Finnish shipbuilder Baltic Yachts have had a busy couple of years, with recent superyacht deliveries including the 23.7-metre Bill and Me and the highly-anticipated 53.7-metre Pink Gin VI last year, and the regatta favourites, My Song and Nikata (39.6-metres and 35-metres respectively) delivered in 2016 and 2015.
Looking forward, Baltic’s sheds are keeping just as busy as in previous years. Currently taking shape at their facilities in Jakobstad in western Finland is an exciting addition the growing Baltic fleet: the new Baltic 112 Custom. Coming in at 34-metres and named Liara, the owner and his knowledgeable team tapped the extensive experience of Malcolm McKeon Yacht Design for her exterior design and naval architecture, with Adam Lay Studio responsible for her interior design.
Designed for both comfortable, extended cruising around the world as well as for participation in the occasional regatta, just some of her standout features include a large sail plan with square top mainsail, telescopic lifting keel and a high righting-moment configuration. Furthermore, an updated version of Baltic’s proven retractable propulsion unit will be installed to further increase speed by reducing drag when it is in racing mode.
But what really makes the Baltic 112 Custom special is the dedication of her owner and his team, who have learned over the years to take their time when designing and building a new boat, making sure that the final result ticks all of the boxes. Here we talk to her owner, the British sailor Tony Todd, ahead of her scheduled delivery in Spring 2019, to hear about his experience building sailing yachts and his plans to cruise the world with the new Liara.
Upon completion, the Baltic 112 will be your fourth yacht sailing under the name Liara. What’s the significance of the name?
Well, we have twins: Liam and Lara, so, put them together and you get Liara. This could be my last boat, actually. I’m 70 years old now - I can’t go on forever!
The previous Liara (now Danneskjold) built by Southern Ocean Marine was 32m, and the Baltic Liara will come in at 34m. Did you ever consider a larger sailing yacht?
No, not really. This size range is plenty big enough for me for the rest of my life. She’ll easily allow me to do the things that I want to do. The Baltic Liara is really a progression from the last boat: it’s a learning process. We were originally designing at 32-metres, but by the time we had the drive leg and all other requirements in we ended up at 34-metres. I also wanted two more guest cabins and having the 34-metre allowed me to do that.
You’re a big regatta guy, and have competed in numerous races around the world for decades. How do you optimise for both comfortable cruising and performance?
I think the design of the Baltic 112 is the lightest boat you can have with all the creature comforts I want to take with me to the other side of the world. Performance boils down to design. We were very keen to fit this new retractable propulsion system, the first of which was seen on the Baltic yacht My Song, in a combined effort between Baltic and Hundested. We were also very keen to try and create a system where we could cruise silently all through the night - but with air-con on. Our solution is one variable speed generator, a high voltage DC bank, and a generator running off the back end of the main engine. It’s not totally unique, but there are not many similar systems out there.
Photo: Jeff Brown / Breed MediaWe’ve worked very closely with Cape Horn for CFD work, and North Sails and Southern Spars on the Baltic 112, so it’s very much a team effort of designers, builder and suppliers along with the project manager and our captain. They have extensive knowledge in the racing and cruising scene and are always on top of the latest ideas, so we’ve adopted quite a lot of these small innovations. Small, but they all add up!
What do you enjoy about racing?
It’s really the adrenaline kick that attracts us to regatta after regatta. No matter how many times you’ve done it, that adrenaline kick is there. It’s not too serious, not too ‘life and death’, just a lot of fun! We’ll probably do two regattas a year from now on.
Aside from regatta participation, will you spend a lot of time on board?
My wife and I hope to spend a lot of time on the boat now that our two children are off at university. We’re planning on taking her down to New Zealand for the 2020/21 America’s Cup. Having built a boat already in New Zealand, I’ve got a fair bit of experience in the region, so it’s a great opportunity to properly cruise there - which I never did before. We’ll likely take part in the regattas around the time of the Cup… We’ll see!
Photo: Jeff BrownYou’ve never built a boat in Finland before - what attracted you to Baltic?
I’ve always wanted to build a boat with Baltic, and after sending the project to tender, we soon realised they were head and shoulders above the rest. The way that they approached the project and the level of professionalism is fantastic - it was a relatively easy decision!
With high expectations considered, how has your experience been so far?
As the saying goes, I am absolutely over the moon. I’ve got a truly fantastic team behind me, and Baltic are very much part of that. We don’t have confrontations, instead, we work together on solutions to challenges. I am so impressed with them.
Malcolm McKeon designed the new Liara - did you previously have experience with McKeon?
Malcolm and I go back a long way - he designed a 50’ race boat for me back in ‘93 called Eagle. We worked with Bill Dixon on a previous Liara and he’s a great chap and we love his work, but we just wanted to give Malcolm a go this time.
In regards to the rest of the team, my captain stayed on from the previous boat, John Walker, who is a fantastic lad and has been very involved with the project along with our Project Manager, Sebastian Allebrodt of A2B Maritime. Together with Malcolm they were responsible for drawing up the specification for the yacht, which they put a lot of work into. They really did their homework - we’ve learned the lesson the hard way in the past, where we had pressed the ‘GO’ button too early… so it was great to have that experience and make the best decisions for the project this time around.
Well, I don’t do snow, you see… I bloody hate it. So, until my visit in April, I hadn’t been to the yard since September 2017. The first time I went there was in June, so of course, there’s not a lot of darkness or freezing cold weather in Scandinavia at that time of year. But I’m kept up to date with daily photographs, I’m kept abreast of every meeting they have with the minutes, John, Sebastian and I talk a lot, so I’m so happy to tell you that this build is a very painless process. From June onwards I’ll go there every six weeks or so until she’s finished.
In a word: no! It’s just not my cup of tea. With a sailing yacht, you’re presented with a total challenge - you have to actually do something. I’ve always found that for me, going sailing was the only way I could really switch off from an intense career. Yachting was - and still is - the ultimate unwinder.
There’s also an incredible sailing community, and I’ve formed real, amazing friendships with industry professionals and my fellow yachties over the years. I’m not sure if you would get the same with motor yachting.
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