The first clue that Affinity is a special yacht came the moment I stepped from the dock to her large swim platform and spotted the stainless chafing plate at the stern. A rig centered in a well in the platform serves double duty for stern anchoring or towing sailboats. The owners, a couple with an extensive yachting background, are avid racers who plan to use Affinity for mothership and support duties, as well as for world cruising. Both were quite involved in the design and construction of this remarkable vessel, and their input shows in large and small ways.
Affinity's arrangement, with four staterooms belowdecks and an owners' suite on deck, is not unusual. However, to support the racing efforts,some of the king berths can be separated into pairs of twins,and Pullman berths are fitted in several cabins. Even the owners' office, adjacent to the master stateroom, can be converted to sleeping quarters without much fuss. In addition, Affinity's design recognizes that accommodating such a crowd involves more than berthing. Her support facilities are more extensive than usual, with spacious crew's quarters, a large mess and three cabins for six crewmen below, and a comfortable captain's cabin with office space abaft the pilothouse. The galley is quite large and very workable, with commercial-grade equipment and numerous lockers for dry, frozen and refrigerated stores. Also, the large number of guests on board for days at a time will have no trouble "getting away." Spread over the three top decks, I counted no less than 13 distinct seating areas, not including the owners' private sitting area within the master stateroom. Her decor, with interiors handled by Ardeo Design, is absolutely exquisite. Traditional and tasteful, Affinity abounds with details reminiscent of fine sailing yachts of the past. There are inlaid darts and compass roses in the tabletops and door moldings, accented with jade and turquoise. Carved wooden ropes are integrated with the crown moldings that wrap around the overhead in many rooms, and are echoed in marble inlays on bath countertops. Expressive and finely detailed paintings of nautical scenes adorn many bulkheads,and in some cases are mounted to panels that slide down to cover television screens that aren't in use. It would have been easy to overdo such an interior and bring it to the point of caricature, but the mood is just right. A partially completed painting on an easel is the only hint that the artist who executed some of the works is the woman who commissioned Affinity with her husband.
Affinity's engineering and construction were equally impressive, completed to as high a standard as I've ever seen on a yacht. Delta Marine handled the naval architecture and overall design, with Ron Holland consulting on exterior styling. Delta's background as a commercial yard, building fishing vessels for some of the toughest duty in the world, provides understanding of how a boat should be constructed to weather extreme conditions. It's easy to overbuild, but Delta takes the better route, embracing the best in modern design technology to make vessels strong and light. Delta's capable in-house design staff, under naval architect Jay Miner's direction, regularly evaluates structures on a computer. Using a technique known as finite element analysis, experts examine each minute part of a yacht. Overstressed parts are beefed up with extra fiberglass or a ply or two of high-strength carbon fiber reinforcement, while understressed areas are lightened. Eventually, the entire hull and superstructure are optimized, strong enough to take the loads without carrying unnecessary weight.
Attention to safety and engineering excellence shows in other areas of Affinity as well. Many yachts have loose plywood hatch covers under carpets or open access holes in intermediate bulkheads, but Delta used gasketed aluminum assemblies to maintain watertightness and defend against sinking in the event of hull damage. There's also a watertight hatch behind a mural in the master bath to allow a second means of escape from the master suite in the event of fire.
It was a pleasure to look around the engineroom. Polished stainless caps on the sea chests and whiteplating for the sole are a visual testament to the well-detailed systems and properly designed equipment. Batteries are mounted in file cabinet-style drawers that keep them out of the way, yet allow easy access for maintenance. Ventilation air is drawn through large trunks from topside, where the ingestion of salt spray is less likely. Generator exhaust can be dumped out the hull side at sea, or through a dry stack topside that incorporates a soot trap and regeneration system to keep the upper decks clean.
On the foredeck, accessed by a wide centerline stair with solid handrails, the pair of anchor windlasses are a showpiece. Retainer bars prevent mud from soiling the deck as the chain is retrieved, and chain compressors and devil's claws ensure the anchors will remain tightly stowed in even the heaviest weather. Huge bosun's lockers flank the stairway, providing safe stowage for paint, flammables and the many deck supplies a yacht such as Affinity demands.
Aft, sliding bulwark gates roll on assemblies built by the owner's manufacturing company, and an above-decklive well with a large, clear side panel serves as an aquarium.Topside, a large spa anchors the sundeck, and the after boat deckrails are removable to allow a helicopter to land. Out board of the pilothouse, control stations fold out of the bulwarks for use in docking and close-quarters maneuvering, while gauge panels mounted overhead repeat information shown at the main helm.
In one final nod to Delta's doing it right, I had to dodge multi-ton blocks of concrete being used to test Affinity's stability the day I visited her in the Seattle yard.
With a displacement hull and a bulbous bow for reduced resistance, Affinity's 17,600 gallons of fuel give her a range of 8,000 miles at 12 knots. She was put to the test just days after my visit, departing Seattle for New Zealand. She arrived in time for Christmas, stayed for the America's Cup competition and is now on an extended cruise around the South Pacific and Indian Oceans-an outstanding beginning for an outstanding yacht.
Contact: Delta Marine, Dept. Y, 1608S. 96th St., Seattle, WA 98108. (206) 763-2383; fax (206) 762-2627. www.deltamarine.com.