January / February 2022

Free Spirits

Mixing pleasure and performance at Spirit Yachts
Spirit Yachts

NIC COMPTON

The original Spirit 37 is seen here sailing where it all started, on the River Orwell in Suffolk, England. The author, the first journalist to sail aboard the boat, joined her just a few days after her launching. She reached nearly 12 knots under spinnaker that day, proving the concept of a retro aesthetic combined with thoroughly modern hull design below the waterline.

“We never could have imagined this when we launched our first boat 27 years ago,” says Spirit Yachts founder and CEO Sean McMillan. “Never in our wildest dreams.”

He’s speaking at the 2021 British Classic Week in Cowes, one of the U.K.’s top classic yacht events, where Spirit Yachts has a class of its own, which this year consisted of nine yachts. They ranged from a couple of 37-footers, which are similar to that first boat, to a much-traveled 65-footer. But perhaps most impressive of all, moored off the Cowes esplanade for the duration of the regatta, is the 111' GEIST, the biggest single-masted wooden yacht built in Britain since the J-class yacht SHAMROCK V in 1930. Although she isn’t racing this week (she’s acting as the mothership while her owner races her little sister, the 52' HAPPY FOREVER), it’s quite enough to stand on the shore and gaze at her endless, elegant sheerline.

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