All Feadships are instantly recognizable for their distinctive looks and unbeatable quality. Nonetheless, the exterior aesthetic of the newly launched 68.00m Lady Christine is dramatically different even by Feadship’s standards. Built by Royal Van Lent to a design by De Voogt Naval Architects, Lady Christine also features a remarkable debut superyacht interior from British designer Rodney Black.
All these attributes are a testimony to the commitment and involvement of the yacht’s owners, Lord and Lady Laidlaw, who have poured decades of boatbuilding experience into this magnificent vessel. “I can honestly say that I would never ever build another boat again without going back to Feadship,” says Lord Laidlaw after his first week sailing onboard Lady Christine, confirming that his wife (after whom the yacht is named) feels very much the same. “We set exceptionally high standards for our houses, boats and cars yet, in every way possible, Feadship have exceeded our expectations on this project.”
Irvine and Christine Laidlaw certainly have sufficient benchmarks to make such a statement. The couple have built a succession of multi-million-pound sail yachts called Highland Fling, which have given Lord Laidlaw many international racing triumphs and cemented his position as a world-class sailor. They have also built two major motoryachts with Heesen (38 metres) and Oceanco (50 metres) so have a clear reference point when it comes to Dutch quality. The owner’s decision to build a new Feadship was influenced by the exceptional comfort levels they experienced onboard the previously owned 40.00m Feadship Seaflower, which they cruised extensively in locations off the beaten track.
Leveraging on all their rich building and sailing experiences, the Laidlaws threw themselves into the design and construction of Lady Christine. “I think Feadship would confirm that we were among the most involved and detailed owners with whom they have partnered. We visited the yard on countless occasions and spent an enormous amount of time working with Rodney Black, the interior designer and Royal Van Lent on even the smallest details. I must have signed off hundreds of drawings.”
“Take the stairs that link the sun deck with the owner’s deck,” continues Lord Laidlaw. “Any other yard would have simply brought these stairs straight down. Curving them in the way Feadship has done must have cost them a significant amount of extra time as the central spine also had to be formed into a curved shape along with the stairs and the banisters themselves. It is all beautifully done, and the initiative came entirely from the yard itself. Similarly, my original idea for the swimming pool on the main deck aft was that the water would flow over the top and spill down over the glass on the stern in an infinity pool concept".
"The yard decided that this would not work as the water would swing from side to side with even the slightest movement of the yacht. Moreover, swimming pool water is apparently not every good for a yacht exterior. Feadship therefore devised a completely different system whereby the pool water washes into a drain, while the infinity pool effect is created by jet spray nozzles evenly distributed across the stern. Again this ingenious solution must have cost more but we were not charged a penny extra: Feadship simply did what they knew would be best to meet our briefing. This is what I mean by exceeding expectations.”
Lady Christine has an elaborate interior, with extraordinary levels of fine detailing and finish throughout. With the exception of the guest suites and the original design for the cinema, which were designed by Jean Guy Vergès, the entire interior comes from the boards of Rodney Black Design Studios. Renowned for creating sumptuous architecture, landscape and interiors onshore, Lady Christine is the company’s first superyacht project.
Lady Christine is a tall yacht and at her peak on the sun deck is a hugely impressive indoor area called the Key West Room. A fabulous place to sit and relax with virtually 360-degree views, this is the area that the owners use most during the day when cruising for informal lunches or a very relaxed dinner. Resplendent in teak, Lady Laidlaw calls this the ‘shoes-off room’.
With a full 180-degrees of windows ensuring a panoramic vista, the full beam owners’ observation room one deck below is a sensational place to watch the world go by, and reflects the fact that Lady Christine will be travelling anywhere from the Philippines to Papua New Guinea, Alaska to Ecuador. This is very much a private sitting room for Lord and Lady Laidlaw, hence the fact that there are only two chairs facing forward and a two-seater dining table.
There is a growing trend among owners to establish their own deck in order to have a genuinely private onboard haven, and the wonderful facilities on this deck are likely to encourage even more to follow suit.
The quest for the finest of fine detailing is taken even further in the two studies located aft of the stateroom. Both ‘his’ and ‘her study have wonderful views aft and to the sides, with glass doors leading to a large private aft deck. Here the similarities end. Located on the starboard side, Lord Laidlaw’s study is a triumph of flame mahogany. This wood is a particular favourite of his and was chosen to give a sophisticated and masculine look, with the same inlay of macassar ebony used elsewhere offering an air of continuity. The joinery work in this study is exceptional, with a fine example being the curved corners that soften the whole atmosphere of the room.
Located forward of the bedroom, the awe-inspiring owners’ bathroom is made particularly lovely by the quality of the book-matched cream onyx and its soft mouldings.
The vanity unit has a yellow onyx inlaid top and inlaid cherry cabinet doors and curved panels. Mirrors conceal several wall cabinets, while the adjacent glass panels have engraved designs and a silver mirrored backing that gives a glow to the engraved glass. The motifs on the glass are of a mythical antelope, a large-lobed petal design and a contrasting geometric design and triangular chevron frieze. The lobed design appears on the floor in different coloured onyx and also on the ceiling.
The formal entrance to Lady Christine on the main deck makes an instant and dramatic impression on all who board her. In addition to being the first time that guests get to see the phenomenal marquetry panels, there is also a fabulous central spiral staircase that winds up to the two decks above and down to the cinema below. Decorated with faux ostrich and ultra-suede panels and a bronzed steel balustrade, the staircase itself is made of opulent cherry wood. The string wraps up around the staircase and then becomes part of the horizontal circular band in the middle of the stairwell. This effect then follows itself all the way up to the sun deck in what is an exceptional piece of carpentry.
Entering into the full beam bar and dining room, one is instantly struck by the effect of the full-height windows. The sense of wonder increases when these giant glass structures are opened up on both sides of the room and a large platform slides out horizontally from beneath the floor to create terraces to both port and starboard. Increasing the beam of the deck in this area to almost 15 metres, the ‘balconies’ offer lots of space for tables and chairs and are fenced off by stainless steel stanchions with transparent Lexan instead of glass in order to be safe for the canine guests.
Accessible from both the bar and dining room, the main deck lounge is another splendid place. Gorgeous cherry panels with maple inlay are interspersed with six glass columns containing carved glass figurines in a niche. The glass is profiled in order to create a fluted appearance to the columns and backed onto an antique bronze mirror to give depth and seemingly infinite reflections from the facetted surfaces. The columns are divided into three pieces by picture and dado rails, which give logic to the entire room, and support a cornice with a lacquered silver finish.
The wheelhouse is classic Feadship, with the conning display, two radars, electronics, CCTV and alarm systems efficiently spread across six screens. Lady Christine is powered by 12-cylinder MTUs, not the 16 cylinder engines one might expect on a yacht of this size. This reflects the fact that the owners are never in a hurry and find a top speed of 15.5 knots easily sufficient.
Rodney Black Design Studios
Dedham, Colchester, Essex, United Kingdom