Boats

Swan 90 FD

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When Nautor Swan built its first boat — the venerable Swan 36, Tarantella — in 1968, the Finnish builder used a revolutionary new hull material called fiberglass. Forty-some years later Swan is again pushing the envelope, this time with DSK, an all-carbon, flush-deck, 90-foot German Frers-designed rocketship.

Compare the two boats and you quickly realize a lot has changed since ‘68. Yet anchored to DSK’s soul is the indelible commitment to excellence, clean lines, good sailing performance, and perfect joinery that has long set Swans apart. Step aboard DSK and the first thing you notice is an immaculate teak deck that seemingly goes on for acres. A glance above reveals a PBO-rigged, four-spreader Hall Spars carbon mast that — at nearly 121 feet — threatens to scratch the sky. Looking aft, DSK’s scooped-out transom bespeaks her race pedigree, but this is simply the tip of a massive iceberg.

Unlike other Swan 90s, DSK’s hull was built of foam-cored carbon fiber (the laminate from the waterline down is solid). Her deck was crafted out of infusion-molded carbon fiber with a Core-Cell core (with high-density core under deck fittings). Even the teak-edged saloon table and the five heads are carbon fiber. In fact, DSK weighs a “scant” 117,400 pounds, compared to a “standard” Swan 90 (if there is such a thing), which weighs in at a still svelte 115,195 pounds. According to Mark Fliegnet, DSK’s captain, this lightweight construction helps the yacht get up on a wave and stretch her legs offshore. Imagine surfing down big waves on a 90-foot, 115,195- pound racing sled, and you’re starting to grasp the concept.

But you’d be mistaken to think of this as a stripped-out racing machine. Step belowdeck and you are greeted with a fitted-out cruising interior that defines “comfortable”. Amenities include numerous Mac computer stations and monitors, a fridge, a freezer, a dedicated beverage fridge, an additional freezer, an icemaker, a four-burner gas range, sumptuous leather upholstery, spacious guest cabins, a magnificent V-berth master cabin, AC, and central heating.

Watching Fleignet expertly maneuver DSK out of her slip was like watching an artist at work, though the job was simplified by DSK’s retractable bow thruster. The yacht was in cruising trim when I test-sailed her in St. Maarten — this included additional furniture, a Park Avenue boom, cruising sails, and the removal of the 12.5-foot carbon bowsprit from which DSK flies her powerful downwind wardrobe. Even with the extra weight and cruising sails, DSK proved herself quick. We hoisted sail just past the Simpson Bay drawbridge (which was easy given the full complement of electric winches) and enjoyed an idyllic sail to a tiny island off Anguilla. While the tradewinds were blowing a moderate 10–15 knots, the seas were running several feet high. Once DSK’s sails were trimmed, the seas ceased to matter; in fact, the ride was akin to sailing a Laser on pond-flat waters.

Driving DSK is a lesson in sail trim. Get it just right and the yacht tucks into a deep, comfortable groove and stays there. Get it a bit wrong and the helm feels a tad sticky. This is how finely attuned DSK is to her sailplan. Once Enrico Chieffi, Nautor’s VP of marketing and a former Star and 470 legend, started dialing in the sail trim via push-button winches, the boat came alive. Suddenly DSK felt like a stripped-out maxi, adroit at playing subtle shifts. Interior? What cruising gear? The yacht had no trouble sailing at or near windspeed on a reach, and it was a joy to watch the speedo climb into double digits, even though a sizable RIB was being towed astern.

After reluctantly yielding the helm to another writer, I strolled the expansive decks, enjoying the warm teak under my bare feet. And what a stroll; the latest go-fast gear adorned DSK’s opulent deck and towering rig, and it was easy to imagine the boat in full-on racing trim with a huge kite hung from her masthead sheave, balanced out with a staysail and her huge main. Stir in 15 to 20 crewmembers hiking to weather, a massive grin on the helmsman’s face, and it’s easy to picture DSK at this year’s RORC Caribbean 600, where she earned line honors for the fastest fixed-keel monohull.

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