Originally conceived by a highly experienced yachtsman in 2003, the Panamax project marries the romance of classic 19th century pilot cutters and America’s Cup contenders to the technology and techniques of tomorrow to create a truly pioneering vessel with unprecedented levels of performance and comfort from a hull with a classic sheer, counter stern and plumb bow. She will feature revolutionary propulsion and power generation systems, and push the boundaries of yacht design and construction to excel in inshore and offshore regattas and yet provide safe and comfortable cruising from the tropics into light ice conditions.
After a design competition in which various proposals were submitted, naval architects Dykstra and Reichel Pugh were selected along with interior designers Rhoades Young, structural engineers SP/Gurit and Jens Cornelsen project management to form a highly experienced world-class team. Every single aspect of her design and engineering has been questioned and scrutinized to ensure that she meets or exceeds all targets set. The only fixed criteria are the ability to reduce draught to enter specific shallows, and an air draught of 62.5m to clear the Bridge of Americas on the Panama Canal making her the largest ketch able to do so; hence the name ‘Panamax’.
Having received a very detailed brief and list of requirements, Rhoades Young created the interior layout of the yacht in close cooperation with the client, naval architects, and structural and systems engineers.
A key aspect of the interior design was to save weight, in order to improve performance. Rhoades Young have gone to great lengths with extensive research in order to design and a ‘ground breaking’ light-weight interior. For example, we’ve even gone to the detail of designing unique light fittings specifically for the yacht in order to save weight. Our research led us to look at the aviation industry, where planes have to cope with 9G, this construction however was still considered too heavy. Eventually after the weight was paired right down, durability became an issue. Structural elements were then added back into the furniture.
Much of the research for the interior completed by Rhoades Young has been ground breaking, and a world’s first.
Particularly in a vessel of such complexity with such an uncompromising performance requirement, the development of the interior requires very close coordination between all parties from the outset to ensure that all opportunities to save weight and improve performance are maximised; allowing hull structure to support a piece of furniture whilst also doubling as a duct for instance. Due to her exceptionally light displacement and low sheer, Panamax offers few opportunities for conventional solutions to the usual problems of creating a sailing superyacht; she is so shallow that in much of the yacht there is no bilge in the conventional sense requiring services which usually run beneath the sole to be situated elsewhere. The trick is to achieve this without compromise to her interior design; guests should have no idea quite what lurks beneath! Whilst accommodating all the structural and engineering requirements, Rhoades Young developed an interior general arrangement relying on symmetries to bring order and calm. Carefully placed niches and focal points draw the eye around the room to catch glimpses of other spaces beyond.
With the interior layout settled, water coloured perspective visuals were produced which convey the design and ambience. It is from these paintings that the individual construction drawings were then developed over the period of one year.
Rhoades Young have collaborated with the yard and specialist outfitters Oldenburger to develop a method of constructing a rich traditional raised and fielded panelled interior in the lightest materials available, with carefully selected wafer thin hardwood veneers over carbon fibre and foam or honeycomb cores. To maintain the illusion of a one hundred-year-old pilot cutter, traditional yacht construction features have been faithfully recreated in lightweight materials, and where appropriate, used to mask the necessities of a modern yacht such as winch motors. The intention is to create the impression of a classic working vessel that has had a yacht interior fitted at a later date, including interesting pieces of Asian furniture that have been collected during the owner’s travels.
There is a strong Asian Colonial feel to the interior inspired by the famous Raffles hotel in Singapore, where the high temperatures are dealt with by maximising air volumes and circulation. To this end, the interior of Panamax will feature areas white painted woodwork with many louvred panels to create that “dappled light through mosquito nets” feel that implies a cool and tranquil sanctuary from the intensity of the sun outside. The white will be complemented by raised and fielded joinery in a dark stained cherry, with a very dark antique hardwood sole. Most of the furniture will appear to be freestanding, with some selected antique Chinese lacquered pieces being recreated in lightweight materials.
The upper saloon features a raised seating area offering a view over the bulwarks to the horizon, with a fireplace and a coffee table that rises and expands for informal meals. Aft is the navigation area with all the required electronics of a modern superyacht concealed when not in use and uniquely, the glazed bulkhead between the saloon and cockpit retracts entirely, making the saloon and cockpit feel like one space. A generous staircase forwards brings one to the dining room with a large inlaid dining table, barrel skylight and an interesting display of artefacts. Hidden in the dark and heavily textured panelled wall to port are double doors which lead to the lower ‘Petit Salon’, a cosy snug with rich upholstery, a piano, bar, humidor and wine cabinets and of course a concealed state of the art cinema system. Forward from the Petit Salon and dining room are the two forward guest cabins either side of a submarine garage that converts to race crew accommodation, and then the galley and crew quarters.
Descending aft from the saloon to the lobby with symmetrically placed cabinets displaying sculpture, finds the dayhead and the aft guest cabins. The guest accommodation comprises of four double cabins all with en-suite bathrooms, each featuring brush applied white painted walls with painted cherry panelling beneath, black lacquered Chinese cabinets and a louvred skylight. For racing, the tall bedposts and mosquito curtains are removed and pipe cots added above each berth to accommodate the additional race crew. A short passage aft from the lobby leads to the owner’s suite, which features a large skylight around the mizzenmast, giving a striking view to the masthead. Around the mast are four separate areas; a sitting room and study diagonally opposite the bed affording a diagonal view across the full width of the yacht, a dressing room and the bathroom with a bath and a separate shower and steam room. The suite features many interesting textures and finishes with silk panels and bamboo screens. Adjacent to the rudder housing is a short stair that leads to the aft deckhouse, the Owner’s office. With joinery in pale wood reminiscent of sun-bleached driftwood and also featuring a retracting aft wall, this room again blurs the boundary between interior and exterior space. The office is equipped for global communication and video conferencing enabling business to be conducted whilst on passage.
Panamax has accommodation forward for 10 crew in 5 en-suite cabins, and features a compact but generously appointed crew mess in the forward deckhouse offering instant access to the deck, full laundry facilities, and a highly specified galley with refrigeration capacity for long term cruising.