The largest Vitruvius to date combines both beauty and brains.
“They wanted it all, and they have it all,” says Veerle Battiau, director of Vitruvius Yachts, as we discuss the ‘wellness deck’, one of Grace E’s most recognisable features. “When we first met with the owners to discuss the original Vitruvius model they asked whether we would consider going a little bigger, up to 54 metres. So we went away and Philippe Briand, the naval architect, did the plans. But then they said: ‘If we’re going to do this, we really need to build a yacht for the next ten years. We need something really forward thinking, somewhere where we can look after our health and well-being.’ After we discussed the ‘wellness’ idea, the first thing we did was incorporate the pool. It’s a real exercise pool so we had to stretch the boat. We added ten metres, and then ten more and another deck, and finally ended up with 73 metres!”
Grace E is about as custom as they come, and nowhere is this more clear than on the wellness deck. Eddie Cooney, the captain on Grace E, explains that the owners were very involved in the build: “Their input and ideas were very much a part of the process, especially involving the spa element, but also with the form and function of the design and layout.” A spacious gym aft is enclosed by large sliding windows, allowing for hot and cold-weather training with panoramic views. A run on the treadmill offers the rather wonderful vista of the wake and disappearing land.
Forward through the top-of-the-range gym and you are greeted by a spa many five-star hotels would be proud of. A solid Carrara marble cold plunge-pool leads into a large sauna, and there is also a hydrotherapy bath. Next door is a massage suite, where a permanent on board masseuse can offer up to seven different types of massage, as well as facials, manicures and pedicures. Further forward still is the observation room, where, post-massage, one can relax on the sofas and greet the approaching horizon. A door opens onto two futuristic-looking sunpads. Able to swivel 360˚ to catch (or hide from) the rays, they are equipped with an electric shade, which can be raised up and down. A circular walkway connects this enclave to the deck aft of the gym but, in true custom style, if you prefer some privacy, little LED lights just above the deck will glow red to alert crew or other guests to come back later.
“The owners wanted everything they enjoy on board, and not just a salon, sauna and fitness room, but also family and friends. They’re very generous, and they wanted their guests to be a part of it. They wanted all the children and the whole family to have their privacy,” says Veerle. Grace E has been cruising in the Caribbean, North America and Europe since her debut at the 2014 Monaco Yacht Show and, according to Cooney, one of the most popular areas on board so far has been the bridge deck. “When the doors are fully retracted, the exterior and interior areas become one beautiful space,” he says. With bleached wenge floors, a hideaway television and large, comfortable sofas in neutral greys, this is a room designed for cocktail hour relaxing. The room also features the unique sushi table where the chef prepares fresh food in front of the guests. Everything on board is geared towards healthy living, and although a familiar concept today, four years ago when the boat was in build it was not so widespread, and is indicative of the prescient vision the owners had for their yacht.
While Grace E is certainly modern in her aesthetics and amenities, the real coup is reserved for below decks. “The owners are very conscious about their impact on the environment,” says Veerle. “They wanted to be able to do full circumnavigations in hot and cold climates, but also wanted a green yacht. The hull was tested through and through to provide the least resistance and most fuel efficiency.” Grace E’s propulsion is provided by diesel-electric azipods, rather than a traditional shaft-driven engine, on the owner’s request. “This is very novel,” says Veerle. “She’s the smallest yacht in the world with these kind of azipods, and they make it possible to go anywhere. They also installed the dynamic positioning system, because if you want to go to an area with beautiful reefs, you don’t want to be part of the destruction of those reefs. They have anchors, of course, for safety reasons, but they can choose not to use them.” The system uses the azipods, which can swivel 360˚, and when a GPS location is logged into the system the boat can be kept on that same position in up to 35 knots of breeze. The propulsion system has the benefit of being exceptionally smooth and quiet. During her sea trials, one passenger asked when they would be leaving harbour, not realising they were already doing 14 knots. “We started playing around after that!” says Veerle. “We filled a couple of glasses on every deck, right to the top, to see when they would spill. They didn’t! And Philippe [Briand] is very proud of that, and I think he deserves recognition for it, because he really did a superb job on the stability of the yacht. One weekend, he said ‘there are 6cm that just don’t work’. And after eight hours he had found what he needed, but I remember him talking about 6cm on a boat that big. We sometimes make fun of him, but it’s his strength.”
Cooney describes the yacht as “spectacular, and relaxing but luxurious”, and much of the feel of the yacht is down to Rémi Tessier’s vision to bridge the interior and exterior spaces in a contemporary way. When asked what springs to mind when he thinks of Grace E Tessier says “peace, elegance and modernity”, and it is obvious why. The sense of space is immediately apparent, with open-plan salons and clever use of deck space. Little touches add to the gravitas of the design, such as drinks tables built into the aft sofas and the use of polished stainless steel on the door frames, blurring the boundaries between interior and exterior. “One of my favourite parts of the design process was building the relationship with the clients,” says Tessier. “The owners gave us the responsibility to create an exclusive design world for them, and were very involved in the sourcing of the contemporary art collection to fit perfectly with the rest of the design.”
Establishing a connection with the sea was an important philosophy behind the design for the owners, and, in the master cabin, pale blue and aqua accents amongst creams and neutrals provide a calming ambiance, as well as complementing the yacht’s exterior lines. A full-width bathroom features separate his’n’hers showers and sinks, separated by a huge solid limestone bath. Two dressing rooms and a study complete the suite. Aft of the master cabin are two en-suite guest cabins, which also benefit from the natural light afforded by the huge windows. Below are the remaining four cabins, two twins and two doubles, which can be turned into two suites of a double and twin by a joining door, making it ideal for families with children.
In the main salon, the dining table offers flexible eating for up to 16. Leather carpets, onyx, polished stainless steel and palladium leaf on the ceilings all add to the contemporary feel on board, as well as custom backlit coffee tables. On the aft deck is a cocktail bar and relaxed outdoor seating area, as well as the exercise pool and deckchairs. The area is slightly sunken into the deck, creating privacy and drawing you closer to the sea.
Of the crew quarters, Cooney says: “The area is exceptional and came about from direct involvement with the owners.” Choices for downtime include a 70 square metre lounge and a private crew-only gym. Grace E also has a lift, which sits in the centre of the yacht, and links all the decks. The shimmering gold colour as you approach is actually gold thread laminated between two sheets of glass. “The idea is that it lets light through, so you’re not obscuring the light in the lobbies and communal areas, and you can also see through it when you’re inside,” says Cooney.
Grace E is also equipped with an Oculus entertainment system, allowing guests to track their position on their televisions and zoom in and out on their locations, as well as watching real-time footage of the yacht under way from various cameras. Guest itineraries, menus and safety information also feature.
Grace E was brought to life by a wide range of people, from her designers and builders to her owners who had a vision right from the start, and she certainly deserves all her recent awards and accolades. She is not just visually stunning; the effort to include her eco-friendly systems certainly has to be applauded, and anything that looks simple, is almost certainly not. Perhaps her journey so far is best summed up by Philippe Briand himself on his recent visit to her in the Caribbean: “When I saw Grace E in Gustavia Harbour, the sun setting behind her, I thought of something Charles Baudelaire once said: ‘Everything that is beautiful and noble is the product of reason and calculation.’ I felt it was a job well done.”