Nautor’s Swan CEO Enrico Chieffi, a former competitive sailor who met Ferragamo sailing, and long-time designer Germán Frers Jr., who penned the new Swan, hosted a press conference in the glorious model room of the New York Yacht Club a few months ago, to introduce the Swan 105, a perfect opportunity to get some insight into this iconic brand.
What is the secret to the Swan mystique?
Enrico Chieffi: There are many parts to create this magic balance, but we have identified three to make it simple: style, performance and comfort.
How would you describe Nautor’s Swan to a new client?
EC: We design nice boats for family cruising that are very comfortable and still have kept their seaworthy capabilities. You feel secure in a Swan. Mr. Ferragamo has brought a lot of style innovation into Swan in recent years. His intent has always been to do an evolution not a revolution, making Swan more contemporary but still totally recognizable as a Swan and in touch with the Swan heritage.
The new line—the Swan 60, Swan 80 and now the Swan 105— have incorporated adjustments to the classic deck design, what brought about the change?
EC: The characteristic deck layout is purposefully cleaner, wider, more comfortable and more easily accessible than in the original design, which catered to the harsh Nordic climate with small portholes and few hatches. As a result of the design tweak (which brought about lots of discussions), more light enters the interior. Yet, you can still recognize a Swan because we have not gone to any extreme changes; Swan is still a proper offshore yacht.
Who is the typical Swan owner?
EC: We are seeing younger buyers, successful entrepreneurs now able to fulfill their dream of Swan ownership, but 50 percent are repeat customers. Mr. Ferragamo owned his third Swan when he decided to buy the company. We have a large database that tracks information for each of the 2,000 yachts sold to date. We keep wood samples in the company library labeled with the yachts’ name and number so that the wood is always available for repairs. We keep a close relationship with our owners.
What are some of the perks of Swan ownership?
EC: All Swan owners become Swan Club members and can participate in regattas, challenges and rendezvous, nearly 50 events throughout the world—regattas such as the Rolex Swan Cup in Porto Cervo, Swan European Regatta, the Invitational Regatta in conjunction with the NYYC, and then there are the reciprocity agreements; we call it friendship agreements. A Swan owner is welcome at yacht clubs throughout the world, as a guest member. The future of this company is not made of huge projects, but of excellence.
To German Frers Jr: I have been told that within the company you are known as Mr. Innovation.
GF.: It is my nature, ever since I was a child. My personality is such that I like to move to the next step. I’ve been designing for (Nautor’s Swan) since the 1980s. The question now is, how do we move forward? The funny thing is, as much as you seek to move forward, what pleases you are still the same things, for example, warmth in the interiors and the feeling of safety. If the boat is too fast, too noisy or too wet, it’s not enjoyable. You need to keep a balance as you innovate. The primary reasons for change were to get better space and brighter interiors that are more adaptable to various climates. The trick is that, in the end, you can still identify the boat as a Swan.
How would you describe your new design, the Swan 105?
GF: It is a boat for these times: a simpler boat, easier to maintain, with more volume, better systems, overall improvements in control, fun to sail and built to enhance the sailing experience. Why you buy a yacht in the first place is to have great experiences. People feel secure in a Swan yacht; it is not a boat that clients are inclined to push to the limits. Rather, it is a boat to be enjoyed in any kind of weather.
What made you switch to carbon fiber?
GF: Carbon fiber boats lasts much longer than fiberglass. The downside is that it can add an element of noise and vibration. We moved to carbon only once we were convinced that we could mitigate this potential problem by adding different foam cores between layers of carbon. We do interiors in such a way that they don’t transmit vibration. Nowadays, you can actually start the engine and have to look at the instrumentation to know that it is running. When we launched the Swan 80 a few years ago, we were in the forward cabin, which in the past used to be quite noisy. We were having a meeting and we realized that the wind had picked up. We were going upwind; the boat was heeling and we didn’t realize it until we were told that we were doing 12 knots. There was no noise inside—to be able to achieve that was rather shocking.
Where do you draw the line between performance and comfort?
GF: It is a question of priority. This is a cruising boat, but there has to be excitement, exhilaration. People who are not very experienced sailors become very good sailors if they have a boat that speak to them.
Anything on your wish list for Swan in the future?
GF: I’d like to improve the smaller boats and bring back the Swan 36. The world has changed and some things we can never bring back, but that is on my wish list for Swan.
What defines a Swan for you, the designer?
GF: “Solid” is the word that comes to mind. If I may use an analogy, you can have extreme girls who are a lot of fun for certain things but impossible to live with in the long run. A Swan is beautiful, high performance and you can take her anywhere. It is an overall feeling of beauty, performance and safety that allows you to enjoy the beautiful nature.
For more on the Nautor's Swan 105, click here.