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Flight Deck REPORTS – Solaris Review | 2018

BY RICHARD BALDWIN

Floating on a sea of blue glass and surrounded by an elegant white stand, the Solaris Yachts exude style with their cutting edge lines and one immediately feels that they are something special. This is the 2018 Dusseldorf boat show, where Solaris displayed 4 of their latest yachts, in typically imaginative style.

For those in the know, Solaris has, for the past 40 years, been renowned in Italy as an iconic builder of high quality semicustom yachts from eminent designers such as Sparkman & Stephens, Doug Peterson and more recently Bill Tripp.

And now, Solaris has, in the space of the last 10 years, created a world class range of nine limited-production performance cruisers from 37’ to 68’, all designed by Argentinian, Javier Soto Acebal. The relationship with Soto has proved to be a master stroke. Not only are the hulls swift, elegant and stable, but unusually for a fast hull shape, the designs provide excellent volume to enable Solaris to build exceptionally liveable, well-designed interiors, so important for extended periods at sea.

We have observed the trend towards quicker, lighter, high quality yachts, capable of clocking up serious miles with ease, as opposed to the typically heavier blue water designs, and this is where Solaris are ahead of the competition. And what makes Solaris particularly interesting, is that the range fills the vacuum in the market excellently built performance yachts, once occupied by the likes of Swan and Baltic.

Solaris is unique in many ways. When many yards faced closure following the 2008 financial crisis with a sudden down turn in orders, Solaris was a small yard building a handful of yachts and with low overheads. 2008 was the start of a long purple patch with the launch of the Solaris One 48 designed by Bill Tripp. Although an expensive yacht, it was an overnight success and the order book soon became supported by clients outside Italy discovering the quality and style of this previously little-known brand, notably in the less financially affected areas of Germany and Austria.

The upward trajectory has continued. The yard remains in private hands, well financed by a handful of yacht owning shareholders, passionate about building the best yachts in the world, and free from the shackles or dangers of Private Equity.

Located near Venice, with an annual production of around 35 yachts, each Solaris is built to clients’ individual order. This allows time to consult and plan with the owner and to construct the yachts with particular care, starting with the structure. Solaris do things differently. For example, the main and fore bulkheads are 40mm thick composite (as opposed to a single sheet of plywood found in most production yachts). All bulkheads are fully laminated directly to the decks, so there is no inner deck moulding in a Solaris, because whilst fast and cheaper to construct, it reduces strength and stiffness. The fore-and-aft and transverse floor beams are fully laminated to the hull and incorporate uninterrupted longitudinal fibres for added strength. The composite chainplates are built into the hull. As a result, each Solaris has a ‘monolithic’ structure, very strong but light and built using GRP materials throughout. This ensures compatibility of flexural and adhesion qualities, and ultimate durability and stiffness, virtues when sailing hard in heavy conditions.

The impressive keel attachment is also designed with safety and longevity as a priority. A large steel keel flange plate sits into a solid glass socket in the hull. This enables the keel bolts to have a wider spacing which disperses the keel loads into the hull structure more evenly. The mast is also keel stepped. Think of it structurally as more like a VOR yacht – without the noise!.

The signature touches to the designs are immediately recognisable – the fine dreadnought bows (to increase dynamic water line length and reduce pitching), and the powerful, broad aft flanks, sporting chines (to reduce drag and increase stability at speed).

The low profile uncluttered deck gives excellent visibility, and all control lines are led aft below deck to the helm positions using just 4 winches. The main sheet is trimmed on the end of the boom for optimal control and leads to winches port and starboard. The jib is self-tacking, and it is worth noting that the mast is stepped further aft compared with most yachts, increasing the J measurement and giving a better balance between mainsail and jib sail areas. All these details create a yacht that is easy, fast, safe and exhilarating to sail.

The modern, roomy and well-designed interiors come with a wide choice of finishes, from bleached oak through to the richer traditional Burma teak. Joinery is beautifully executed and more typical of what one might expect in a high-end blue water cruising yacht. Natural light is maximised through flush deck hatches and hull windows.

Apart from a visit to the Solaris yard, which is currently being expanded to increase efficiency, prospective owners are encouraged to attend the annual rendezvous for Solaris owners and their yachts, known as ‘Solaris Days’. This event typically takes place in the last 5 days of May and early June in Porto Rotondo, Sardinia. Chosen for its outstanding scenery and nearperfect sailing conditions on the Costa Smeralda, the event is an opportunity to mingle with owners and to test sail the yachts, thereby gaining real on the water experience. The event is growing year on year and 35 yachts attended 2017.

As we go to press, we also understand that Solaris will be organising a pure test sail event in St Tropez in April, provisionally with the 47, 55, 58 and 68. Spaces will be limited to a first come first serve basis, so your early registration is recommended.

Berthon’s association with Solaris stems from a merger in September 2017 with myself, a long-time friend of Berthon and someone who has been specialising in Italian yachts for the past 20 years. Our combined knowledge and experience can be relied upon to give you the best support and advice from initial enquiry, through contract, payments, the build process, registration, VAT, sea trials and to your on-going ownership.

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