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Swan 90 FD

Sitting on the leeward rail. Only two fingers on the carbon fiber wheel required to make adjustments. Wrapped in a stylish cocoon of comfort. The high-tech Swan 90 FD will push any sailing enthusiast to the edge.

September 14, 2009

Swan 90 FD

“Just look for the tall black mast, it’s the only black mast in the marina,” said Paola Ciribilli, Nautor’s Swan communications director, referring to the Swan 90 DSK moored in St. Maarten’s Porte de Plaisance Marina. A four-spreader, black carbon rig, towering nearly 121 feet above the marina, however, was not the only descriptor that Ciribilli could have offered to explain DSK’s location. Had she said to go out on the dock-packed fender to fender with about 50 large yachts-and look for the best damn looking, sleekest sailboat in the harbor, I feel confident I would have found this latest Swan 90 in short order. The striking silver/gray hull sat like a penned bronco under the blazing Caribbean sun, surrounded by turquoise water.

Taking up position behind one of the twin, black carbon fiber wheels, I looked down the interstate of uninterrupted teak deck before me-an advantage of DSK’s Flush Deck layout-and it didn’t require much imagination to picture the 90 screaming to windward. In addition to the “FD” option, Swan also offers an “S” deck (Saloon) option, which incorporates a raised deck and coach roof.

Once I’d spent a little more time on board, I realized that DSK is a bit of a tease. On the one hand, you forget that this a 90-footer, thanks to the optical illusion created by the unobstructed line of sight to the bow. But a walk forward to flake the genoa over the lifelines quickly makes you realize that you need to put a little pep in your step or you’ll never get to the foredeck. Oh yeah, this is a 90-footer.

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On our way to lunch on Parrott Cay in Anguilla, we reached 9.5 knots over the ground in 11 knots of true wind, while towing a sizeable tender, and flying a full main and gennaker. DSK laughed away the swells, and powered on, even with just her cruising sails. And to be honest, we weren’t exactly sailing DSK to her full potential. At first I made the mistake of over-steering and, like any high-performance sailboat, the Swan 90 is sensitive. Only fingertip adjustments are required to keep her in trim. Once I found her groove, she began leaping out of the water as if she was a five-year-old on a swing gleefully screaming “faster, faster.”

During our sail, the teasing continued. Sitting on the leeward rail with one hand on the wheel, it felt like I was sailing a small sport boat. I had to remind myself that beneath the flawless teak deck DSK housed five staterooms and the full menu of cruising comforts. As Enrico Chieffi, Nautor’s Swan vice president of marketing, explained, the company has a three-pronged approach when it comes to product development. Every new model must incorporate these three attributes: performance, style, and comfort.

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I learned firsthand that the performance portion of the strategy was dialed in 100 percent, thanks to naval architect German Frers. DSK’s Belgium born captain, Mark Fleignet, supplied some anecdotal evidence as well-for instance, winning line honors at this year’s Caribbean 600. He also offered that during delivery they achieved 22.5 knots while surfing down the back of swells with the chute flying from the carbon bowsprit. Indeed, there was no questioning the 90’s performance. Although DSK will campaign with a full racing crew, Fleignet and his everyday crew of two can easily handle her without issue, thanks to a complement of electric winches.

How about the second prong in the design brief-style? Well, it would be difficult for this magazine to suggest that a brand owned by fashion icon Leonardo Ferragamo is anything but stylish. Since Ferragamo and a group of investors took over Finland-based Nautor’s Swan in 1998, the company has undergone a transformation, with a couple of fits and starts along the way that had some of us scratching our heads. Today, Nautor’s Swan has returned to the ideals that began with the launch of the Swan 36 in 1966, and is undertaking a whirlwind launching of new products and initiatives. In fact, during the last five years, the entire lineup has been completely updated. Swan is averaging about three new models every three years and we can expect a new 60 and 80 next year.

The 90’s style hints at the yard’s heritage, with big expanses of teak below, but in a subdued execution that doesn’t clutter the senses. Horizontal teak panels on the bulkheads add a contemporary design touch, and DSK’s owner has allowed Swan’s craftsman to create all the interior styling elements necessary. There are no oil paintings or Persian rugs adorning this salon. While that look can be rather pleasing on many yachts, on the Swan 90 it would be akin to ruining homemade, fresh mozzarella with oil and vinegar.

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What about the third prong in Chieffi’s pitch-comfort? DSK certainly delivers, with a forward master stateroom featuring an island berth, ample stowage, and an en suite head. Two guest staterooms are just forward of amidships, one with a double berth, the other with berths side by side. Just abaft the companionway, the amidships stateroom will be tough to beat in a seaway, and its head also serves nicely as a day-head.

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The galley is properly arranged for cooking while clawing to weather, with good fiddles and handrails. This space can be shut off from the salon, and serves as a passageway to the crew accommodations aft.

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This division of work and social space is carried over to the deck arrangement, as well. The center cockpit, with cushions and a table, can easily accommodate 12 for alfresco dining while swinging on the hook. Underway, I found the area a great place to kick back, away from the business end of the cockpit aft.

Like all of her siblings, the 90 relies on high-tech construction to maximize strength and minimize weight. DSK’s owner chose to shave a couple thousand pounds off of the already lean 117,000-pound displacement by specing a foam-cored carbon fiber hull above the waterline. The Hall spar is also totally carbon fiber. The result is a displacement of 115,000 pounds-an impressive feat for a 90-footer that is full of cruising amenities such as a generator, a/c, a bow thruster, and other creature comforts.

After lunch we sailed back to St. Maarten and I did something that I still regret-I turned the wheel over so somebody else could enjoy DSK. Paolo had failed to mention that I might fall victim to the Swan’s 90 spell. I’ll try to shake it off before I sail the 60 later in the year, but I can’t make any promises.

Nautor’s Swan, +358 6 760 111; **www.nautorswan.com**

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