of Norm Architects, says: ‘The Y9 already follows the award-winning Y7 in its design but is much more complex and goes deeper. The Y9 will also be a luxurious retreat to get away from the constant stimulation that our everyday lives bring. To support an overall exclusive look and feel throughout the interior, only essential yet thoughtful, luxurious bespoke elements take up space where needed, to achieve a pared back interior with room for the life lived within.
‘The wood panelled walls and curved interior elements in oak add a warm, organic feel to the space, while optically stretching the space vertically to make the rooms appear more spacious. Sliding doors and inbuilt storage effortlessly blend in with the architectural framework of the boat, with no disruptive elements.’
Mark Tucker, founder of Design Unlimited adds: ‘Clients will appreciate the authenticity of our design and the sustainable materials we recommend. People are increasingly orienting themselves towards nature: taking from nature and giving back to nature. This principle is particularly pervasive in the luxury market.’ Great importance was also attached to a quiet yacht. To achieve this, YYachts engaged the noise consultants from Van Cappellen.
‘You sleep like a baby on board’, comments Dirk Zademack.
26 knots to Cannes
On deck, the Y-flagship pleases with its sheer walkways and the division of the cockpit areas. Guests are accommodated in front while the crew works aft. The mainsheet is nowhere to be found. It is centred on the bimini top and hidden in the Park Avenue main boom. To adjust or set the sails all it takes is the push of a button, which is why such a 29.7m cruiser can even be sailed by two people. Its performance potential is impressive: the hull speed is beyond 12 knots.
The mainsail alone measures 242m2 of sail area, the upwind sailing area is 456m2 and the total sail area 1052m2. On the delivery passage, speeds of 26 knots were reached. From Greifswald to Cannes took only 11 days, up to 240nm were covered in 24 hours.
A crew of four was necessary; in cruising and owner mode, two crew members – captain and stewardess – will usually be permanently on board.
Catamaran as tender
According to the captain of Bella we should definitely take a look down at the stern. That’s where the new dinghy would be, freshly arrived from the shipyard. The Y-tender stands on its steering wheel. Like the mother ship, it is built of carbon composite and weighs just 170kg at a length of 3.65m and 230kg at a length of 4.35m.
Designed as a catamaran, the Y-tender is stable in the water and its hydrodynamics make it very efficient under way. It is available with both a conventional outboard and an electric drive; both can be retracted, allowing the Y-tender to land directly on the beach. Its layout is designed to be flexible, as is the equipment.
The Y-Tender’s air hose can be emptied or filled in just 45 seconds. When empty, this reduces the width of the tender by 30cm, resulting in a better pack size. The necessary electric pumps are integrated into the Y-tender. The dinghy is built entirely in Germany, ensuring a high level of vertical integration.
YYachts’ keep-it-simple philosophy also applies here: a yacht must be reduced to what is necessary without restricting comfort.