Does a perfect life exist? In his 1825 novel, Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia, Samuel Johnson tells the story of a young man who questions his life of privilege and embarks on an extended journey of self-discovery. In the end, Rasselas finds that a perfect life does not exist, but the search for it can continue indefinitely.
Because Johnson did not think to equip his hero with a superyacht, the jury is still out on whether that perfect life is attainable. And that makes Rasselas a most fitting name for a Feadship, particularly this 203-footer. Lesser builders often aspire to the quality of a Feadship. However, after struggling for years to achieve something equivalent to "Feadship quality", those builders are finding that Feadship, too, has been elevating its own standards and setting the bar still higher.
Rasselas is a perfect example of this never-ending pursuit of perfection. She's not a great deal larger than her 170-foot predecessor (also a Feadship named Rasselas), but her technology, comfort and level of finish have advanced significantly. Most of the changes are just subtle enough to go unnoticed, except by those who lived with the previous yacht for a decade. While the owner and crew loved the first yacht, they, like Prince Rasselas, wondered if things could be just a little "more perfect". The answer is a resounding yes!
Working closely with De Voogt Naval Architects in Holland and with Pannagan Designs of San Francisco, the owner and his longtime captain, A. J. Anderson, effected changes that enhanced the life of all those aboard the yacht, crew and guests alike. Influenced by the John Munford design of the original Rasselas, the designers have given the new yacht a classic mahogany interior that is unrivaled in its detailing. Deep inset niches for objets d'art and floral displays are topped by carved clamshells of incredible intricacy. Bulkhead panels, flat on the first Rasselas, are gently curved.
While many of the changes incorporated into the new Rasselas are purely aesthetic enhancements, others take advantage of the increased size to improve comfort and functionality. The overheads, white lacquer with varnished beams, are gently cambered to further increase headroom. In addition to creating a vision of loftiness, the extra headroom allowed the owner to select cut-glass dome lighting from Paris for many of the rooms. Gimbaled bulkhead lamps of the owner's design, sheer drapes and light-colored carpets, further lighten a mahogany interior that could tend toward dark.
Other changes were made to reduce routine maintenance. Hard joinery edges that were found to gather dust have been replaced by rounded corners, and for the same reason, air-conditioning grills have been eliminated in favor of a continuous open groove near the top of the paneling. In the pilothouse, where tropical sun streaming through the windshields and side windows means quick death for the standard varnished wood and leather trim, Capt. Anderson specified marble trim in its place. In the engineroom, a watertight hullside door provides direct access for bringing in parts and for taking out equipment for repair. This speeds work and avoids the usual mess.
Other measures for reducing routine maintenance include a change in color for the carpets, and the replacement of teak rails with stainless steel in some exterior locations. The exterior bulwarks have been fitted with a second layer of plating on the inside face, eliminating exposed stiffeners and their attendant cleaning and painting. While these changes may seem minor, and indeed will go unnoticed by most, the cumulative effect is significant. Together, it is estimated that the revisions will reduce maintenance by some 6,000 man-hours per year. At $50 per hour, that's an annual savings of $300,000.
The owner's primary objective in building a new Rasselas was not just to build a bigger boat, but the extra length did improve things. Some changes were sublimely subtle, such as the incorporation of a California king berth, three inches longer than standard, in the master stateroom. Others took full advantage of the extra 33 feet, such as the doubling of guest recreation space on the sundeck, creating room for a sun lounge forward, a large dining area and a spa.
On the main deck are an extensive galley, a formal dining room, and a saloon with game area. The bridge deck carries a skylounge and adjacent service pantry, as well as the captain's cabin. Below are four guest staterooms with a staff cabin abaft the engineroom. Forward on the main deck, the owner's suite has two sitting areas and a separate office. The bath is an incredible retreat of mahogany and honey onyx that, with tub, shower, two heads and two dressing areas, exceeds the sleeping area in size. Crew is housed forward in two double cabins and six cabins with upper and lower twins.
As I toured Rasselas with Henk De Vries, president of the De Vries yard-which, with fellow builder Van Lent and designer De Voogt, form the Feadship consortium-it was interesting to observe that he did not consider this yacht to be a "repeat in any sense whatsoever, even though it is similar to the original Rasselas. The reason? The owner himself had changed. He was now considerably more experienced with the sea and more knowledgeable about what he wanted than he had been the first time. Likewise with the captain. And the yard and designers had more to offer in terms of technology.
For instance, De Vries pointed out that Heinen & Hopman had developed an advanced central air-conditioning system that made life considerably simpler, compared with the system on the earlier yacht. Side deck overheads, which look like traditional tongue-and-groove planks were machined from solid synthetic panels to reduce both cost and maintenance. Other equipment fell into the category of totally new technology, such as the Securite night-vision camera on the foremast.
Rasselas' classic profile is reinforced by the gentle sweep of her sheerline, the pronounced rake and flare of her bow and the long, open fore and aft decks. Her hullsides tuck into large radii at each side, turning the corners to her nicely curved transom, which shuns modern Euro styling to lean aft from the waterline. There is no stern garage, as the guest tenders-a 26-foot Vikal enclosed launch and a 22-foot Castoldi-are stowed abaft the pilothouse, and the smaller crew tender is stowed on the sundeck.
Unlike more recent builds from Feadship, which have level keel lines to minimize draft and ease drydocking, the keel on Rasselas slopes downward toward the stern in the traditional manner. This puts more lateral plane astern, so in a following sea she can better resist any tendency to broach, and in a quartering sea, enjoy an easier ride due to less corkscrewing. The deeper keel areas also work with her larger stabilizer fins to resist rolling at sea and at anchor.
The lines were tested at Holland's Marin research facility and the shape and position of her bilge keels were optimized for 14.2 knots, the speed at which Rasselas achieves her best efficiency with a pair of 71-inch diameter, five-blade Van Voorden propellers. At cruising speed, Rasselas can cover 5,000 miles without refueling.
So why ever put into port when you have a perfect life at sea?
Contact: Feadship, (011) 31 (0)23 524 7000; www.feadship.nl