It will be interesting to see how long Richard Schotte stays faithful to his latest boat, Isobel, a custom Stephens Waring performance deck-saloon cruiser that was launched at Brooklin Boat Yard in Maine last July. Schotte, it would seem, is the sort of client designers, builders and brokers dream of. Isobel is the fourth boat he’s commissioned from Stephens Waring over the past decade and represents a quantum leap of sorts, both in terms of her size and appearance. Where Schotte’s previous yachts were of modest size and quite classic and traditional in appearance, Isobel, as you can see, is rather large and looks very sexy.
Is she in any sense traditional? This was a question many were asking when she appeared in the classic yacht regattas on Penobscot Bay last summer, particularly after she won the Spirit of Tradition class in the Castine Classic Yacht Race immediately after her launching.
I worked her foredeck in race one of the inaugural Penobscot Bay Rendezvous in August, and I’m here to tell you her performance is explicitly modern. Yes, she is built of wood—cold-molded Western red cedar over laminated Douglas fir frames—but she is exceedingly light. Weighing just 37,000lbs, with an eye-poppingly low D/L ratio of 88 and an impressively high SA/D ratio of almost 30, she has little trouble breaking into double-digit speeds, even when the wind is moderate. Tacking angles are gratifyingly tight, and she slips easily upwind like a thief. Downwind, with the proper sails flying, she is a veritable rocket ship.
Certainly there’s nothing traditional about her rig. Her tall carbon-fiber mast, with no backstay and three sets of swept-back spreaders, supports a lethal-looking square-topped mainsail and a slim blade jib. Her long unstayed carbon sprit is just the thing for flying big modern A-sails and Code 0-type gennakers. Her deck and cockpit layout is clean and contemporary. The mainsail sheets to an arch over the aft end of the saloon deckhouse, and most working lines are led underneath the crisp teak deck. There are twin steering stations aft, with stylish custom wheel pedestals, and a full range of modern hydraulic controls and electric winches for trimming and shaping sails.
Belowdecks there is also little doubt you’re aboard a modern boat. The materials, again, are wood—gorgeous bird’s-eye maple joinery and a luscious quarter-sawn oak cabin sole—but the styling is quite chic. The custom stainless steel tiling behind the sink and range, the organic curve of the central lateral bulkhead and the galley countertop, and the brightly lit raised saloon opening straight into the cockpit all speak to a markedly 21st century aesthetic.
One area in which Isobel does recall an earlier era is in the quantity of her accommodations. Thanks to her narrow lines and the fact that her entire back end—roughly a third of her total length—is given over to a cockpit with nothing crammed underneath, there simply isn’t space for the palatial digs many modern cruising sailors have grown accustomed to.
The owner’s stateroom forward is generous, but hardly profligate, and features a queen-sized island berth and a large head with an enclosed shower stall. Guests meanwhile are relegated to either a tiny passage cabin with a tight single berth or a narrow midship cabin with two single bunk berths, with only one small day head to share between them. For a boat this large (the hull, minus bowsprit, is over 68 feet long), it is a decidely modest, almost 19th century layout.
However you define the term “spirit of tradition,” there is no denying that Isobel is a strikingly beautiful yacht. Though she is aesthetically modern, I think that what makes this boat so attractive are precisely those elements in her design that echo the past. The narrow hull, with its dramatic plumb bow and elegant stern overhang, quite explicitly recalls the rakish deep-keeled pilot cutters that commonly graced British waters a century and more ago.
Squint just a bit and that modern square-headed mainsail looks a bit like a gaff sail, doesn’t it? Squint a bit more and that rakish carbon sprit starts to look like one the great massive poles that sprouted from the bows of the cutters of old. Then open your eyes wide again—and you will understand that when it comes to yacht design, as in so many other things, beauty is indeed eternal.
LOA 75ft 8in
LOD 68ft 8in
LWL 57ft 2in
SAIL AREA 1,588ft2
ENGINE 110hp Steyr diesel
BUILD COST Approx. $3 million
Photos by Alison Langely