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An inspiration revisited: Restoring the 42m yacht Istros

Written by
Justin Ratcliffe

What is it that we find so appealing about classic yachts? Like vintage cars, they have an irresistible grace and beauty that is hard to define and rarely replicated in contemporary designs. Visit any superyacht marina in the world and your eyes will be drawn to the classy classic yacht, possibly dwarfed but never daunted by its larger neighbours. Istros arriving in MonacoPhoto: Malcolm John Wood“We get excited about classic yachts because their timeless design is the essence of yachting,” says Tristan Le Brun, the young captain of 42-metre Istros, a classic motor yacht being rebuilt at Feadship’s refit facility in Makkum. “The whole idea behind Istros when we found the hull was to create a gentleman’s yacht that combined a classic soul with modern conveniences. The owner loves technical stuff and with help from Feadship we’ve pushed it even further, because in some ways she’s actually ahead of her time, which is fantastic for a 65-year-old hull.” 

Istros – meaning inspiration – was launched by the Amsterdam Shipyard Ltd. of Gerard de Vries Lentsch Jr. in 1954 for the Pappadakis shipping family in Greece. One of the largest motoryachts built in the Netherlands at that time, the local press reported enthusiastically on her “sumptuously furnished and upholstered cabins”, “violet blue-tinted bathrooms”, new-fangled radar and white telephones that could be used “to make calls anywhere in the word from wherever the yacht may be.”Istros in Saint Tropez Photo: Benoit DonneThe yacht’s subsequent history is harder to follow. We know she won the grand prize for Best Restored Vessel at the Prada Classic Yacht Show in 2001, but by the time Le Brun came across the hull in the Maltese port of Valetta in July 2015 she was in a bad way. It wasn’t the first candidate for restoration he’d seen on behalf of his owner, but despite her poor condition she was the most promising.

“We weren’t looking for any old hull,” says Le Brun. “I’d seen what Feadship had achieved with refits like Monara and Sultana, so when advising the owner I knew they could offer the highest quality standards. But they also have a tight policy about which refit projects they’re willing to take on, so it helped that Istros had been built by de Vries Lentsch. It’s been a massive challenge for all concerned, but I don’t believe we could have done it without Feadship.” Istros yacht arriving in Makkum for re-buildBefore the rebuilding work could start, Le Brun and Feadship supervised the complete dismantling of the yacht in Valetta, where she was stripped down to the bare hull. Original plans to carry out the steel work in Malta were shelved when it was realised more extensive treatment was required to save the welded and riveted hull. The steel sections of the partly covered deck were also badly corroded under drip trays that were blocked with grime. The hull arrived in the Netherlands in early April last year and was transported to a specialist subcontractor near Makkum, where she remained for the next three-and-a-half months.Istros yacht under refit at FeadshipPhoto: Feadship“It wasn’t so much the corrosion as the fact the hull was bent and buckled,” says Feadship project manager Pieter Dibbits. “It’s normal for yachts of this age not to be perfectly symmetrical and the cap rails, for example, weren’t at exactly the same height. The solution was to slightly tilt the complete hull, so now the keel is a little off the centreline but the deck is level. To avoid any deflection during the welding work she was bolted down to the concrete floor.” 

While the hull was undergoing reconstructive surgery, Feadship was fashioning a new aluminium superstructure to replace the old steel deckhouse removed in Malta. As there were very few original plans available and building started before the hull was on site, this depended entirely on laser measurements. Hull of yacht Istros arriving in Makkum Photo: Feadship“The biggest challenge was to make sure everyone was working to the exact same lines and measurements,” says Dibbits. “Thanks to the 3D scanning we could do different jobs concurrently and start the time-consuming engineering work without the boat being physically present. In the end the new aluminium superstructure fit perfectly.”  Istros yacht exterior design refitThe same laser technology was used to measure the interior volumes once the welding work was complete and the hull had been stabilised. Here again there was zero margin for error as, like most classic yachts, the ceiling heights were quite low (the new deckhouse was raised by 100mm to meet modern standards) and the beam rather narrow (6.86m). Extreme efforts were made to free up every square centimetre of available volume, even routing cable trays through the frames.Hull of yacht Istros arriving in Makkum Photo: FeadshipA milestone decision early in the project was to substitute one of the onboard generators with a micro turbine. Micro turbines offer significant advantages: they are compact, vibration-free, low maintenance and very efficient with much lower emissions than conventional generators. Because they don’t require exhaust after-treatment to meet IMO Tier III emission regulations, valuable engine room space is also saved. But despite being widely used in the aviation and offshore industries, they are virtually unknown on yachts due to lack of certification – until now.

“We worked together with systems integrator RH Marine and Capstone in the US to develop its DC 65-D micro turbine generator for Lloyds certification,” says Ico Vergouwe, head of refit sales at Feadship. “The 65kW micro turbine suited the power requirements of Istros and although it’s more expensive than a diesel generator, the initial investment can be recouped in a couple of years because the one rotating part is an air-bearing that requires virtually no maintenance.”Istros yacht under refit at FeadshipPhoto: FeadshipThere is another operational reason why Le Brun was keen to install the micro turbine that is central to the dual function of Istros as a private yacht and commercial charter vessel: 

“On charter you find you’re pulling in and out of marinas on a daily basis,” says the captain. “The micro turbine is quiet with no emissions and the funnel exhaust system is compliant for use in harbour, so we can arrive in a marina and stay on generator power legally without disturbing our neighbours. This provides much more speed and reactivity than having to switch between ship and shore power all the time.”Istros yacht in Makkum for refit Photo: FeadshipThe new interior layout has also been designed to fulfil the expectations of today’s charter guests. Above all, this meant maximising the accommodation. The original vessel had a two-tier engine room housing two huge Crossley engines weighing 18 tons each. Because the modern CAT C18 main engines, C4.4 diesel and micro turbine occupy less space, the aft engine room bulkhead could be shifted forward about 1.5 metres. This created room on the lower deck for four staterooms aft of the engine room, and a generous crew mess, large laundry and accommodation for seven crew forward. The owner’s stateroom is on the forward main deck and a third multi-purpose lounge with bathroom on the bridge deck can serve as the captain’s cabin on private cruises or an extra guest cabin while chartering.

A technical challenge in the engine room was how best to dissipate the heat from the main engines, especially as the micro turbine also requires cool air to function efficiently. Usually this would be resolved by increasing the forced ventilation, but as the air intakes are inside the funnel (which also houses a Kymeta flat panel satellite antenna) next to the bar on the bridge deck, this would have meant uncomfortably high noise levels. It was decided instead to go the cooling route and reduce the air flow required by installing fan coils in the engine room with two dedicated chillers. Istros yacht in Makkum  for refitPhoto: FeadshipWherever reasonable and within budget, attempts have been made to make the yacht as eco-friendly as possible. Heat from the air-conditioning chillers is recycled to warm the domestic water and energy is recovered from the exhaust air systems to reduce the power consumption of the chillers. A custom-designed recirculating hood eliminates the need for a fan coil in the galley and the yacht is also fitted with a system to treat freshwater of varying quality from dock supplies for spot-free washdowns without the use of detergents. 

Van Geest Design was chosen by the owner to create a family-oriented and child-friendly interior that blends contemporary and classic elements in a sunny, Scandinavian style that also had to be suitable for charter in terms of durability and maintenance. This has been achieved by sourcing high-end but practical materials and solutions. There are no fitted carpets on board but only loose rugs, for example, which can be quickly sent away for dry cleaning or replaced if stained or damaged. And to ensure minimal disruption when servicing the guest cabins, everything the stewardess needs – fresh bed linen and towels, cleaning materials, and so on – is stored under the beds that can be raised on gas springs.Istros yacht under refit at FeadshipPhoto: Feadship“On most busy charter yachts and despite the constant upkeep, the interior quickly starts to look a bit tired,” says Le Brun. “Our goal is that guests have the same impression of immaculate freshness, as though no one else had been on board before them, day after day.”

The transformation of Istros is due to be completed this summer and the yacht will be based in the Mediterranean, although her captain would “not be at all nervous” about taking her across the Atlantic for a Caribbean season. The slender beam, long waterline and canoe stern provide an extremely efficient hull shape and despite her modest 600-hp CAT engines she is expected to have a top speed of 14 knots and a range of 3,500nm at 12 knots, which increases to  5,000nm at an economical speed of 9 knots.Istros yacht under refit at FeadshipPhoto: Feadship“I’ve no doubt that Istros will be a very special lady,” says Sijbrand de Vries, general director of the shipyard in Makkum. “When I was invited to take a cruise along America’s East Coast with the Dutch owner of one of the iconic Feadship Caravelle, I remember we were applauded wherever we went. I think it will be the same for Istros every time she pulls into the marina.” 

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