Hear from the owner of the new Spirit 72 about his first season racing and cruising onboard.
Launched earlier this year, the latest Spirit 72 spent the summer racing in classic regattas and cruising the Channel Islands and South West England. We caught up with Gwenhyfar II’s owner Peter to find out how his first season went.
Above: Gwenhyfar II sailing in home waters in Guernsey, credit Waterline Media
Peter, before we find out what you’ve been up to onboard Gwenhyfar II this summer, can you tell us a bit more about your original brief for the yacht?
I previously owned a Spirit 63 Deckhouse (the first Gwenhyfar, meaning ‘white spirit’ in Welsh), which was very much designed for cruising. Whilst sailing Gwenhyfar, I “got the racing bug” as they say and I decided it was time for an upgrade. I worked closely with the team at Spirit on the goal for Gwenhyfar II, which was to create a beautiful yacht capable of performance racing. She isn’t an out-and-out racer though; she is also equipped for ocean crossings and cruising with family and friends.
Talk us through how you felt when Gwenhyfar II was first launched.
Well, the first thing to say is that I love the design and build process with Spirit. I have owned several yachts before I came to Spirit and the experience of working with their team to create something unique is captivating. Each visit shows the yacht taking shape and the collaboration involved with the decisions along the way is very rewarding.
Her launch was a very special time; to see her looking serene in the water after such an involved design and build journey was quite emotional. My wife and I invited family and friends to Suffolk for a few days. We all went sailing on Gwenhyfar II and then we celebrated with the Spirit team in the evening. Everyone from family to old friends, my crew, and all the talented people at Spirit who created her were there; it was a memorable day for us all.
Above: Gwenhyfar II was designed for racing and cruising, credit Waterline Media
And shortly after the launch party you had your first shakedown sail?
Yes! We stayed close to Spirit’s home of Ipswich and we took part in a local classic regatta at Suffolk Yacht Harbour. Several of my crew, who are all good friends, came over and we had the Spirit team onboard too. Suffolk waters are pretty shallow for our 3.2m draft, so we needed some local knowledge onboard! It was a fun weekend and the perfect way to ease Gwenhyfar II (and her crew!) into racing. We were sensible and didn’t push her so soon after launch, but it was clear from the beginning she handles beautifully. We were all immediately impressed with her sailing performance.
Above: racing at the Suffolk Yacht Harbour Regatta, credit Toby Essex Productions
Where did you go after racing in Suffolk?
One of the highlights of my year on my first Gwenhyfar was British Classic Week in Cowes, so I always said that would be Gwenhyfar II’s proper maiden regatta. I can’t explain how much fun we have as a crew. When we are racing, we all take it seriously but there is no shouting or stress. The mood onboard is competitive yet calm, and we just get out there and enjoy it. Once ashore the beers start flowing and the laughter is non-stop. I can feel everyone is proud to be part of the crew on such a stand-out yacht.
This year’s British Classic Week was just as fun, and we enjoyed being well out ahead in front of the fleet! Our first race was a 30nm passage race in which we took line honours. It was a windy week, but Gwenhyfar II handled the choppy Solent like a dream, and we saw speeds of 16-17 knots whilst racing.
Above: racing in the Solent at British Classic Week, credit Chris Brown
Did you do any cruising amongst all the racing?
My wife and I had a few weeks living onboard with another couple in August. Unfortunately, the great British weather let us down for anything too long distance, so we stayed close to our home port of Guernsey. After a cruise across to Alderney (Channel Islands), we sailed up to the southwest coast of England and spent a wonderful couple of weeks on the Devon and Cornwall coasts. Due to the weather, we spent a lot of time onboard cooking, reading, and relaxing, or we took the tender ashore to go walking and exploring the fantastic local restaurants.
Above: Gwenhyfar II’s spacious owners’ cabin is a celebration of natural timbers and craftsmanship, credit Waterline Media
How did you find cruising onboard Gwenhyfar II given her specification for racing?
Her rig, sails, and deck gear are very race orientated but her interior is warm, spacious, and has everything you need for cruising. We avoided adding too much weight for racing, but she still has a fridge, freezer, air-conditioning, heating, an induction hob, and a top-spec oven. We even have heated towel rails!
One of my favourite things is to cook onboard, with music on, glass of wine to one side, whilst we all chat in the open plan galley and saloon. It’s a great social and entertaining space. We would then all sit around the saloon table for dinner and play games into the night.
As mentioned, we cruised with one other couple and we had a deckhand onboard, who took the second guest cabin. All the cabins are ensuite, which means everyone has their privacy. Having a deckhand was a nice luxury and he was a helpful pair of hands, but we could have managed with the four of us.
Above: the open plan galley and saloon area is well equipped for luxury cruising
What’s next for Gwenhyfar II as we head into the winter and looking ahead to 2024?
She will winter in St Peter Port in Guernsey. When we open her back up in the spring, we’ll be doing some familiarisation weekends with the race crew and day sailing around the Channel Islands.
We’re looking forward to welcoming the Spirit fleet back to Guernsey in June, when we’ll compete in the bi-annual Spirit Yachts Regatta. The buzz on the island during the regatta is palpable and it’s a fantastic week of racing and socialising with fellow owners and crew.
After that, we’ll be back at British Classic Week in July followed by cruising in August and September. I’d like to get to the Scilly Isles and Ireland next year.
Above: a handcrafted jewellery box integrated into a writing desk, one of the many examples of bespoke craftsmanship onboard Gwenhyfar II, credit Waterline Media
Finally, can you tell us what makes Gwenhyfar II so special?
Firstly, it’s her sheerline (the longitudinal line along the top of the hull from bow to stern). I fell in love with that line from the early design phase. It’s perfection and the first thing I look at every time I see Gwenhyfar II.
Secondly, it’s her soul. Every owner puts a piece of their personality into a Spirit. Combine that with the passion and creativity of the team who designed and built her, and you get something very special.