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Inventing an icon: the story behind the 106m sailing yacht Black Pearl

Design, New-Build
Written by
Charl van Rooy

It is fair to say that all superyacht projects around the 100-metre mark range possess a certain amount of innovation and even a few never-before-seen features that set them apart. The words ‘innovative’, ‘ground-breaking’, and perhaps even ‘iconic’ are often used to describe these projects. For one owner, this level of distinction was simply not good enough, and with a clear concept in mind that was inspired by the famous Maltese Falcon, set out to create what the superyacht world has been missing up till now. What follows are the events of how a talented group of designers and a shipyard, personally lead by a motivated and foresightful owner, came to create what will undoubtedly go down as one of the industry’s most defining projects.

When Ken Freivokh Design was contracted to take responsibility for the design and styling work on 7 July 2010, it would be the beginning of a process that would push boundaries in every area of the yacht, from her extraordinary rig to her cutting-edge power systems, green technologies, and futuristic styling details. the result would be a 96m preliminary design, codenamed nautilus, bearing the distinctive DynaRig across three free-standing masts – an outward sign of the advanced nature of the concept whose core delivers evolution and revolution in equal measure.

Given their experience with the Maltese Falcon project and the development of the DynaRig concept, it was only natural that Freivokh would introduce the Dykstra Naval Architects team to the owner, and to Nautilus. the partnership would prove highly advantageous – with the owner seeking to push both the boundaries and the technology far beyond what the Maltese Falcon project had achieved, the Dykstra team’s expertise would be critical in refining and further advancing the DynaRig system. This was redesigned to improve performance through changes both to mast shape and installation.

As the preliminary concept, preliminary design, design development and the first stage of detailed design neared completion in the Ken Freivokh Design (KFD) studios, KFD commissioned Devonport yachts (Pendennis shipyard) in the south-west of the UK to undertake a technical study of the yacht in order to complete the tendering package. The tendering process began in June 2011 through seven leading shipyards in both northern and southern Europe, and the US.

By November 2011, the Freivokh design team had extended the design from 96m to 100m, and a scale model was produced from the plans, fully machined with a CNC lathe. As Oceanco was selected for the build, in 2012 Nuvolari Lenard – who had worked with Oceanco on several previous superyacht builds – joined the team for the build of Freivokh’s Nautilus design, and influenced a handful of styling tweaks, notably the three elliptical hull windows, and elements of the superstructure including further development of the original distinctive arches.

The hull design continued to evolve, with heavy input from the owner, as various studies by the Freivokh team on the bow shape led to refinements borne from essential technical requirements.

It was by the owner’s own hand that these modifications gradually evolved into the distinctive overhang-to-reverse bow concept that graces the final 106m design iteration of the nautilus concept, which would be built as project Y712 and named Black Pearl.

For the interior, while the KFD studio had created the framework and the layout, the owner worked closely with designer Gerard Villatte to develop the essential style and the detailed treatment of surfaces.

As the project nears completion, and with Ken Freivokh design – as per contract – overseeing the final stages of the build since April 2016, following completion of Nuvolari Lenard’s involvement, it is already clear that Black pearl has far exceeded the expectations of all those involved in her original concept development. not just in terms of style – creating an Avant-garde giant sailing yacht was a given, particularly with the second generation DynaRig – but also in terms of the technology, methodology and rationale behind every aspect of her systems and operation. As she undergoes sea trials and prepares for the final detailing before her summer delivery, BlackPearl will not be a yacht to lie in the shadow of the project that inspired her, but rather will be the project to show how evolved design can pay homage to and surpass that which has gone before.