Atalante is much more than a yacht to her owners, she is a conscious evolution of a way of life. Launched in 2015 at Dutch yard Claasen, the 38.8-metre is a bigger version of the yacht they had before, built by the same team.
Enjoying the last day of a Mediterranean regatta, the owner of the 38.8-metre Claasen Atalante has time to reflect on the build and first cruising season. “A lot of thinking went in to how I would sail the boat myself,” he explains. “My main worry going into this size range was that we would lose touch with the ocean, and the brief to Andre Hoek, which I think he delivered perfectly, was that we wanted a bigger boat with more space, but we still wanted to be in touch with the water and be able to spin the boat on a sixpence, and she does that. We saw that on the course today, you turn the wheel and she just goes around, very quick. She’s classic in style but we’ve got modern technology, like the carbon spade rudder at the back for performance sailing.”
The owner is himself an accomplished sailor and enjoys taking the helm, but this doesn’t diminish the role of his captain. The two have a long-standing relationship on multiple yachts, and this relationship encourages the smooth running on board. “One of my favourite parts of this yacht is honestly the owners,” explains James, the captain. “It’s the atmosphere on board. I think on every boat it starts with the owner. On Atalante it comes from the top down: the owners are wonderful, so they involve other people that are wonderful. They choose good and talented people. It has been the best part of the process, in that they’ve really created it.” Atalante is an evolution of the owners’ previous yacht, and they have incorporated all the elements that worked for them before. “I think one of the reasons the owner went bigger was to enjoy the build process again,” says James. “Everybody loved the previous boat, so in building this one we tried to not upset that balance. We didn’t want something that needs too many crew or that isn’t intimate any more, or that loses the feel of sailing. As we saw in the regatta today, we can come down very easily, everything is very smooth and responsive, and we didn’t lose any of that feel by going up a size.”
The first year of cruising has also been a success, and the yacht has already done over 15,000 nautical miles, including a maiden cruise to Malta for her christening, a shakedown Mediterranean season followed by a winter in the Caribbean and another Mediterranean summer. “The christening in Malta was a real standout moment for us,” says the owner’s wife. “We had about 80 friends come down and stay for a long weekend, it was fabulous. We had a great spot in the old harbour, right underneath one of the forts, and a large marquee right next to the boat.” The owners are social, and the boat is laid-out accordingly. “We tend to cruise with family and friends, we haven’t spent much time alone on her yet,” she explains.
“We pick up friends as we go, and we’ve done a trip with our sons down the French Riviera. We did a cruise from Antibes to Corsica and Sardinia, and then Capri and the Amalfi coast. We had a spectacular sail past Stromboli as it was spitting out ash and stones, and they were landing with a big splash in the sea! We were far enough off but it was amazing to watch.”
Andre Hoek designed the interior, with furnishings by Hamilton Weston of London. Unusually, the main salon and bar is located between the master and guest cabins, providing a more private space than a traditional cockpit and removing the inconvenience of crew and guest traffic through a room designed for relaxing in. “We were really involved with the interior design, that was very important to us,” says the owner’s wife. “We wanted that separation because it’s nice to have a communal area that doesn’t feel like a corridor. It works well, particularly in the Med. When the sun goes down it goes right under the bimini, you can be sitting in the shade but it’s still 30˚, so we got into the habit of slipping down into the bar until the sun had gone over the horizon, and then we come back on deck for dinner. That works well, it’s really lovely.”
“We designed the boat and developed the hull in such a way that Atalante can race, sail as a family cruiser and do charters, and the interior layout is flexible,” says Andre Hoek. “The boat has two deckhouses, which suits the family. When cruising they have four crew but for charter they have five so we have a flex cabin that doubles as the captain’s study depending on how the boat is being used. The boat is designed to go to the Pacific, so there is a large laundry and a big freezer.” As he also designed the previous boat, it made the process easier for Hoek. “We knew what style of boat they wanted, both on the outside and the inside,” he says. “We wanted to create a yacht that would sail well and feel like a real sail boat. I think we succeeded very well.”
For the owner, racing is firmly on the agenda. “One of the first things we did when we got to the Caribbean was a regatta. The objective was to have fun, but we had a charter booked for the week after and didn’t want to break anything! This week was also good, we learnt a lot, and we were very close to some much bigger and faster yachts. And it was fun, which is the main point!” Bucking the trend of hiring ‘celebrity’ regatta crew, the owner likes to sail the yacht himself and populate Atalante with people he trusts. “The crew are all people that we know and have sailed with before, none are flown-in ‘rockstars’, they’re just people who love sailing. It’s a quiet experience compared to some yachts: it’s relaxed and a sign of a good group of people, with a sense of humour! We race for fun. You have to be comfortable with the way you’re sailing the boat. A couple of years ago on a previous boat we had some outside sailors on. I wasn’t comfortable with how they were pushing and we actually broke a few things. It was like the boat had been taken over and I didn’t like that. I always sail, and I enjoy it, otherwise we wouldn’t do it, and getting the best out of the boat always keeps you interested.”
Atalante is a true second home for her owners, and has all the benefits of being brand new but retaining the qualities that previously worked so well. Built to sail the world, she benefits as much from the comfort of the relationships on board as the well-thought-out spaces. A schedule divided between regattas and cruising creates a dynamism that keeps both owners and crew happy and revitalised. Atalante is certainly an ambassador for what’s best about the superyacht life.
This story first appeared in SuperYacht World Issue 54