x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

'To me she's like a high-performance car that is very spacious'

Super-fast and sleek, Espen Øino's Silver Zwei is more of an enthusiast's boat than a big floating home.

As yachts become ever higher and wider - as well as longer - Silver Zwei stands out. At 73 metres, Espen Øino's design is supermodel slim: elongated and sleek, she sits surprisingly low on the water for a yacht of such length. You can tell by looking that she can go faster than most of her peers but there's nothing aggressive about her clean and simple lines; it's more the look of a classic contemporary beauty - the sort of lines that might have come off the drawing board of a car designer.

In fact, that's just the analogy Øino uses: "She's a real naval architect's yacht - slender, with a nice entry at the waterline that enhances her performance, a beautiful line and a good balance between enclosed and outdoor space. To me she's like a high-performance car that is also very comfortable and spacious - like the new Aston Martin Rapide; she's much more of an enthusiast's boat than a big, floating holiday home."

While atypical of most of today's large yachts, the all-aluminium Silver Zwei also stands out among Øino's recent credits, which include the 62m Italian-built Roma, launched last year and also appearing at the Abu Dhabi show later this week, the 79m Madsummer, launched by Lürssen in 2008, and the 80m Northern Star, from the same shipyard last year - all of them full displacement yachts, with much bigger volumes and lower speeds.

However, you feel that the "enthusiast's boat" is especially close to the heart of this trained naval architect, who grew up in Norway surrounded by water, spending every free moment in boats and knowing from a young age that he wanted to design them ("although in those days I envisaged 10- or 12-metre boats - nothing like what I'm doing now"). "I love to drive the yachts I design - it's important to feel part of the boat. Silver Zwei is really fun to drive; almost as soon as you engage the engine you're up to seven or eight knots."

That's not to say that there has been any compromise on comfort - as a walk through Silver Zwei's sister yacht at last year's Abu Dhabi show attested. (The "original" Silver, that yacht was bought at the show by a member of Abu Dhabi's ruling family and now, renamed Rabdan, can sometimes be spotted in the waters around the capital.) The interior spaces are large and, with their contemporary Italian-inspired decor, as comfortable as any penthouse apartment; the decks are expansive, with plenty of shaded areas for sitting and dining. Even with its relatively narrow hull, it is a 73m yacht, after all - and that means a big floor area.

"There were no real constraints on space," says Øino. "We just had to think a bit more about some of the arrangements - for example, putting the tenders up front, where it's narrowest, enclosing them behind gull-wing doors. And, in fact, we chose not to make the spaces on the sun deck full-beam because we wanted them to feel more intimate." As may be expected at this rarefied level where no two yachts are ever identical, Silver Zwei isn't exactly the same as her one-year-older sister. "It's the same hull and same profile but there are quite a few non-visible changes - systems and so on - as well as some visible changes. We made some alterations to the cabin layout and the biggest change was on the foredeck. We found that the dining area on the foredeck was a little exposed so we changed it and moved the helipad forward, freeing up more deck space further back."

What, then, was the genesis of these two yachts - both of which were built for the same owner, a German businessman who had previously owned a 40-metre yacht. It's a big step up to 73m - especially when it's a yacht of such different character. "As always, there's a woman behind the story," laughs Øino. "The owner's wife found the typical crossings - Monaco to Sardinia, for example - rather tedious. Their previous yacht was full-displacement, with a cruising speed of 14 knots. That meant a long time on the open sea rather than doing the interesting bits."

Øino adds that the owner commissioned the yacht specifically with the charter market in mind. "He knew that most charterers want to cover a lot of ground in their week: St Tropez, Portofino, Sardinia, Capri - that's a lot to try and pack in. And he could see that there were no big boats that are fast - least of all fast without costing a lot more to run." The narrow, super-efficient "Silver" hull was the solution; the yachts do 18 to 25 knots comfortably "with more or less the same engines as a displacement yacht". The double benefit is no greater fuel costs for charterers, combined with a clearer conscience that high performance is not coming at any greater environmental cost.

What's more, adds Øino, the yachts are built to SOLAS regulations, which means that they can legally carry more than 12 guests. "That combination is unique in the charter market," he says, adding that it also makes the yachts interesting for private owners in this part of the world, who usually have large entourages or numerous family members on board. To complement the sleek hull lines, it was natural that the superstructure would be relatively low-slung. And that, says the designer, has other benefits: "You're closer to the water - especially on the aft deck or the beach club on the transom - and that's much more in the spirit of being on a yacht."

The aft area is a tour de force of design: the transom garage, which is full of tenders and water toys on many yachts, is a casual lounging area, complete with sauna, gym and showers, that - with the huge transom door raised, flows seamlessly out on to the "beach" deck. The passerelle also extends, to create what Øino describes as a semi-enclosed little marina "and the children can jump in and out of the water from the sides".

"I think one of the nicest things about these yachts is that their shape and size is not intimidating. It's so much nicer to swim around the boat and not feel that you have thousands of tons of steel looming above you," says Øino with a smile. www.espenoeino.com