Super-Fast Sleighride Being Refitted at Westerley Marine

When Sleighride launched in 1996, she was one of the fastest, most extreme sailing yachts of the decade. She’s about to undergo a refit that will see her gain five feet and a new look from Adam Voorhees, marking the first build project from the young, award-winning designer.

Voorhees, a California-based designer whose concept project Ra garnered him the Young Designer of the Year Award at the World Superyacht Awards in 2010, was tapped for the refit by Sleighride’s new owner. California-based Westerley Marine, which builds and refits high-performance racing and cruising boats from 40 to 100 feet, is performing the refit. If you’re a racing aficionado, you may recognize one of Westerley Marine’s previous projects, the refit of Pyewacket in 2007 so that she could break the Transpac Race record that same year.

The refit will see Sleighride be stretched from 77 feet to 82 feet (23.5 meters to 25 meters). In addition, Sleighride will gain automated sail-handling systems for solo operation, and a new interior design (see the rendering below) that invites family and friends to sit back and relax. The saloon will be the focus inside, fitted with custom seating areas and a navigation table. Her sail area, 2,465 square feet (229 square meters) will remain the same, as will her construction materials. There’s extensive use of carbon fiber in her hull and superstructure, along with foam and balsa coring, all to save weight. The masts employ carbon fiber as well, while titanium comprises the deck hardware.

The story behind Sleighride is intriguing. She was commissioned in 1996, designed by Sparkman & Stephens and built by Goetz Boats (then known as Derecktor-Goetz Yachts). Goetz has long been known for its expertise with racing yachts, including 10 America’s Cup competitors, and with carbon fiber construction. The owner who commissioned Sleighride was Thomas Gosnell, who also owned the famed sailing superyacht Timoneer. He reportedly saw a speedy, 70-foot sailing yacht pull into the harbor and was so impressed that he wanted his own version. Specifically, he wanted an ultra-light, ultra-fast daysailer that would make racing boats blush. How? Read this excerpt from Sparkman & Stephens’ records:

The design brief for SLEIGHRIDE was so extreme that when she was launched, Lloyds initially declined to insure her offshore. Despite this, she has proved her ability offshore on passage from Boston to New York at high speed, literally flying through or almost over the water. This marvel of technology exceeded 23 knots on her first day out in Narrangansett Bay and might well have gone much faster if she had not been carrying 25 people on board for the trial! SLEIGHRIDE is so efficient that she can manage 10.5 knots beating into 7 knots of true wind.

One more bit of trivia about Sleighride’s origins: Her name comes from what whalers in New England used to call a “Nantucket sleigh ride.” It’s not the enjoyable trip you may think. It was the result of a whale dragging a whaling boat across the water.

Adam Voorhees, World Superyacht Award Winner

If you don’t succeed the first time, persevere.

That’s the lesson we all can learn from Adam Voorhees, a California-based post-graduate who just won the Young Designer of the Year Award at the World Superyacht Awards. (That’s him pictured second from left.) Voorhees had entered last year’s competition and was among the five finalists, but didn’t land the top prize. Undaunted, he created a new design for this year’s competition.


superyacht Ra by Adam Voorhees

The design you see here, Ra, definitely grabbed the judges’ attention. Trevor Blakeley, chief executive of RINA and chairman of the judging panel, says they found Ra to be “imaginative” and struck a good balance between inside and outside spaces. “The judges felt that it was a very ‘user friendly’ design that would appeal to both owner and charterer,” he adds. “The judges were particularly impressed by the designer’s clear understanding of the quality and enjoyment of life on the water—what yachting should be all about.”

Indeed. Voorhees, who grew up in Lake Tahoe, tells me, “sailing was taught alongside walking” in his household, and he’s loved drawing all types of boats since he was a child. With Ra, “I wanted to communicate the idea of new experiences and ways of living in close connection to the nautical environment.” Named for the Egyptian sun god Amun-Ra, the megayacht measures 66 meters (216 feet) and has large-volume spaces. The design also emphasizes light, as illustrated by the placement of all staterooms above the main deck. The 12 guests get a deck to themselves one level above the main deck, in fact, while the owners’ suite is on the bridge deck. There’s also the cool conversion of the aft main deck into a giant terrace on the sea (below) and the entirely open uppermost deck—no enclosed gym or observation area here, as seen aboard some other superyachts.


superyacht RA open aft deck

Because the award competition (sponsored by Camper & Nicholsons) requires that entries must have the lowest possible carbon footprint, Voorhees specified a few eco-friendly components. First, Ra is envisioned to be built of recyclable aluminum and composites. She also will employ photovoltaic panels, which would provide power to a handful of Caterpillar gensets. And finally, Ra will meet RINA Green Star requirements.

So what’s next for Voorhees? Besides looking for a client for this project, he says, “I am also working on two 90-meter concepts in conjunction with Lürssen that we will be showing at the Monaco and Fort Lauderdale shows.” He’s also creating a 25-meter “‘spirit of tradition’ sailing yacht and an 18-foot daysailer to match.”