With a steady Force 6 greeting us on test day, one reef was dropped in that formidable 250-square metre, fully-battened main, and with the full genoa unfurled, we were off. And I mean off, at over 13 knots on an obedient close-reach. There’s one word that sums up the experience of sailing a Swan of this size – power. Like a great white, where strength flows from every sinew, the 90S’ stiff construction, carbon rig and running rigging all combine to efficiently convert wind into raw power.
Despite the large step down, the afterguard is the place to absorb this, from behind the wheels or manning the main. With canvas filled, tracking steady and true, I tried to force her down, to test her grip and see if she might complain – not a chance! Coming up close to the wind (45ºA) we were making 13.5 knots in 24 knots wind, rising quickly to 15 when cracking off. Not bad for a quick spin of a new boat… especially when you consider there were nearly 20 aboard and she was leaving for a shakedown cruise the next day so carried full tanks.
The only dampner to this impressive out-of-the-box performance was a lack of deck security. This is the unfortunate trade-off result when builders curtail completely to the modern penchant for ultra clean decks: it may be a visual feast, complete with an abundance of sunbathing area, but, at sea, low coamings and flush decks on such a large scale make getting around quite precarious. The foredeck at least has three bracing strips along the centerline, but even with the raised coachroof, there’s little protection given. And the low backrests to the benches are uncomfortable. But safety and comfort whinges are soon forgiven when you’re handed the wheel of this beast. The twin clear-coated carbon affairs are linked via chain and sprocket and JP3 self-aligning bearings, and provide rewarding communication even on this scale.
Offshore Spars built the swept spreader carbon mast with park-avenue boom, while the rigging is EC6+ from Southern. Manual crew work is all but abolished thanks to the custom Bosch-Rexroth hydraulics: they control the furling headstay, inner forestay tensioner, jib halyard, vang, backstay, and cunningham, all via pushbutton from the helms’ pedestals (plus anchor windlass and retractable bow thruster).
While the 90S can be built using E-glass/vinylester, Solleone is in carbon sandwich, with reinforcement and bulkheads done in vacuum-infused carbon. The deck was Nautor’s first big project in pre-preg carbon (before constructing the new 60 and 80 models entirely using this method), in sandwich honeycomb construction bonded to the hull. The keel uses a high modulus steel fin, while the carbon/epoxy rudder has a sacrificial base to prevent damage to the carbon stock.