Samurai: The record-breaking racer refitted as a superyacht

Samurai: The record-breaking racer refitted as a superyacht

Once a record-breaking racing yacht, the newly refitted Samurai is now a sleek performance cruiser that honours her history without compromising on speed – or style.

“Commence lowering tables,” comes the order from the captain. “Lowering tables,” comes the response from the deckhand, and the cockpit tables are folded and stowed. This is not part of the starting sequence for typical racing yachts, especially ones that average speeds in excess of 20 knots. But then Samurai is far from typical, either in her original build or in her freshly refitted cruising incarnation.

As Mari-Cha IV, the 42.4 metre schooner’s sole purpose was to set speed and distance records over offshore courses with all sails handled manually (two teams of grinders and trimmers working 21 winches on deck). Delivered in 2003 to her former owner, Robert Miller, she accomplished her goal with such feats as breaking the transatlantic record right out of the box, making the crossing in six days, 17 hours, 52 minutes (a record that was only broken in July 2016 by Comanche) and setting a sailing record of 525 miles in one 24-hour period.

She also won the Rolex Transatlantic Challenge, broke the Guadeloupe to Antigua record and the Hawaii Pacific Ocean record, where Mari-Cha IVsailed 2,070 miles in just over five days, smashing the old record by 32 hours. But fame is fleeting; this former superstar was sold and eventually put out to sailing’s equivalent of pasture — a slovenly backwater berth.

Mari-Cha IV was so purpose-designed by Philippe Briand, Clay Oliverand Greg Elliott that there was just one spartan cabin below for the owner. The crew – and there would be 25 aboard to race – slept hot-bunking on pipe cots wedged fore and aft of ballast tanks and huge boxes housing hydraulic rams that canted her keel up to 40 degrees either side. The shallow underbody, more like a surfboard than a sailing yacht, and the towering schooner rig made her a theme park ride capable of 40-plus knots. She was a rocketship.

Times and ideas change. Now, those in search of speed records favour foiling multihulls or trimarans. Monohull fans favour smaller boats in the super maxi class. Even though Mari-Cha IV was state-of-the-art in composite building in 2003, a comparable sloop today weighs about 20 tonnes less. When a specialist sailing yacht broker, Will Bishop, ofYachting Partners International, began sounding out potential owners who might be interested in turning the boat into an exciting cruiser, racing purists cried “heresy”. “Of course, none of them were stepping forward to rehab the boat,” he says.

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