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Apr / May 2018
Beauty in the Beast

Writer: Michael Verdon / Photography: Breed Media

In an industry with its own set of rules, Ngoni stands out as a rebel, the brainchild of a highly creative team, pushed to their limits by an exacting owner.

It’s a rare superyacht owner who refers to their dreamboat as a beast. But the British owner of Ngoni, the 58-metre sailing superyacht built by Royal Huisman, was clear in his directive: “Build me a beast. Don’t build me a sheep in wolf’s clothing. This has to be an edgy and innovative weapon; fast and furious.” The owner had an even more pointed message for Ngoni’s interior design firm: “Don’t design a traditional yacht interior.” 

 

One of Ngoni's most characteristic design traits is her  slender aluminium hull with plumb bow and reverse sheer. These weren't purely for aesthetic purposes, rather Dubois wanted to maximise structural stiffness in the hull. This was particularly important given she has large portholes, a fold-out side-boarding platform, a water-level gym door, a couple of submarine anchors, and retractable thrusters, as well as a 100-tonne lifting keel that adjusts from 8 to 5 metres.

 

“We’ve been working for the client for 25 years and his tastes tend to be slightly eclectic,” says Paul Morgan, a designer at Rick Baker Ltd, who was tasked with creating her extremely unconventional interior. “We’ve done the interiors of his houses all over the world, so we understand his tastes. He’s a bit of a character and loves to have his ideas brought out.” 

 

Not only gorgeous, the 50 million USD sloop is fast, topping out at 17.5 knots. 

 

Descriptors like “masculine” and “relaxed” can be used side by side with others like “curved,” “organic” and “colour bomb” to describe the yacht’s unique interior. And though the marching orders were vague, Rick Baker delivered a one-of-a-kind interior punctuated by colours and art pieces – a collage of photos that becomes a seascape by Vik Muniz, a bust of a woman with an artichoke on her head, a gorilla sitting in a red-leather alcove and a Stefano Bombardieri sculpture of a rhinoceros suspended in air – certainly all make the highlight reel. But there’s also the aspect of stylisation that deserves note and it’s perhaps best exemplified by a multitude of wall panels commissioned by Officina Coppola, an English company specialising in custom finishes and art panels of resin, metal and limestone. These acrylic pieces are pressed into service as wardrobe doors and bedside wall panels; their colours and movement make it seem like you are looking at the bottom of a shallow sea.

 

The near 360-degree views from almost anywhere within the main deck structure is impressive. 

 

“The owner loves the small details,” says Morgan. “In his suite, for instance, we used red-cowhide insets in the polished nickel desk. We knew he’d appreciate it more than just black leather. The whole idea was to create an interior that doesn’t look contemporary, so it won’t look dated in five years.” 

 

The owner's suite includes a master cabin, an office, as well as a Technogym-equipped gym and a full-beam master bath.

 

At the same time, Ngoni had to feel as relaxing as the owner’s homes. “He loves to sail and usually comes in knackered after a day on the water,” says Morgan. “He wants to be able to chill out, and make sure his guests are at ease.” The aft salon is the epitome of cool and relaxed, with sloping curved windows along the sides that provide exceptional natural light, soft furniture custom designed by Rick Baker, a stylized dining table and large bar at the cockpit entrance. The sliding glass doors open fully, leaving no barriers between the salon and the cockpit.  

 

 

Per the owner’s request, Ngoni’s exterior is also one of a kind. It was one of the final projects of Ed Dubois, a maestro of yacht designers who passed away recently. His London firm created a stylistic and technical masterpiece. “This is some yacht, a dream project for a designer,” Dubois said at the time. 

Sailboats are not motoryachts that can be modified by just making them a bit longer. Dubois’ design, with its beautiful plumb bow and tumblehome stern, had to be carefully designed to make sure Ngoni was also a beast under sail. Everything had to work, hull, deck, masts and rigging. 

 

Ngoni's cockpit helm station features a sculptural carbon helm with a stainless-steel top

 

Dubois included features like a large hot tub embedded in the foredeck, a stair-step transom that adds to its profile, and an hydraulic boarding platform that is a huge technical asset. Cool was the operative word when it came to Ngoni’s look. The designers chose a metallic paint on the topside called Claire de Lune and bead-blasted all deck hardware and automatic winches so they looked like titanium. 

Just like the owner imagined it, Ngoni is of the most unusual and beautiful beasts the sailing world has ever produced.

 

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