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Photo Paul Wyeth

Sean McMillan: “Building a Yacht in Wood Requires an Extremely Skilled Workforce”

World renowned yacht designer Sean McMillan founded Spirit Yachts in 1993. He is at the forefront of modern classic design. Sean oversees all aspects of Spirit’s design and build process. We met him.

Spirit Yachts has a portfolio of wooden sail and power yachts from 37 foot to 100 foot+, built using wood/epoxy construction. What are the main challenges in this type of construction?

Without disparaging other yacht building techniques, building a yacht in wood requires an extremely skilled workforce – considerably more so than other methods. The greatest challenge is forming such a team and honing the skills to create some of the best yachts in the world, whilst maintaining a commercially viable business.

What inspires your projects?

The idea of excellence, both in design and execution.

What must always be on a sailboat?

As little as possible! Keeping a sailing yacht as simple as possible is usually a key part of the vessel’s success. However, everything that is on the yacht should be of the best possible quality.

Spirit 100 Gaia
Spirit 100 Gaia. Photo Carlo Borlenghi

What do you think about the “pure modern” sailboats?

They have their place as expressions of contemporary design – often very fine examples. However, I think there is a danger that – as with all fashion driven creations – they will date quickly.

Spirit 111

You announced recently the direct sale of a new build project, the 33.9 meter Spirit 111: what can you tell us about this boat?

This will be one of the largest wooden sloops ever built and represents a significant move forward for ecologically sound yacht building. Wooden construction is the only renewable resource method of building and, with an electric drive system and meticulous attention to energy consumption, this yacht will be one of the most environmentally sensitive builds yet seen. It also represents an important move by Spirit Yachts to embrace new drive system technology with two further orders on the books also with electric drive.

Spirit 47 CR. Photo Paul Wyeth

And now, our classic final question: what does sailing mean for you?

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness!!!

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