FLIGHT OF FANCY
A project that nearly foundered as her owners pursued quality and technical perfection, the aptly named Phoenix is a soaring achievement.
Metaphorically speaking, most custom yachts are a balancing act - the process of modulating owners' dreams with the realities of physics, finances or technology. The 200-foot Lurssen motor yacht Phoenix is literally a technological balancing act вЂ” built for owners so unwilling to compromise on stability they almost cancelled the project. Phoenix is a yacht that rose from the ashes.
Through a series of yachts from 116 to 245 feet , both owned and chartered, her owner couple explored all types of vessels, analyzing everything from tender placement and crew pathways to interior arrangement plans, finishes and roll characteristics. Several years of serious, albeit pleasant, investigation gave them definite opinions.
'He wanted substantial speed and range, the service that only comes with lots of crew, a private owners' area, professional dive center, tender stowage low and aft, the ability for self-sufficient cruising for 30 days at a time, low environmental impact, minimal noise and maximum stability,' recalls Robert Moran, the broker who spearheaded the Lurssen project. 'During their investigation, he developed specifications and approached a selection of yards on his own.'
According to Moran, many of the yards seemed not to pay serious attention to the owner's specific requests and those that did quoted unacceptable prices, terms or delivery dates. Finally, convinced that a yacht matching his requirements could not be built, he shelved the idea. Robert Moran thought the project worth another try and requested permission to represent the owner in the process.
'We wrote a very detailed bid specification using a number of outside consultants under the direction of my captain and project manager, Nick Ruiz,' recalls Phoenix 's owner. The spec addressed seakeeping and rolling by specifying a particular GM (metacentric height) as well as speed and decibel targets. It was up to the yards to design how best to meet these multiple requirements with an original hull design. Eventually, Lurssen gained the owner's confidence.
'I really like Espen 0eino's work and we hired him to review Lurssen's initial hull design. We wanted to get the right roll characteristics for the world's oceans so Phoenix could go anywhere in comfort,' the owner recalled. Per the contract, 0eino tank-tested Lurssen's design in conditions simulating Atlantic and Pacific Oceans as well as the Mediterranean Sea .
'Liirssen did a great job because she now handles exactly like the model,' says the owner. 'Not only is she stable, but we found during sea trials in the North Sea last summer we could perform emergency crash stops within one-and-a-half boat lengths and one hundred eighty-degree turns at thirteen knots.'
'Some people confuse comfort and stability,' says Lurssen's Michael Breman. 'A boat can roll and still be stable. But there are different types of rolls: long, slow rolls typical of ocean liners and short rolls typical of commercial ships. Our challenge was to eliminate the roll this owner finds uncomfortable,' Bremen said. 'It isn't just one solution, but an entire package of solutions.'
The most visible part of the package is Phoenix 's beam - a whopping 40 feet , six inches. The most telling part is her displacement - 1,600 tons at half load. Beam, weight, hull shape, an aluminum superstructure and the placement of equipment and stores within the vessel allowed Liirssen to deliver Phoenix within the specified GM range of 1.1 - 1.25 meters . A single pair of oversized stabilizer fins protruding beyond the beam increase stability at anchor.
The bid contract also specified a number of other parameters: a maximum sound reading in the owners' suite of 45 dB, 16-knot top speed, 7,000-nm range and a specific delivery date. Not meeting any of the criteria would have exposed the builder to stiff penalties.
While solving unprecedented technical issues got the Phoenix project off the ground, it is the yacht's unparalleled decor that sets it soaring. The product of an industry guilty of misappropriating words like 'unique' and 'spectacular,' Phoenix nevertheless delivers both.
Designer Andrew Winch began by exploring Art Deco, particularly the more masculine look of French Deco. Once the couple mentioned French designer Jacques-Emile Ruhlmann, the concept clicked, coalescing into arrestingly chic yet comfortable French Deco with an American twist. Winch invoked Art Deco's essence without rote copying, pulling back from total immersion in the style so that design themes appear as part of an ensemble cast.
'When you walk into a room, I don't think everything in it should be immediately noticeable. You should enjoy the first experience, but each time you enter, you should notice a little more,' said Winch, who readily attributes the development of the ensemble details to his senior project manager, Matthew Chatt-Collins. With Phoenix , detail reaches new heights. 'Few clients would encourage their design team to explore design to this level and fewer still shipyards could comply,' Winch said.
Phoenix 's dramatic interior would not be half so engaging were it not for appropriate use of color. For color guidance and fabric, carpet and stone selections, the owners turned to North Carolina-based designer Dawn Moffitt, who had worked with them in refitting a Feadship and on a residence. Despite the distances separating the team, the end result is seamless with no competition between soft goods and architecture.
Beautiful stonework, and lots of it, plays a strong role in the ensemble of details. 'These clients love decorative stone; they aren't afraid of color and they like diversity,' Moffitt said. In fact, Phoenix features 30 different stones selected during a three-day marathon at Antelli stonecutters in Verona , Italy .
The yacht's lighting plan is complex. Most illumination is indirect, and much of that is via cold cathode tube elements used as cove lighting on innovative overheads that wash light from what appear to be free-floating beams. The exact color of white light they produce is adjusted for each space.
Balancing the French feel is the freestanding spiral stainless steel staircase, which Winch says was sparked by sets of Fred Ascaire and Ginger Rogers films. Aside from the central staircase, Winch created three more large, signature elements for Phoenix . One is the owners' two-story apartment forward on the main and upper decks. Incorporating sleeping, dressing and relaxation spaces, an office and even an outdoor lounging area, the suite is a self-contained retreat.
Another design feature - the vestibule separating the dining room and salon вЂ” was born of the problem of what to do with the huge trunks supplying air to the engine room below. The space connects the two rooms, but its leather semicircular walls revolve to close one room from the other for service or privacy while still allowing music to flow from the piano at its center.
On the deck above, the air trunks create the same wasp-waist feature. Winch further heightened the division by pushing the illuminated ceiling of the forward salon to a soaring four meters. Of all the yacht's spaces, this one, with its stylized ventilation grills and furniture, most directly expresses the Deco theme.
'On all of our boats we use the upper salon and upper aft deck the most,' the owner said. 'We enjoy the upper salon for breakfast and casual lunches. In the forward area, I added a Linn media center with surround sound and sixty-inch plasma screen. You feel at ease just to stretch out on the couch and put your feet up.'
Four years after conception, the yacht's owner says Phoenix exceeds even his exacting expectations. 'I enjoyed the process a lot because of the strength of our team and because of the professionalism of Lurssen's management, engineers and the men and women who actually built the boat. I found the whole experience to be very positive and would do it again in a minute.' So much for those who said this project wouldn't fly.
The elegant stateroom portion of Phoenix 's two-deck owners' suite perfectly expresses French Deco themes with mirrored and gloss finishes, geometric prints and highly decorative objects, such as the wall-size reproduction of an antique Coromandel screen. Andrew Winch Designs developed the architecture, while Dawn Moffitt supplied color, surface fabric and furniture guidance.
Staggered deck heights enhance the features of the sun deck located aft of the gym. Phoenix 's contemporary profile is enhanced by her radar mast, which was drawn by the owner and Capt. Ruiz.