Long seen as the best production yachts in the world, quality boat builder Nautor's Swan is based in Pietarsaari, Finland. The marque has continued to succeed when many contemporaries have succumbed to market forces or changes in fashion. In addition to the advantage of having been built with the best materials available, most Swan owners are fastidious in the maintenance of their vessels. As a result, even the oldest models change hands for high prices tend to be in excellent condition (see also Swan 65: the sought-after sailor’s yacht). Here’s a selection of six iconic designs from the among almost 100 that have been produced by the company to date.
All the early Nautor's Swan yachts had been designed by Sparkman and Stephens, although a few models in the late 1970s and early 1980s were by Ron Holland. However, the launch of the Swan 51 in 1981 marked a change of route for Nautor. It was the start of a collaboration with the then up and coming Argentinian designer German Frers that is still strong today, more than 30 years later. In all, 36 Swan 51s during a four-year production run.
The boat pictured is Northern Child, an immaculately kept example that is in year-round use as a charter yacht. She’s generally in the UK during the summer and the Caribbean for the winter. She’s pictured at the 2013 International Rolex Regatta in St Thomas in the US Virgin Islands.
This is where the legendary Nautor's Swan brand started, back in 1969. While by today’s standards 36ft is a relatively modest size of boat, that was not the case more than 40 years ago, when a new Swan 36 would set you back as much as the price of a desirable house.
Renowned designers Sparkman and Stephens were engaged to draw the new boat, which was built of fibreglass – then still a relatively new material for boat building. However, it also incorporated plenty of top-quality timber, with carefully matched grain, both on deck and below. Some 90 Swan 36s were built between 1967 and 1971
The Swan 36 now makes an attractive cruiser racer that’s universally admired and allows entry to both the coveted Swan events such as the European Cup, as well as other classic yacht regattas and rallies.
Another Sparkman and Stephens' design, when launched this represented the pinnacle of world-girdling racing yachts. 1973 saw the first ever round the world yacht race for fully-crewed boats and was won by Sayula II, hull number 03.
However, these were the days in which offshore racing yachts had fully fitted interiors, and the Swan 65 was fitted out to the highest of standards for any yacht of its era. This was another key factors behind the design subsequently becoming a very sought after serious cruising yacht. In all, 41 were built between 1972 and 1989, most with ketch rigs, but a few with sloop rigs. The boat pictured is Desperado, racing during Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week in 2012.
Over the decades the majority of raceboats have become progressively more stripped out and basic. However, the Swan 45, commissioned by the New York Yacht Club, bucks this trend, giving owners the chance to compete at the highest levels on a boat that still featured a luxurious interior, including a generous owner’s suite.
This took only a marginal edge of performance, which in any case does not matter when one-design racing and tends to be treated favourably for handicap racing under the IRC system. More than 10 years after it was first launched, Nautor's Swan 45 continues to be raced competitively, with a programme of Mediterranean, North European, American and Caribbean events.
The photo shows Island World Water racing at the 2013 Rolex Swan Cup Caribbean.
By the late 1990s and early 2000s yachts in general had become larger – 65ft was no longer a big boat – although many manufacturers of boats in this size rage aimed to appeal to those who focused more on creature comforts than sailing performance. However, Nautor continued to develop models that would appealing to experienced and knowledgeable owners, often from a racing background, who valued sailing performance and excellent handling characteristics just as much as the beautifully-appointed accommodation.
Nautor's Swan 62, launched in 2002 is an excellent example of this and was available in two versions – a flush deck lightweight racer and as a fast but comfortable world cruiser. Even in this form, it’s a fast and powerful boat, but with the potential to make win the silverware at regattas around the globe. A deep keel, with low centre of gravity ensures both excellent windward performance and enough stability to achieve impressive speeds downwind. The deck layout has a separate crew cockpit at the back of the boat, from which a single watch keeper can sail the boat, allowing non-sailing guests to relax in the main cockpit area.
With the demand for ever-larger yachts, and many other companies starting to vie for the same part of the market, it was inevitable Nautor would enter the market with superyachts built on a semi-production basis. It was one of boat builders to do so, launching the Swan 86 in 1986.
The new 105 is the currently the flagship in the range and was conceived as the ultimate cruising yacht. The vast interior can be customised to suit an owner’s specific needs, including defining the location of the master and guest cabins. Similarly, the extensive deck area is divided between operational zones and guest areas, allowing plenty of scope for relaxation while the yacht is under sail. The broad transom gives ample space for swimming and there’s an optional hydraulic launching and recovery system for the tender.
For more beautiful yachts, see Sexiest boats: six of the best. See also Swan 65: the sought-after sailor’s yacht and for more on the Swan brand see Nautor's Swan.