13 Oct 2021


If ever built, Sonata would be a first for sailing superyachts. It would have high-tech sails, but would ride more like a motoryacht.


What do you call a superyacht concept that takes the progressive learnings from the world’s leading new builds and packs them together in one visionary design? You call it Project Sonata. With three DynaRig systems inspired by the legendary sailing yacht Black Pearl, an inverted bow to slice through waves and enough space on board to compete with a motoryacht, could the 351-foot hybrid sailing yacht have it all?


Project Sonata is the work of emerging Swiss studio Valentin Design. Headed up by industrial designer Valentin Weigand, winner of Young Designer of the Year 2020, and naval architect Romain Acquaviva, the duo have their eyes set on a more sustainable, smarter, and buildable yacht.


Our aim is to create a sailing superyacht that is more accessible to clients than the ones currently in the water,” Weigand told Robb Report. “Many clients are scared off by how complicated they perceive sailing yachts to be, requiring large numbers of crew and complicated rigs. We want to offer something that combines the joy of sailing with the ease and comfort of a motoryacht.”


Sustainability is also key to the concept. Two diesel electric engines generate recuperative energy through the yacht’s propellers while sailing, supplying enough power for the hotel load and to charge its Lithium-Sulfur battery pack. The 4MW batteries, developed by Oxys Energy, are free of heavy metals, such as cobalt, and are considered safer than Li-ion batteries.


The pair have strengthened their proposition by drawing on the expertise of Derek Munro, director at Divergent Yachting, who was instrumental in the construction of Oceanco’s groundbreaking build Black Pearl.


Derek has first-hand experience on what can be optimized or simply didn’t work with Black Pearl,” said Weigand, “and we’ve worked that into the design of Project Sonata to eliminate those points.”


What works includes a 16-foot retractable keel that saves 6.5-feet of draft when required. The considerable DynaRig is low in maintenance yet highly durable, meaning a smaller crew is required. And, like Black Pearl, the tips of the masts can be unmounted to give enough clearance to sail under the Bridge of the Americas, and access the Pacific Ocean through the Panama Canal.


Black Pearl’s masts underwent three years of engineering and are proven to be highly efficient,” said Weigand. “By using the same molds on Project Sonata, we save time and money. In the same vein, the seating arrangement aboard Black Pearl is not ideal for heeling. We’ve ensured all exterior decks have been designed with heeling in mind.”


That said, Project Sonata has also undergone computational fluid dynamics studies to ensure it performs when sailing without heeling too much. “Most sailing superyachts’ main functions are regattas, which means they are super-fast, super light and heel a lot,” Acquaviva told Robb Report. “This can be really scary for owners who are used to stability and comfort, so our design prioritizes the guest experience. Our inverted hull extends the waterline length and cuts through waves.”


At 2,992 gross tonnes, the interior volume is sizable, complemented by features that follow the current trend for a connection to the outdoors. “The only thing our design lacks is a large swimming pool, which requires too much space on a sailing yacht,” said Weigand. “We’ve mitigated that with multiple exterior platforms to access the sea itself.”


A large sun deck affords alfresco dining. On the interior, glass is king, creating a design without visual borders. The master stateroom, spread across two decks, is virtually encased in a glass bubble. The VIP cabin enjoys direct access to its own private beach club, making a novel charter proposition. A double height atrium in the formal dining area speaks of elaborate guest entertainment. This also supports the studio’s intention to make the forward areas formal, so as guests move aft the more causal the design becomes.


Project Sonata, presented to the world by Ocean Independence, is a bold proposal from a studio made up of keen sailors, but whose sailing yacht designs to date have been limited to the 50-foot range. But that hasn’t deterred the dynamic pair.


I’ve been sailing on boats since I was kid and worked in refit and construction for over 12 years,” said Acquaviva. “I understand what an owner wants from a sailing yacht, but equally what the crew need. When combined with visionary design and fully engineered naval architecture, we believe that’s a winning formula.”