High-profile yacht racer and longtime Alloy patron Neville Crichton chooses Feadship to build his latest motoryacht: Como.
By Justin Ratcliffe
As the former owner of Alfa Romeo, the 98-foot (30-meter) supermaxi that took more than 140 line-honors victories, Neville Crichton has stood on the podium at most of the top international regattas, including the Sydney-Hobart, the Fastnet, the Maxi World Cup, the Giraglia and the Middle Sea Race. The dyed-in-the-wool sailor’s first motoryacht, a 135-footer (41-meter) designed by Ed Dubois and called Como, was launched in 2007 by Alloy Yachts in New Zealand. He used her principally as a mothership during his hardcore racing days. Now retired from the maxi circuit, his priorities have changed and he has taken up the much more leisurely pastime of motor cruising, although he admits with wry understatement that he’s “not very good at just going on holiday.”
To build a new, larger Como, Crichton originally intended to return to Alloy, a yard he helped establish as a former shareholder and patron. His decision to upgrade, however, came in the middle of a recession when even the top European brands were willing to negotiate to secure new orders and it proved “price advantageous” to build with Feadship. And there was another, more romantic impulse behind his reasoning to go with the Dutch yard.
“I’ve always wanted a Feadship,” he says. “It’s been at the back of my mind from years ago when I saw a Feadship called Belle France [ex- Cacique; now Calixe] come into Sydney Harbor. I thought ‘Jesus, I’ve got to own one of those one day,’ and I’ve finally got one.”
Touring the new 152-foot (46.2-meter) Como, also designed by Dubois, when she was in build at the Feadship facility in the Netherlands provided an opportunity to look under the yacht’s skin. Although she is a close relation to the old Como with a semi-displacement aluminum hull, raised pilothouse layout and interior design again by Redman Whiteley Dixon, the exterior styling has undergone a marked evolution with a straighter stem and cutaways in the hull that allow natural light to flood into the owner’s suite on the forward main deck.
“Having two and a half decks helps lend the yacht a sleeker and sportier appearance,” says Dubois. “Crichton is also a confirmed bachelor, so the added interior volume provided by a full extra deck was not a priority. The exterior living space, however, was important for the owner.”
Crichton enjoys attending open-air sporting events such at the Monaco Grand Prix. He has pre-booked a berth on the River Thames to take in the London matches during the 2015 Rugby World Cup (combining business with pleasure, it was aboard the old Como during the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand that the owner and Dubois discussed pricing with Alloy for the new boat).
The best way to view the F1 action in Monaco is from the top deck of a yacht moored in Port Hercules. This led to one of Como’s signature exterior features: the generous sundeck with its wraparound windows that can be individually raised and lowered to serve as an open or semi-closed space with full a/c. Visiting the yacht in build provided insight into just how challenging it was to engineer the enormous glass panes weighing over 7,000 pounds in total. Dubois had originally wanted a single piece of curved glass for the windscreen, but in the end it had to be divided by a mullion that slides up and down with the glass.
As an all-aluminum and relatively lightweight design, the yacht had a high GM (metacentric height)—used to describe the righting moment of a vessel—with quite a quick roll period. The weight of the glass provided an unforeseen advantage by lowering the GM and slowing the roll period with it, providing a more comfortable ride and allowing for smaller Quantum Zero Speed stabilizer fins.
Visiting the finished yacht shortly after delivery last spring was a revelation. Como had weathered a tough passage with 40-knot headwinds coming through the Straits of Gibraltar, but moored in the marina in Antibes on the French Riviera she looked none the worse for wear and her vertical bow, graceful whaleback sheer and metallic silver gray livery immediately set her apart from the similarly sized but less dashing yachts tied up alongside.
One interior feature I was particularly keen to see in action, having inspected a working scale model at the shipyard in Holland, was the rotating circular floor in the main salon that allows guests to view the 86-inch mirror TV on the dining room bulkhead or admire the seascape without having to rearrange the furniture. Engineered by Feadship, the system relies on compressed air to provide near-silent, frictionless rotation, but it was important that the mechanism recessed into the deck did not detract from the headroom in the guest cabins below, or increase noise levels from the engine room. At the push of a button, the lightweight, composite platform imperceptibly lifts up on its bed of air and can be pushed around using one hand.
Feadship is more accustomed to building high-volume, steel-hulled displacement yachts, and Como is a compact vessel by Feadship standards at just under 500 gross tons. Maximizing stowage space was a priority for her captain, Mark Smith, who intervened to advise the shipyard on where extra inches could be gleaned. He discovered, for example, a generous gap behind the washing machines and dryers in the laundry, which were pushed back to increase the floor area.
Feadship is predominantly an electrical shipyard, but electrical thrusters and actuators are generally bigger than their hydraulic equivalents and require extensive switchboards. Finding the necessary space for this equipment presented a challenge, so the bilge deck that runs from the forward crew accommodation bulkhead back to the engine room is used to house items such as the compressor units for the a/c system, along with a custom, high-capacity fridge-freezer.
Crichton’s shrewd grasp of the market and keen eye for design, performance and innovation means he is one of the few owners who has consistently sold his motoryachts and sailing cruisers for more than he paid for them. He is already planning his next yacht, which no doubt will be another trendsetter. It’s also a safe bet it will be built by Feadship.
For more information: +31 23 524 7000, feadship.nl