Trade Talk: Vessel designer is ship-shape

Here backed by smaller vessels, city-based Ron Holland has designed many yachts in the 37-to-36-metre range, as well as the much larger sloop M5 that is far too tall to sail under the Lions Gate Bridge.

HIGH AND MIGHTY: You’d hardly notice international mega-yacht designer Ron Holland entering or leaving his Granville Island studio. But there’d be no missing the 67-year-old native New Zealander’s masterpiece, M5, were that world’s largest sloop to sail into Vancouver Harbour. Except that she couldn’t. No problem with the 10-year-old yacht’s 75-metre length. But her 45-tonne, 89-metre single mast would be 27 metres too high to get under Lions Gate Bridge. The mast would even reach half way from the bridge’s suspended deck to the top of its towers — far higher than those on any clipper ship that ever sailed.

The fleet of 56-metre sloops with 75-metre rigs Holland designed for Italy’s Perini Navi Group would also have to anchor in English Bay. They, like M5 — original name Mirabella V — are big sisters of the six-metre sloops that bob around in First Narrows tidal currents. The 1004-tonne M5 has a crew of 15, deluxe accommodations for 14 guests, an 8,000-kilometre cruising range and a 1,254-square-metre mainsail (equal to 6.5 tennis courts) than can drive her at 14 knots.

Unlike other super yachts, Holland had the 60-million-euro M5 built in fibreglass at the Southampton, England yards of Vosper Thorneycroft. That firm’s long experience with super-tough and necessarily non-magnetic naval minesweepers got it the job.

Holland himself has swept the growing ranks of yacht aspirants to produce vessels that reflect his ocean-racing past while meeting the demanding environmental standards. His technologically advanced 190-foot ketch Ethereal was acclaimed worldwide for epitomizing that direction. After designing fleets of yachts in the 45- to 60-metre range — one for Australia-born media tycoon Rupert Murdoch — Holland is convinced that “owners are seeking a better balance between efficient hull design and means of propulsion.” The means staying green without sacrificing sea-keeping qualities and comfort on the world’s waters.

Addressing globally feted marine artist John Horton and others at the Royal Naval Sailing Association’s awards event recently, Holland stressed that no technical or aesthetic formula for success exists. “The wind changes, and you’ve got it wrong,” he said. “Your best effort is always a compromise.”

As for price, his chapter in Yacht Shot Press’s supremely instructive The Big Boat Bible notes that “a longer yacht doesn’t necessarily equate with a more expensive yacht.” Internal volume is the key factor, he wrote, so that a 27-metre yacht may be priced like a 36-metre one of equal 100-ton displacement.

For his own cruising, Holland, has a 50-year-old Coronado 25 moored in Vancouver, where he moved in 2011 after four decades in Ireland. He’s also seen a Florida yard produce five of the 10-metre sloops he designed for a class of “maybe 100” priced at comparatively pocket-change $100,000.

Still, “If someone said, ‘Could you build a 300-foot sloop?’ of course I’d say yes.”

Story and Photo of Ron Holland by Malcolm Parry, Vancouver Sun
Follow the link to view the online story at Vancouver Sun, Business Section

Sailing Yacht M5 off Mexico
M5 Sailing off Mexico