Driving Force

Like her mythical namesake, Phoenix embodies a determination to rise above the ordinary.

Everyone was sad at the end, me included,” admits Capt. Nick Ruiz. In fact, he confesses, he even shed a few tears.

While it might sound like he’s referring to the latest theatrical drama or three-hanky movie, he’s actually referring to the delivery of Phoenix, the 200-foot Lürssen under his charge. Ruiz is more than just her captain; he was the owner’s project manager during construction, visiting the Bremen-based yard in Germany every two weeks for the first year of her build and living full-time in Bremen for the last year and a half of the project’s completion.

But shedding a few tears—isn’t that being melodramatic? Not in the least, when you understand just how passionate Ruiz was about the concept and completion of Phoenix, literally from her top decks right down to her bilge deck. He describes the importance of ensuring the nearly all-Raytheon pilothouse was user-friendly in the same way as he describes convincing the owner that the number of washing machines he had in mind really was sensible. (There are five instead of six, by the way, because while there’s “a tendency to throw machinery at a situation,” the true issue is manpower—or, as Ruiz puts it, “the limiting factor is the ability to iron it all.”)

Ruiz isn’t alone in his sentiments for this yacht. Andrew Winch, principal of Andrew Winch Designs who created the yacht’s exterior and interior design, is also quite pleased with how the yacht turned out, peppering his recollection of the design and build process with descriptions like “very proud,” “phenomenal,” and “great.” Not only does Winch praise Ruiz for being “a great project leader all the way through,” but he also says that because the owner’s vision inspired everyone at the design team, it made them “push boundaries and raise the benchmark for custom yachts.”

So what exactly was it about the owner’s vision that had everyone so charged up, straight through to delivery? A comfortable, large world cruiser was certainly on order, as he’d previously owned a 116-foot semidisplacement yacht. (In fact, according to Lürssen, some of the discussions about this project began aboard that yacht a handful of years ago at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show.) A beautifully outfitted, floating home was also understandably part of the vision, given the art deco-inspired concept for the interior and his plans to enjoy cruising and diving around the world. But beyond that, he wanted a well-engineered, individualistic yacht that struck a balance between providing several private areas for him and a handful of intimate gathering areas for friends and family.

Lürssen’s technical prowess is well documented, from the military projects it’s been building for decades to yachts like Limitless, whose diesel-electric propulsion system is still a rarity in the pleasure-craft world nearly a decade after her delivery. Ruiz describes the owner as being “a very technical man” whose knowledge goes beyond understanding what at-anchor stabilization means—he wanted to know to what mathematical degree Phoenix could sway before the fins would need to be engaged for comfort, and what extra percentage of stability those fins would lend. This is one reason the owner appointed Espen Øino as a consulting naval architect. Øino, who had collaborated with the yard on previous projects such as Skat and Queen M, additionally oversaw tank tests performed in Hamburg to establish efficiencies in different conditions, speeds, and headings. Lürssen’s final hull lines are based on those results as well as its own experience in optimizing comfort; among other features, the round bilge hull form includes a bulbous bow to reduce resistance at cruising speed.

To be fair, other custom-yacht yards have excellent reputations for engineering and cooperating with naval architects, and other yards were asked to bid on the project, which had Winch’s design concept already as part of the plan. But the owner ultimately chose Lürssen because it “was willing to build what he wanted, [it] didn’t try to sell him an existing design,” Ruiz explains. He points to the fact that no two Lürssen-built yachts look alike. Even if you’re not familiar with all of the yard’s offerings, a quick glance at builds like the militaristic Ronin (ex-Izanami), the curvaceous Pelorus, and the expedition-like Octopus underscores the point.

Driving Force

Part 2: The overall feeling of spaciousness is amplified by a nine-foot-high, barrel-vaulted ceiling.

It takes more than a quick look around the interior of Phoenix to see how cleverly the yacht balances the owner’s desire for privacy with his desire for entertaining. The best example is the master suite—really a master apartment, given that it is spread out over two levels. Besides the customary full-beam bedroom, complete with his-and-her baths (too elegant to be called heads) and walk-in wardrobes, there’s an observation lounge up a private stairway. If the owner wants time to himself for business, this lounge serves as an ideal office, outfitted with two desks and blessed (or cursed, depending on how much paperwork needs to get done) with an extraordinary view, given its forward position below the wheelhouse. There’s also a private sundeck farther forward of this observation lounge, where it’s easy to imagine the owner enjoying breakfast or perhaps just relaxing.

Should he want to join family or friends onboard, the owner can walk aft along the upper deck to a full-beam casual lounge, complete with a bar and games table. Despite the presence of a traditional saloon on the main deck, this is truly the main saloon. The overall feeling of spaciousness is amplified by a nine-foot-high, barrel-vaulted ceiling. “It gives the impression that daylight is coming in through the ceiling,” Winch explains, due to the use of dimmable bulbs that mimic sunlight. And to further the feeling of bringing the outdoors in, the lounge can be opened aft onto the terrace deck, which has sliding glass panels both port and starboard for wind protection.

The sundeck provides more areas where the owner can opt for time alone or togetherness. There’s a glass-enclosed gymnasium up here with several pieces of cardio and weight-training equipment, for example, as well as a Jacuzzi (with a bar at its edge) and sun lounges aft. Even if he’s the only one relaxing on a lounge, he can still be engaged in the activity onboard: “While lying on the sunpads you can look down the lines of the yacht and participate in watching her travel to her next destination,” Winch explains.

But for true privacy, perhaps the best spot onboard Phoenix is the private flying bridge—what Winch calls an “observation cockpit”—forward of the mast on the topmost deck. Even Peter Lürssen, who heads the yard, calls it “the best spot to be in,” whether the yacht is cruising the islands or just pulling into port.
While it may seem strange to consider the pilothouse an owner’s private area, the one on this 200-footer actually is, in a sense. Winch calls it “a tour de force” for the owner and Ruiz: “It’s their office, where they decide where to take this boat.” While nearly every single megayacht around has an observation settee or two in the wheelhouse, Phoenix has a notable absence of them. After all, she provides other areas for communal gatherings. And Ruiz says keeping the pilothouse focused on the business of getting the yacht from one place to another makes it more “sensible and user-friendly.” It includes a communications office that can be separated from the rest of the wheelhouse via glass screens, which additionally isolate it from the light and sounds emanating from the navigation area, and vice versa.

The enthusiasm expressed again and again by Ruiz and Winch is genuine—and significant, particularly because when it comes to the custom-yacht business, it’s not unusual to hear about projects being marked by adversarial relationships. Think about it: When you mix together clients who are accustomed to getting their way in their business dealings, owners’ representatives who are charged with ensuring the owner gets what he wants, and yards and designers that want to protect their creative and financial interests, things can get ugly awfully fast. But in the case of Phoenix, “that didn’t happen,” Ruiz says. “We’re all here for one client.”

And that spirit of cooperation is reminiscent of the mythical giant bird that inspired the yacht’s name. While most people think of how the phoenix burns itself and its nest after 500 years, more than that, it really symbolizes rebirth. And arguably this Phoenix symbolizes a revitalization of the collaborative spirit that makes the custom-yacht market so intriguing.

Driving Force

20 Years Ago

It may be hard to imagine, given the size of the megayachts (more like überyachts) Lürssen is turning out today, but at 110 feet, Falco, pictured here, was an astounding length for any yacht when construction began in the mid-1980’s. Most so-called megayachts being built worldwide at the time barely crossed the 100-foot threshold. Also different was her hull form. To ensure comfort and stability while she achieved her reported 27-knot top speed, the yard employed the same round-bilge, semiplaning hull design that it had developed for its naval-ship-building sector.

But that was nothing new for this German yard. To truly put things into perspective, you need to go back to 1875, when a man named Friedrich Lürssen founded Friedrich Lürssen Werft GmbH & Co. and averred, “My firm shall be known as the leader in both quality and performance.” He wasted no time in fulfilling his goal: One year later, with the help of Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach, he developed the first power-driven boat. Since that time more than 13,000 vessels of all shapes and sizes, from mine hunters to megayachts, have launched down the Lürssen ways.

There’s no telling whether Falco’s original owner knew she’d be a part of history. What is certain, however, is that she’s still actively cruising, now known as Allegra.

And no doubt, somewhere, Friedrich Lürssen is smiling. —D.M.B.

Published: 3rd Mar 2004