A new line from Nautor refocuses attention on shorthanded, performance-driven cruisers
Swan Lan Familiar Waters
Early one morning last July, Van Holston stood on the deck of a freighter in Baltimore just before boarding his new Swan 46, Fierce Pride. He and his crew had lifelines to attach and gear to be stowed before the sailboat could be hoisted and set over the side for her first taste of the Atlantic. Very different from the Swan 44 that he'd campaigned hard around the marks the past few seasons, Fierce Pride was about to launch the sailing adventures of Van and his wife, Mary, in a new direction—one plotted out by Nautor when it decided to return to its roots with the recently introduced shoal-draft 46. The Germán Frers-designed 46 is first in a new line of solid, comfortable, cruising sailboats aimed at owners who enjoy performance under sail.
Since 1997, when Italian fashion magnate Leonardo Ferragamo assumed control of the Nautor Group and the Swan yards, the Finnish builder had shifted attention away from the needs of short-handed cruising sailors. The norm came to be large luxury sailboats, go-fast race-
boats, and high-end one-design fleets, exemplified by the Swan 45 and the recently announced Swan 42, the latter developed with the New York Yacht Club as partners.
With split cockpits, large sail inventories, and light displacements, several recent Swans were powerful, demanding boats, and for many owners they required professional captains and paid crew even when operating in cruise mode.
Swans of a Different Color
The Swan 46 and its recently introduced 53- and 66-foot sisters, however,
Mary Holston trims the jib as Fierce Pride delivers a spanking good sail departing Newport, Rhode Island, and heading home to Chesapeake Bay.
was outfitted with a daggerboard, and since racing performance was no longer the driving consideration, they found that the idea of having a sailboat with shoal draft grew on them, especially when Frers assured them it would sail nearly as well as the fixed-keel version. So they placed their order in the fall of 2004. After owning five other sailboats, Van said he was sure the 46 had everything he'd need to provide comfortable, fun sailing. And, he added, he felt he'd own this boat longer than any of his others.
As he did when he took ownership of his Swan 44 several seasons earlier, Van met the ship carrying Fierce Pride at the are billed by the company as important steps in a "new cruising line." These sailboats are aimed at owners such as the Holstons, who bought Fierce Pride in a conscious effort to give up his racing ways and spend more time afloat with his wife, cruising Chesapeake Bay and New England by summer and Florida, the Bahamas, and beyond by winter.
Van's Swan 44 had been rigged for speed. Affixed with a deep keel, it drew over 7 feet, a problem sometimes in the shallow Chesapeake and certainly at the marinas in Florida. And the multiple headsails always seemed to take up room below. Every time Mary would get her cruising amenities on board and stowed, Van and the guys would climb back aboard and lug them off again to shave pounds and squeeze out the knots.
Finally, Van put the 44 on the market, assuming it would take some time to sell. Instead, it was gone in two months, and the Holstons were boatless—a state that didn't agree with either of them. So they began to hit the boat shows in earnest. They made a trip to the Swan yard in Finland to look at a Swan 56 but decided they didn't need the space nor the three cabins it offered, since the two of them expected to do 99 percent of their future sailing as a couple.
Back home, they purchased a Sabre-line, cruising the 36-foot trawler to Florida for a season. "Too noisy, too fast, too everything," Van said, summing up his fling with the power crowd.
In the meantime, they looked at a variety of other cruisers. "In the end, we just couldn't find anything we liked as much as the Swan," Van said. After a second trip to Finland, where they compared the 46 and the 53, they decided on the smaller of the two because it seemed to offer all they'd need. They'd seen hull number one in Southampton, England. It, too,
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