Aquijo is arguably the most impressive sailing yacht available for charter anywhere in the world. I know that’s a big statement to make about a brand-new yacht, but let’s consider the facts.
The 279-foot Aquijo was delivered to her owners earlier this year following joint construction by the powerhouse Dutch shipyards Vitters and Oceanco. She was built to a standard that made her a first-of-its-kind project for both yards.
Bear in mind, these are the shipyards that produced innovations ranging from direct-drive pods on performance cruising yachts (previously seen only on racing yachts, according to Vitters) to a brackish-water pool with a height-adjustable floor made of glass-reinforced plastic (a first that Oceanco claimed in 2012, with the 290-foot superyacht Nirvana). On Aquijo, one of the innovations is a steering system meant to provide immediate feedback at the helm, enhancing the experience of holding the wheel aboard a yacht of substantial size. In other words, charter guests can stand at the helm of the 279-foot yacht and feel her respond much as a smaller yacht would, amping the exhilaration factor at 17 knots in just over 21 knots of breeze.
And let’s put a fine point on Aquijo‘s size — because it’s impressive. In terms of length overall among sailing yachts in the global charter fleet, Aquijo ranks just behind the Perini Navi Maltese Falcon and the Royal Huisman Athena, both of which remain iconic even though they are more than a decade old. The masts aboard Aquijo are a vertigo-inducing 295 feet tall. She is the world’s largest high-performance ketch, a distinction that holds true when describing yachts used privately as well as those offered for charter.
And then there are Aquijo‘s features. Vitters and Oceanco previously built some of the most in-demand yachts available for charter, including the 180-foot Marie (which appears on page 68) and the 282-foot Seven Seas, built for director Steven Spielberg with an onboard theater that continues to wow guests of all ages. Aquijo incorporates everything the yards have learned about guest comfort and memorable spaces, culminating in elements like the beach club in the photograph at left. It is the type of space rarely found aboard sailing yachts of any size, and it includes what you see in the photograph plus a sauna and steam room.
That beach club is just one of many elements that Aquijo shares with super-yachts on the charter scene. She also is handicapped-friendly, with a stateroom designed to accommodate a wheelchair as well as a swim platform that lowers into the water for easy access. Y.CO says that she is also the only sailing yacht for charter that has an elevator.
Indeed, upon her entry into the Y.CO charter fleet this past summer, Aquijo was an instant competitor not only to the most impressive sailing yachts, but also to superyachts.
“When you have an 86-meter sailing yacht that’s over 1,500 gross tons, you’re competing with motoryachts,” says Tom DeBuse, director of charter management for Y.CO. “I’m in negotiations at the moment with a guy who’s taken large motoryachts in the past, and he has taken some sailing yachts in the past. He’s taking Aquijo because she has everything a large motoryacht has, plus.”
Aquijo is expected to move to the Caribbean this winter, where she will undoubtedly be the most in-demand sailing yacht for charter from St. Barth straight down to Grenada.
Bill Tripp of Tripp Design Naval Architecture in Connecticut handled Aquijo‘s design. She is the largest project from the renowned naval architect, whose other work has included the 148-foot Saudade and the 164-foot Better Place, both built by Wally. The owners of Aquijo reportedly brought Tripp a preliminary layout by the German firm Dölker + Voges, which handled interior design. The owners tasked Tripp with creating a package around that interior that would provide safety, comfort and speed.
Y.CO is advertising Aquijo for charter with 12 guests in seven staterooms. As you can see in the photographs at right, the onboard spaces are laid out to accommodate large and small gatherings alike. The top-deck hot tub is in addition to the one inside the beach club, so multiple groups of guests (think adults and children) can enjoy a soak at the same time, without having countless knees and ankles in the mix.
The main indoor and outdoor dining areas are sized to welcome the full complement of charter guests; smaller areas for snacks and more intimate meals are in spaces like the top-deck enclaves (with gimbaled tables for underway dining) and aft-deck nooks. Interior seating is designed to inspire conversation among groups of five or six guests, executing the impressive feat of making one of the largest sailing yachts on the planet feel, at times, cozy.
Aquijo‘s décor is intended to feel contemporary and welcoming, not overwhelming. Note the use of aquamarine hues in everything from stateroom walls to sun-deck pillows. The onboard vibe, much like Aquijo‘s beach club, brings the outdoors inside. Her wooden soles create a further, tactile connection to nature. (Imagine how your bare feet feel on plush carpeting, as opposed to cool wood. One sensation screams “formal” while the other whispers “beach-house chic.”)
There’s also the oversize windows in the guest stateroom, along with the multitiered chandeliers that appear to glow above the sofas and chairs in the conversation space. These design elements give the yacht a feeling of openness. The aft deck dining table is beneath a retractable sunroof, allowing that feeling to continue into the evening hours during meals under the stars.
Many of these elements, of course, are borrowed from the world of superyacht design, and they are why Y.CO markets Aquijo as a yacht that “offers the comfort of a large motoryacht while remaining a true sailing yacht at heart.” Even spots like the chaise lounges far aft (shown in the photograph to the left of this text) have the feel of a traditional sailing-yacht experience, but on a scale almost always associated with superyachts in the 180-foot-and-larger range. You can see a few of the steps to the main deck peeking out of the side of the photograph. Imagine walking down them, in your bathing suit, and settling in to enjoy the view astern from such a sizable platform. It is an experience that can only be had aboard precious few charter yachts in existence.
It is also worth noting how elegantly Tripp and the shipyards answered the owner’s call for safety on board. That is key to the charter-yacht experience — clients are not always seasoned yachtsmen, let alone sailors. Look at the photograph on the next page, which shows handrails on both sides of the lighted steps to the next deck. You can also see good-height side decks behind the table to starboard. They prevent overboard falls without affecting the water views of guests enjoying dinner.
To call Aquijo impressive is accurate. To anticipate the charter experience she will provide is thrilling. To know she is available for bookings in the Caribbean this winter is, truly, the stuff of which vacation dreams are made.
That quality of pure inspiration, maybe more than anything else, qualifies Aquijo as the most remarkable sailing yacht now available for charter, anywhere.