King of Carbon: Michael Schmidt of YYachts
An Admiral’s Cup winner and former owner of Hanse Yachts, Michael Schmidt launched YYachts in 2016 to build 70-100ft carbon-fibre sailing yachts that are fast, luxurious and easy to operate, with sales rising for the upcoming flagship Y9.
Michael Schmidt developed YYachts to build carbon yachts
Michael, can you give a brief overview of your yachting life, in building, selling and racing?
I have been involved with boats since I was a little boy. I grew up on the water in Kiel and I went sailing whenever there was time … or not! Later, with the brokerage company Schmidt & Partner, I traded in yachts of all sizes, then with Yachtwerft Wedel I built some of the fastest IOR racers of the 1980s (including Pinta, Düsselboot, Outsider and Container).
In 1985, as skipper of Rubin, I won the Admiral’s Cup for Germany. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, I moved to the former GDR (East Germany), founded a new shipyard in the historic Hanseatic port of Greifswald in 1990 and gradually built it up into a big player. When I left there and virtually retired, the YYachts brand slowly emerged as I was looking for a yacht for myself.
Over a dozen units of the Y7 have been built
What exactly what were you looking for?
I was looking for a light 80-footer with a good design that I could even sail alone. When I didn’t find anything like that on the market, I started with my own concept. The real challenge is to reduce a yacht to the essentials. That way, there are fewer sources of error and only a very small crew is needed.
Our credo at YYachts is ‘the simpler the boat, the purer the sailing experience and the greater the pleasure’. In addition, a yacht must be as light as possible so that it already sets sail when others are still motoring.
Schmidt built Cool Breeze (the first Y8) for himself
Having decided to build your own yacht, why did you choose Lorenzo Argento for the design of Cool Breeze, the first Y8?
Lorenzo, who worked for Brenta Yacht Design at the time, won the design competition. At YYachts, we like to work with Italians. Their understanding of design harmonises perfectly with the demands of us and our customers.
It seems like a major investment to start a new shipyard and brand, so what led to the desire to create the Michael Schmidt Yachtbau facility on the Baltic Sea and the YYachts brand?
I have not only invested in yacht building but in different areas and industries. The construction of the shipyard was necessary because there was demand. And only in a modern shipyard can production be as controlled as is absolutely necessary for such yachts.
Michael Schmidt Yachtbau began operating in late 2016
The entire production facility was built from scratch in record time in 2016 and was ready for production in December of the same year. We are passionate about building light, fast sailing yachts from 20-30m offering maximum comfort. Everyone at the shipyard loves the sea, just like our yacht owners do.
Can you tell us about your facility and production methods?
We build the hulls, decks and rigs exclusively in carbon-fibre and use our specially heated paint shop to finish them to perfection. Each yacht is oven-tempered to permanently bond the many layers of carbon-fibre and resin together, giving the hull strength and solidity.
The specially heated paint shop
The production area is equipped with modern, technologically advanced systems, but at the same time simple and straightforward to live up to YYachts’ ‘keep it simple’ philosophy. We develop concepts that simply work but do not sacrifice comfort or good design.
In the production process, the various components and interior areas of the boats are built in modular processing to optimise production time, efficiency and precision of assembly. This allows YYachts to reduce production times and avoid downtime. Production time is around six months for the Y7, 11 months for the Y8 and no more than 18 months for the Y9, YYachts’ flagship.
What are the advantages of carbon?
Carbon-fibre is the forward-looking material that will revolutionise yachts in the coming decades. It was the preferred construction material in aerospace and was then successfully used in high performance sports such as Formula 1, America’s Cup and Volvo Ocean Race.
The Y7 is YYachts’ best-selling model
Today, YYachts uses this advanced material to produce lightweight yet luxurious carbon yachts that are very easy to sail. In the design and manufacturing of our yachts, the hull, deck, entire structure, bulkheads and rigging are made of carbon-fibre, predominantly epoxy resin. This achieves very high strength and rigidity with a low weight.
Compared to conventional builds, our yachts are up to 50 per cent lighter, which improves sailing performance. Our yachts are optimised for low weight in every detail, so they sail at very good speed even in light winds. This also means transfers under engine can be largely dispensed with, which significantly reduces fuel consumption, an example of our focus on sustainability.
Why is sustainability important to you?
Because the wind is free, sailing is one of the cleanest, most ecological ways to travel and enjoy your holiday. We make concrete efforts to reduce the use of fossil fuels on board and minimise our ecological footprint.
The custom-built Tripp 90 uses eco-friendly Lignia wood for its decking
YYachts has introduced many innovations over the years such as replacing teak decks with Lignia wood, a natural wood with a much lower ecological footprint. This wood is an alternative to the classic Burmese teak, which is heavily affected by deforestation.
Other new, innovative developments at YYachts include using sandwich materials made from flax or recycled PET bottles to replace traditional construction materials.
Instead of implementing complex high-voltage propulsion systems, we run the yacht with two engines, each with an additional alternator that charges the large battery banks in less than 10 hours. In addition, we install solar panels on the fixed bimini that provide another 4-8kW of charging power during the day.
Interior of a Y7
Why did you choose Bill Tripp to design the Y7?
Bill Tripp is one of the world’s best designers and naval architects. He’s very experienced and the yachts he has designed have won numerous regattas. His standards are the same as ours. By using carbon-fibre and lightweight material in the luxurious interior of the Y7, we achieve a high sail-carrying capacity and a large keel weight, which results in a fast 70-footer.
Due to the modular construction, the layout can be adapted to the owner’s wishes. The stern garage is installed transversely in the stern, completely watertight, which creates more volume in the interior. The crew has separate access to their cabins in the cockpit. All halyards, sheets and extensions run directly to the steering columns, so the helmsman can always operate the Y7 alone.
The new Y8 offers 20 per cent more volume than the original
What are the main differences in terms of space and features on the Y8 and the upcoming Y9?
We are currently launching a new Y8 with 20 per cent more interior volume than its predecessor. This results in many different layout options. For example, the owner’s suite with a separate saloon can be located either in the bow or in the stern where it has direct access to the cockpit. The galley can be installed open or closed, and three or four cabins can be fitted. (For more details, see link below)
YYachts by Michael Schmidt Yachtbau is building a new Y8 designed by Palma studio Surge Projects that offers 20 per cent more volume than its predecessor.
With the Y9, we have built a yacht that combines both sailing performance and large interior spaces. The Y9 resembles a 100ft ship in terms of speed, interior space and her long, clean look. The owner has a suite with a private saloon and dressing room. A Y9 can also be highly customised in terms of layout. We already have three Y9s under construction and two more orders (as of December 2021).
Set to launch in 2022, the Y9 is YYachts’ flagship production model
What was the reception to the Y7 and Tripp 90 (Review, Issue 62) at the 2021 Cannes Yachting Festival, and how do you believe YYachts is positioned to expand including here in Asia?
We had a very good response in Cannes, which is the most important show for YYachts. We have a good position in the market with our philosophy, our construction and our design. We sell all over the world and Asia is a market that can develop even further.
Specialising in luxury carbon sailing yachts from 70-100ft, Germany’s YYachts has launched its custom-built Tripp 90, which features an exterior by Bill Tripp and a richly detailed interior by Winch Design – and will be followed by the Y9 model in 2022. By John Higginson.