As many Royal Huisman owners come to recognise, the sense of reward from the creation of a fine custom yacht goes well beyond the undoubted pleasures of owning and sailing it. In the process of the build they will have supported and maintained traditions of outstanding craftsmanship that are becoming increasingly rare in the modern world. And they will have created something of lasting value that will give enduring pleasure to future owners and to future generations, “I’m not really the owner of this wonderful work of art,” as one owner put it, “I’m just the custodian”.
The magnificent schooner Lethantia (formerly Borkumriff III) was launched in 1994 and has been in the hands of an appreciative “New Custodian” since 2005.
Royal Huisman asked the owner about his journey of ownership, beginning with his own sailing background.
I have sailed for 45 years or so, starting with a 7.2m steel sloop. I built the interior myself, together with a carpenter friend; then I decided I could improve it, so I did it all over again two years later. Then there was a Vindoe 40, a Nordia 45 and a Benetti motoryacht but I soon realized that motor yachting was not for me and I just used it for my filming work. Next was a Jongert 20DS which I kept in the Adriatic, apart from two trips to the Med.
So how did Lethantia come into your life?
I was looking for a classic yacht and went for a sail trial on a larger Jongert, but she had been so poorly maintained that even Jan Jongert advised against buying her. There were some crew from Lethantia aboard and they suggested I might like to take a look at her instead. As soon as I stepped on board I was deeply impressed. I knew her first owner, and of his exceptionally high standards, and I knew Huisman’s reputation. I decided that a survey was unnecessary and went ahead and bought her two months later.
And was she in as good a state as you expected?
Yes, she was in great condition. I like things to be perfect and that is exactly what I found – the quality of workmanship and finish behind the panels was better than you’ll find on the front side on some boats. And my electrician could hardly believe the thoroughness and clarity of the cable labelling and documentation system; it means he never has to waste time on an installation so he finds it a real pleasure to work on the boat.
But you have been updating Lethantia in some ways?
I began by updating the electrics and electronics, which had moved on a long way over the years. I also set up remote access via SMS [short message service], so I can check the state of everything from wherever I am: receive alarms, activate systems like heating, and even be alerted if someone goes aboard. In fact I can remotely access both the ship’s computers from my office for all sorts of purposes, even passage planning on the chart plotter. I’m now making changes to power generation and management using micro-turbine technology in place of a generator, something no other yacht has used before. This will provide highly efficient electrical power generation and, in the future, domestic heating and cooling too. Also, although Lethantia’s generators have excellent sound insulation, they will always create some background vibration, but the micro-turbine is completely vibration free. And it has air-cooled bearings and uses no oil at all, so there’s no risk of polluting the water in some beautiful anchorage with an oily exhaust.
What kind of sailing lifestyle do you enjoy?
Very hands-on! There is no pleasure for me in being on a boat where the crew do everything and the owners simply watch and drink champagne. We have a crew of four, consisting of my wife and I and a young man and a young lady – both well qualified – who help us to sail the boat and carry out maintenance and upkeep. We really enjoy doing the cooking ourselves and I also like to do some varnish work – it’s a wonderful distraction from my busy existence in the film business.
Did you make any changes for shorthanded sailing?
Thanks to her excellent sail handling systems, Lethantia is relatively easy to sail even with a small crew. We did replace the gaff foresail with a full-roached Bermudan sail that gives us the same area but with easier handling. We can set the full sail plan with just three of us aboard in, say 22-23 knots of winds, and she is just beautiful to sail – fast, comfortable, safe and stable. I feel we have the best of all worlds with a truly luxurious boat that can make 14 knots upwind in a moderate breeze while some boats sacrifice all that comfort and stability for a marginal improvement in speed.
Where do you like to sail, and where do you plan to go next?
I’ve led a very busy and active business life – I’ve never taken long holidays – so it has suited me to stay mainly within the Adriatic. But that’s not a problem because the Adriatic is so hugely under-rated. Croatia is very beautiful: there’s always good wind, and it’s never crowded so you can always find a quiet bay to drop your anchor. Why would I want to go to the Caribbean? I am beginning to take more time off now and this year we’ll head for Sardinia and Corsica too. I have a dream that one day we’ll take Lethantia to Capetown, because I love South Africa. Another dream is to cruise the Norwegian coast. I have all this to look forward to!
What are the features of the boat you admire most?
The moment you arrive on board, you feel safe and at home, you feel the comfort and the quality. Nothing is done cheaply; everything is done to the highest standards, even where it cannot be seen. For me that’s the mark of quality - to care that it’s right whether anyone can see it or not. It gives you a great deal of reassurance. And she’s also a very beautiful boat. When I am in my office in Germany I can see her via a remote camera at her berth in Slovenia and, once I start, I just keep looking …
What kind of support do you get from the yard team?
I always saw a custom Huisman yacht as well beyond my means: I never expected to own one. When I found Lethantia, it certainly was beyond my budget but the quality was so exceptional I could not help but go for it. I found myself welcomed into a family where, to be honest, I could never have expected to be. The relationship with the yard is perfect – very fast service, spares, information, anything you want. Everything is logged onto their system so it’s never a problem to supply what you need. What impresses me is that when they supply proprietary goods, it’s the normal price – they’re not out to rip off “the wealthy owner”. And of course I benefit from that extraordinary continuity in the yard’s in house team – they know Lethantia well, even from her building time, while people at other yards seem to change every year. It’s true that Huisman contract in specialists too, but the great thing is they have more than 300 specialists of their own, full time.
Do you think anything marks out the Royal Huisman owner as different?
Yes, these are owners who buy a yacht, not just because they can, but because they have a real passion for their yacht and for their sailing that matches the passion the yard itself puts into building the yachts. When I saw Lethantia, I fell in love with her immediately. I worked hard for a dream and my Huisman yacht is the realisation of that dream. Now I have the time to enjoy it to the full. Whenever I am aboard, just before I go to sleep, I go to the bow and look back and admire the boat for half an hour. Then, I sleep very well indeed!