Can a yacht be all things to all sailors? Give it the illustrious Swan 65 badge and maybe it can
If it hadn’t been for the original Swan 65, Nautor’s Swan might never have become the famous name it is today. Sayula II’s victory in the first ever Whitbread Round the World Race in 1973/1974 cemented the Finnish boatbuilder’s exalted reputation.
There is, therefore, some historical weight in giving a new model the Swan 65 badge. While Nautor’s latest launch is not about to win a global race, it is designed in the spirit of that original S&S-designed 65, as a cruiser that can win races.
When Sayula II was built in 1972 it was easily the largest glassfibre yacht on the market – this despite Swan having produced its first yacht, a 36-footer, only a few years earlier. With 4m more waterline length, extra beam carried right aft and substantially greater freeboard, today’s Swan 65 has substantially greater volume than its predecessor. Yet, in a sign of the times, it is only a modest-sized model in Nautor’s current range, which now extends to twice its length.
This gulf in volume, hull and deck design reflects a change in demand from sailors, who were originally looking for seaworthy ocean racing yachts that could be cruised but now seek comfortable and spacious cruising yachts that can occasionally race.
The Swan 65 is designed by Frers to meet broad appeal and joins a growing list of new 60ft+ models aimed at being the largest size that can still be sailed by an owner. However, it offers greater versatility than most in that it should be equally suited to Mediterranean or ocean cruising, yet be capable of regatta racing, and has the option of a proper crew cabin in the accommodation.
Take the Dutch owners of this first boat, for example: experienced sailors who have owned a ClubSwan 45 and a Swan 601. Although they will compete in the Middle Sea Race, they primarily wanted a larger yacht for short-handed distance cruising and will use a part-time skipper to maintain the boat.
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Comparisons in shape, style and appeal can be drawn with the new Baltic 67. The owners of this first Swan 65 opted for the same APM telescopic keel and Hall carbon rig with in-boom furling mainsail. But whereas the Baltic is largely built in carbon and has a price tag that reflects its semi-custom build, Nautor prefers a glassfibre hull for a cruising yacht of this size for better noise insulation.
The contemporary hull and deck design also shares similarities with the Baltic. Their sheer size – notably in beam and freeboard – is striking. The Swan 65’s sheerline rises distinctly forward to a bowsprit, which protrudes a lofty 2m above the waterline. The freeboard height allows for a low-profile coachroof above the semi-raised saloon, but it does present a boarding challenge.
Seven Swan 65s were sold off the plans alone, an indication of the Finnish/Italian company’s popularity since it made the crucial decision to separate its models into bluewater cruisers, 80ft+ maxis and ClubSwan racing yachts. Astonishingly, it has another five new designs in construction from 36-125ft.
Sailing a Swan is always a privilege, but I felt especially lucky to have ideal testing conditions – it was a beautiful spring day, with a fresh Force 5 blowing, as we departed EMV Badolona, Swan’s new service and refit centre near Barcelona.
It was only the second time the sails had been hoisted and we had the opportunity to trial Cuordisole before it was handed over to its owners the following week. So the first hour or so was spent gingerly reaching off the breeze under full sail, not wishing to push anything too quickly.
11 knots of comfort
In 15-18 knots true wind we were swiftly and consistently averaging 10.5-11.5 knots at 100-110° true, with a comfortable 15° of heel. These figures are in line with what Frers and Swan predict: that this high, beamy hull shape should be stable and produce low heeling angles typically around 20°. The theory is this makes for a comfortable ship aboard which to spend long periods sailing at heel.
I was keen to put the theory into more dynamic practice, and once I knew the skipper was happy, I asked if we could heat things up a bit and spend some time close-hauled.
Wow! Despite the stability designed into the hull shape, when the Swan 65 does power-up and heel, you know about it! With the full sails pinned in and nearly 30 knots of apparent wind across the deck, we pushed it until we heeled to 30°. From high up on the windward helm, you become very aware of the cockpit beam, and much reliance is placed on the large foot braces.
The power in the mainsail is impressive. The test boat had a small square-top to its main – a full square-top option is offered for racing. Despite pressing the boat, there was no hint of it losing grip, however you soon learn to respect and trim the heel angle. Heel too much and you pay a price in both comfort and speed.
Depowering the main levelled the boat out and we watched the speed rise to over 9 knots at around 40° true. The owner’s choice of a captive mainsheet, controlled via joystick on each pedestal, made it quick and effortless to dial down the power.
The hull is beamier than usual with a higher freeboard, for stability and headroom. “When I started [designing] headroom needed to be 1.85m – now it’s up to 2.15m inside,” designer Germán Frers explained, while describing the Swan 65’s form stability.
“When it heels the centre of buoyancy moves higher and further outboard than deeper, narrower designs and this increases the righting arm. As you load the boat the stability increases with beam. The wider arm increases the GZ, which is why we don’t load the boat with ballast.”
Frers was rationalising the particularly low ballast ratio of 24.1 on the Swan 65 and explaining how the stability of modern hull shapes can increase with load where the ballast ratio diminishes.
“Ballast ratio was used a lot with old shapes, where everything saved on the interior went into lead. Now they [the hulls] are very stable up to 120°. We didn’t want to increase the ballast because it becomes more jerky and is hard work.”
The motion certainly felt smooth through the waves, but keep it sailing at a civilised heel angle and it was the consistency of speed that proved telling. We had some long spells of two-sail reaching where the regularity of sitting at double-figure speeds impressed me.
When the breeze picked up to 18-22 knots true, average speed increased to 11.5 knots. If we could bear away and hold the apparent breeze enough to hop onto a cross wave, the log would surge up to over 13 knots.
This is when the magic happened – not in an instant lightning bolt sort of way, but in a growing familiarity sense. The more time you spend on the wheel the more you enjoy it and the more you discover how this Swan likes to be sailed. It’s both a forgiving yacht and one that responds to and rewards trim.
The mast has been brought aft and pierces the coachroof, to allow for larger non-overlapping foresails and for powerful reaching sails to be set off the bowsprit. It’s a sail plan that looks and feels balanced.
Equally, twin rudders result in a light feel on the helm, but the blades are large and deep enough to communicate pressure increases and provide manoeuvrability in harbour. The result of the Frers team’s analysis concluded that a single rudder on this hull shape would need to be too deep. “Twin rudders are more efficient with less angle and diminished drag,” Germán Frers explained.
A dry, clean deck
The high bow helps keep the decks dry, while the extension of the coachroof into long coamings aft gives the helmsman and trimmers a nice dry perch.
The standard cockpit layout has a central mainsheet plinth, between the two wheels; however, the Harken captive winch system this owner had opted for works effectively.
The electric winch is installed under the galley sole, with the sheet running up the mast, along the boom and down to a single point in the cockpit.
This helps keep a clear cockpit and works well for short-handed sailing as it provides joystick control of the system from each pedestal. The helmsman can also sit forward of the pedestal and steer and trim both sails if desired.
Two powered winches are neatly set into the coamings on each side for foresail trim and running rigging. Lines are all led aft, including the tack line, which has a side-mounted jammer that punctuates an otherwise clean side deck.
A compact locker below the side deck has the tough task of stowing all the tail ends, and there’s a dedicated liferaft locker below the forward part of the cockpit sole.
Cockpit benches are long and wide, but not especially deep. The owner of the test boat opted for a removable table to keep cockpit access clear, whereas a fixed table and/or the bridgedeck option might perhaps better suit family cruising.
An open transom combined with a beamy aft cockpit design is the current trend but one that prioritises coastal/Med sailing over ocean cruising. The Swan 65 has triple-height aft guardrails, but my concern is that, with no fixed mouldings across this aft section of cockpit, these rails would do little to stop rope tails or unsecured items being washed over the transom.
The side deck guardrails conform to requirements at 61cm, however higher rails here would give a greater sense of security for crew using the side decks at sea.
The garage is accessed from the transom door, with a large deck hatch above, and is wide enough to stow a 2.8m inflated dinghy. The sail locker is even more cavernous, with standing headroom and a watertight bulkhead aft. It creates superb stowage for offwind sails and fenders, or provides the option of a crew cabin.
The slight problem we experienced with hoisting the main and an issue of air in the fuel – both understandable considering this was only the yacht’s second outing – merely demonstrated the occasional need for extra hands on a yacht this size.
Quality of finish
The design and engineering needed to create the multiple below decks options Nautor’s Swan offers is of the highest degree, matched only by the superb quality of finish. A focus with the Swan 65 was on designing this range of options to achieve one deck, one coachroof and one central section of boat. “If every boat is a new boat, you never get the quality,” reasoned Vanni Galgani, product line leader for Swan Yachts.
Galgani explained that Nautor’s Swan now tries to avoid any customisation on yachts less than 80ft, as it is time-consuming, costly, and bad for resale value. It prefers to provide pre-engineered solutions, which help centralise weight and optimise the systems layout. This also allows for a variety of accommodation solutions, which notably includes a forward or aft owner’s cabin.
The semi-raised saloon and transverse galley work particularly well. Their combined length of over 5m creates a great impression of space. I was below decks as we punched out through a sharp swell at the marina entrance, and appreciated the solid handholds on the roof and fiddles around the furniture and worktops. For a voluminous interior it still felt practical at heel.
The galley is a sociable, airy place to prepare, cook and serve food. It has long, fiddled worksurfaces with space for a variety of appliances. The dinette area to starboard can instead be used for more refrigeration space and a proper navstation.
As it is it works well as a multi-use seating area for eating, passage planning, relaxing or even sleeping. The table drops to fill the space in between the berths and has lee cloth fittings, so could make a useful snug for kids.
The L-shaped sofa on the starboard side of the saloon is also long enough to be used as a pilot berth. The downside of the test boat layout was the lack of a proper navstation – the owners had instead opted for a compact chart table to starboard with a fold-out stool.
The volume continues in the forward owner’s cabin where it is beamy enough to sleep head forward on an island berth, away from the noise of the engine, cockpit or dock when berthed stern-to. And there is still 6ft 3in headroom around the berth. The test boat had a walk-in wardrobe by the cabin entrance, which takes care of most stowage requirements.
All three cabins have smart en suites with good-sized separate showers and practical stowage. Headroom in the identical aft twin cabins is maintained aft to the berths, while outboard alcoves allow extra height, light and room by the hull portlights.
The port cabin has a door into the after part of the engine room, providing access to the watermaker and filters – which is handy, as only the lower half of the companionway steps lift, and the engine is mounted low down.
General stowage is mostly above sole height rather than in the bilges. The soleboards are all insulated with foam surrounds, have spacers, and lift with the aid of a sucker. Peek below and you’ll not only notice the meticulous layout of the wiring, plumbing and generous tanks, but find standard practical Swan features, like a foot pump to purge water from the fridge/freezers and wooden cones attached to each through-hull fitting.
Below the galley sole is a 0.5m long section of the APM keel – the only part of this telescopic stainless steel work of art that is visible. It’s an engineering feat, which costs big bucks but is increasingly offered by the big yards.
Will people talk about this model in 50 years time? It’s not about to win a round the world race and create a global phenomenon. But they might well talk about this era of Nautor’s Swan and how this Frers design sits at the heart of Nautor’s renaissance.
The Swan 65 grows on you – the longer you sail it the more you enjoy it. Cruising sailors don’t seek an adrenaline rush, they want an enduring relationship built on easy rewards and dependability. This is a powerful boat, which is easy to sail fast but will be most gratifying when trimmed to keep it on its preferred low heel angle. Take the wheel and it’s hard not to daydream about how pleasant those consistent speeds and heeling angles would feel on a tradewind ocean crossing.
It’s a versatile design that offers much potential: it has a deck suited to short-handed Mediterranean-style sailing; stowage, systems and tankage to promote ocean cruising (with or without crew); and optional keel and sailplans to configure it for racing.
The original Swan 65 might still be the choice for seaworthy ocean racing, but for cruising in sublime space and comfort its new counterpart wins every time.
LOA: 20.11m (65ft 12in)
LWL: 18.38m (60ft 4in)
Beam (Max): 5.62m (18ft 5in)
Draught: 3.50m (11ft 6in)
Telescopic keel: 2.80m-4.20m (9ft 2in-13ft 9in)
Displacement (lightship): 27,250kg (60,075lb)
Ballast: 6,570kg (14,484lb)
Sail Area (100% foretriangle): 234.2m2 (2,531ft2)
Engine: Volvo Penta D3 150hp
Water capacity: 1,000lt (220gal)
Fuel capacity: 1,200lt (264gal)
Sail Area/Displacement ratio: 26.3
Displacement/LWL ratio: 122
Price: €2.95m (ex VAT)
Design: Frers Naval Architecture & Engineering