Designed as the biggest yacht that can sensibly be sailed over long distances by two people, the Swan 54 is an appealing top quality fast cruising yacht. The Swan 54 fits into the company’s SwanLine range, which consists of seven different sized models from 50-115ft. Nautor also builds the Club Swan 50 one-design race boat (see Club Swan 50 review: convertible class).

This design, which comes from the board of German Frers, is a top quality serious blue water cruiser intended to appeal to experienced and knowledgeable owners. It’s a moderate displacement design with more of a deep V hull form than many of today’s relatively flat-bottomed boats. This is a shape that confers a host of advantages for long-distance sailing. For a start, the boat will lie more quietly at anchor, with less tendency to shear around in strong gusts, manoeuvring in harbour is easier, especially in strong winds, and the motion at sea is softer and more comfortable.
At the same time, the boat embodies much of the latest build technology and design knowledge, while exuding masses of style.

Swan 54 deck

The Swan 54 is spacious, luxurious and yet easily handled by two people.

Below decks

The ethos of this boat is immediately apparent on going below. There are proper deep fiddles around both the galley and navigation station, as well as ample hand-holds, which again singles this design out as one intended for proper voyaging in comfort and safety. The standard of joinery and finish is top notch, but this is not a traditional dark and dank interior – natural light pours in through coach roof windows, overhead hatches and hull windows.

Right forward is an impressive owners cabin, with a 160cm wide peninsular berth, plus plenty of storage space. The forward head is directly connected to the owner’s cabin and has a separate shower stall. Immediately aft of the owners quarters is a cabin with an almost rectangular double berth and a commendable amount of standing space.

The starboard side of the saloon is entirely taken up with a generous navigation station, plus a huge well-appointed galley. The port side of the saloon has a spacious three-metre long lounging/dining area with seating around a substantial table.

Aft of the galley is an occasional additional cabin/stowage and technical area equipped with a washer/dryer. This area could clearly also be arranged to include workshop facilities for those intending to venture far afield. To port is a third double cabin, with limited space to stand up at the head of the berth, but a huge almost rectangular bunk that’s 190cm wide.

Swan 54 interior

Below decks, the Swan 54 is full of natural light, but is also well set-up for long distance cruising.

On deck and performance

The deck layout optimised for more serious sailing than that of many cruising yachts of this size. There’s also less separation between the social and working areas of the cockpit than many other boats of this length, reflecting that this yacht is one for enthusiastic sailors who want to take part in sailing the boat, rather than going along for a ride as a passenger. If you enjoy taking part and sailing efficiently it’s a great arrangement. Once in port there are easy steps down from deck to the 2.5 metre wide fold-down swimming platform.

As standard there are four electric winches in the cockpit and, unlike Nautor’s more race oriented models, the mainsheet is positioned on the coach roof to allow the use of a wide bimini while sailing. The optional sprayhood can be completely retracted into a purpose made space in the coaming and coach roof, in much the same manner as the hood of a soft top car is concealed when lowered.

The big single rudder is positioned well forward of any disturbed water near the transom. Combined with a hefty bulb keel good control is promised in a wide range of conditions. Alternatively the boat is available in a variable draught version, with a vertically lifting keel and twin rudders.

Swan 54 cockpit

There is less separation between the socialising and working areas in the cockpit than on many boats this size.

Strengths and compromises

The resounding impression this boat gives is that a lot of thought has gone into the design, there’s a great standard of finish and the hull shape drawn to prioritise handling under sail and comfort at sea over interior volume. In many ways this is a conservative design, but it is one that’s sure to find many enthusiastic followers.
Potential owners also have the attraction of Nautor Swan’s comprehensive programme of regattas and rallies around the globe. This is a huge draw thanks to the combination of meeting like minded people in stunning destinations and the racing or cruising on offer.

There are two obvious compromises – firstly, while the Swan 54 is a seriously comfortable yacht, Nautor has made no attempt to give a superficial “wow” factor by maxing out the amount of accommodation, either on deck and below, that can be fitted into the overall length. At the same time, it’s possible to buy considerably cheaper boats of this size. However, these are both aspects that Swan owners have been very happy to compromise on for the past 50 years, in order to gain the other advantages of the marque.

Alternative boats

In many ways Nautor has carved out a niche that few other boat builders occupy (see 6 of the best Nautor’s Swan yachts of all-time). However at this size there are a number of potential alternatives. Although less performance oriented, and only available with a centre cockpit, the Hallberg Rassy 55 will appeal to buyers for many of the same reasons. It’s another German Frers design and was launched in 2013.

Oyster Yachts is arguably the only boat builder that can rival Nautor Swan in terms of number and size of its rallies and regattas, making the Oyster 545 another obvious contender.

Nautor Swan 54 specifications

LOA: 16.48m
Length waterline: 14.40m
Beam: 4.75m
Draught: (standard keel) 2.44m; (lifting keel) 1.40-3.70m
Displacement: (light) 22,000kg; (loaded) 26,000kg
Ballast: (standard keel) 8,200kg; (lifting keel) 10,150kg
Mainsail: 81.1sq m
100 per cent Jib: 61.8sq m
Spinnaker: 210sq m
Code Zero: 120sq m
Fuel: 495 litres
Water: 684 litres
Hot water: 50 litres
Holding tanks: 120 litres

Written by: Rupert Holmes
Rupert Holmes has more than 70,000 miles of offshore cruising and racing experience, in waters ranging from the North Sea to the Southern Ocean and Cape Horn. He writes about all aspects of boat ownership and marine travel, including destinations, seamanship and maintenance, as well as undertaking regular new boat and gear tests. He currently sails around 5,000 miles per year and in the past couple of seasons has cruised from the UK to the Azores, as well as winning his class in the 2014 two-handed Round Britain and Ireland Race. He also owns two yachts, one based in the Mediterranean and the other in the UK.