Mirabella V

She’s the world’s biggest single masted yacht.

She cost owner Joe Vittoria $50 million.

She had a negative effect on builder, Vosper Thorneycroft’s, balance sheet.

Tom Walsh went to have a look at her for BYM, before she set sail for the Mediterranean.

Meeting a Superstar

A personal view.

“The boom of Mirabella V is, at twenty eight metres, ten metres longer than any yacht I've ever taken to sea.”

Tom Walsh.

Mirabella V collects superlatives like Michael Schumacher collects trophies. Biggest, tallest, first and unique, trip out of the dictionary every time she's mentioned. Comparisons are made with bridges and columns and usually the mention of money is close behind. The opportunity to visit her and the team who created her might seem a little daunting, particularly if you realise that the boom of Mirabella V is, at twenty eight metres, ten metres longer than any yacht I've ever taken to sea. After all it's not everyday that most of us are shown around $50,000,000 boats or get to see what drives a three year project that redefined what "possible" meant to boat builders.

The technology has been well covered by much better qualified writers than I am, but any boat I've ever known is much more than engineering and technique. Boats reflect the people who own them, the people who sail them and the people who build them. So what's their story.

Thanking the team

Joe Vittoria was clearly a happy man as talked to TV crews, before showing his much heralded superyacht Mirabella V to the yachting press.

In a nicely paced presentation, at VT Shipbuilders Portsmouth HQ, he was accompanied by designer Ron Holland and VT Shipbuilders MD Peter McIntosh as they outlined some details about the successful though slightly delayed project.

VT Shipbuilding MD Peter McIntosh paid tribute to Project Director Rob Carr and the craftsmen that had risen to the challenge that meeting such a demanding specification entailed. While acknowledging that the ride had not always been a smooth one, he was full of praise for the in house team, owner, designer and subcontractors that brought the project to handover.

Making the concept personal

As with most designs Mirabella V has changed from concept to handover. Joe Vittoria's original idea was for a 200ft (approx 60m) single masted sailing superyacht. Designer Ron Holland explained how shaping

the concept had been a family affair for the Vittoria's with the final choice of a modern, clean line to the superstructure being Mrs Luciana Vittoria's. This kind of personal detailing runs through the project like a thread. The computerized control that eases sheets if the yacht heels beyond 22 degrees, Mrs. Vittoria prefers to sailflat and it makes sense, with a 14m plus beam from a safety aspect.

Family Input

The careful choice of soft furnishing materials, the exquisite wooden map panels in the guest cabins by Viscount Lindley, or the practical design of the galley layout, all represent family input to the final design. Even the 150 tonne lifting keel reflects Joe Vittoria's design request to allow him access to Palm Beach Harbour USA, near to where he has a home. Ron Holland, himself well acquainted with mould breaking design, has used every bit of experience drawn from a thirty year career to complete Mirabella V. He has married the stylish topsides to an aggressively performance orientated hull, 20 knot performance and exceptional windward sailing ability, being on the owners wish list.

With the weight saving composite construction, a high aspect bulb keel and twin rudders offering hydrodynamic principles in line with state of the art performance yachts this is one wish that should be fulfilled.

Simple design and attention to detail

Finding this modern creation of stylish black and gleaming white and chrome in the industrial setting of a Portsmouth shipyard is like opening an oyster and finding a pearl. First impressions of Mirabella V are dominated by the 89m, five spreader, mast as it vies for command of the Portsmouth skyline with the unfinished Spinnaker Tower at near by Gunwharf Quay.

On recenttrials Mirabella V entered a fog bank with a crew member at the masthead. He recounts an unforgettable experience as the boat vanished while he remained in bright sunshine, watching his shadow scud across the cloud top.

My guide was Paul Johnson who's Marine Design Consultancy has represent the owner from concept to completion. Paul is clearly a detail mans detail man. He knows intimately, every dimension, load, wood grain, bulb and scatter cushion. As we boarded and proceed around the deck, we passed neatly monogrammed stainless steel bollards, with 40 tonne load capacity, turning blocks the size of car wheels and suddenly the truth hits home. The size issue is unimportant. This is just a boat, if a rather special boat, and not only is it equipped to work as a sea going vessel and a luxury resort, but every part is perfectly in scale. Yes there is luxury but, and again this shows the boat owning experience of the Vittoria family and the skill of Ron Holland's team; there is an instant, comforting feel about the accommodation that is surprising on a yacht of this size.

That a space and structure of such scale, so obviously up market, can so easily form a rapport with visitors will be the envy of many

hoteliers and their interior designers. Everywhere you look is quality materials shaped by craftsmen but without fuss or fanfare. If there were two ways to solved a problem the simplest was chosen. For example the 12 dining chairs are not fastened to the deck. In a seaway a padded strap encircles the whole dining suite and anchors them to the fixed table

This is a yacht that changes the lives and business' that are involved with it.

"Designed and built in three years from contract award, Mirabella V will be a landmark ship in all respects, and the experience VT Shipbuilding has gained from this project will shape the way we do business in the future"

said Mirabella V Project Director Rob Carr.

Mirabella V continues to inspires those of us that only see her pass and it's good to know she's a truly excellent product from a British shipyard. It's quite easy to be impressed by her and hard to fault her in any way.

Tom Walsh

To view more Mirabella V pictures & larger versions of those illustrating Tom’s story, visit the BYM picture gallery. You’ll find her in the Megayacht Sail Album.

In September 2004, Mirabella V grounded on rocks near Cap Ferrat, France. Read about Mirabella on the Rocks.

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