Udo J. Vetter is the owner of The Aquarius, a 46-metre ketch launched by Perini Navi in 1990 as Xasteria (subsequently Sunrise, Klosters and Aquarius). The German entrepreneur and pharmaceutical executive acquired the yacht in 2016 and renamed her The Aquarius with the specific intention of sailing her around the world. We went aboard the yacht during the Perini Navi Cup in Porto Cervo to talk about his plans to circumnavigate the globe.Why did you choose a steel-hulled Perini Navi for your journey?
First of all, I’m getting towards retirement age, which is your cue to say I don’t look old enough! Seriously though, I decided a few years back that I wanted to sail around the world and one day I woke up aboard a plastic charter boat, looked outside and there it was: a Perini Navi. Actually, she was a sister ship of Aquarius, at that time Liberty and now Antara. So when I came around to actually planning my round-the-world trip, I contacted the people at Perini and said I was looking for a yacht with a steel hull. “Why steel?” they asked, and I explained that it’s a lot easier to fix a steel boat in faraway places like Papua New Guinea than an aluminium one. So that immediately limited me to the older generation of Perinis and we looked at a couple of them. Then in 2016, Aquarius came up for sale and after a sea trial we went ahead and purchased the boat. Since then we’ve put her through a couple of refits to bring her specifications up to date.
Are you confident she’s now ready to take you around the world?
I’m sure she’ll live up to my expectations. We had her on the dry for six months last year and basically went through all the tankage, the keel, the pumps and water makers, the electronics, and upgraded the navigation and communication systems, which are hard to replace or repair when you’re miles away from anywhere. We also gave her a new coat of paint, refreshed the interior and re-laid the decks. So it was a mix of a cosmetic face-lift and more nuts and bolts stuff. When do you start?
We actually wanted to start last winter. Unfortunately, hurricanes Irma and Maria created a few problems in the Caribbean, so we decided to stay put in the Med and take part in the Perini Navi Cup instead. Now we're planning to leave for the Caribbean in early December and do the St Barths Bucket. I’m told you haven’t been around the world unless you transit the Panama Canal, so that will be at the end of April next year. Then we’ll go up to Alaska and probably meet up with everyone again for the America’s Cup in New Zealand, which is the place we want to be in 2021. As a first-time Perini owner, how are you enjoying the Perini Navi Cup?
Put it this way: we start first, which means we’re the slowest boat in the fleet! But because we take longer to go around the course, we can enjoy the sailing more than everyone else. I’ve been a sailor all my life, starting with Optimists and 470s. I’ve owned other boats, but The Aquarius is my first superyacht. We’re in the spinnaker class sailing with a full race crew of about 20 people, and we’ve seen some interesting spinnaker take-downs in 25 knots of wind. As a sailor, I have a great deal of admiration for my crew and we’re working together to make it happen.The yachts have changed a lot since 1990: what do you think of the new-look Perinis?
I think they have developed the design very well with yachts like Seahawk and Seven. Of course, the hulls today need to be more speed-oriented, and obviously, the rigging has changed substantially. There’s a big design step happening now at Perini that will take the evolution still further. But I’m more of a classic guy: I like the wood interiors of The Aquarius and especially the way her sheer line rises up towards the bow, which you don’t see on the more modern boats. Right now Perini seems to be balancing the old with the new, and I guess the market will decide where this takes them in the future.
SuperYacht Times - The State of Yachting 2019
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