Projects: Spirit 54: a Bond girl with a difference
When Daniel Craig cruised the Spirit 54 along Venice’s Grand Canal in the 2006 James Bond movie Casino Royale, it was the first time a sailing boat had entered those waters for 300 years. We spoke to the Spirit Yachts team about this breathtaking wooden beauty and discovered how WEST SYSTEM® epoxy resin had more than just a bit-part to play in her construction.
“The filming schedule was extremely intense, and the multiple changes of location involved taking her mast in and out a total of ten times” says Nigel Stuart, Managing Director of Spirit Yachts. “To film on the Grand Canal, the mast needed dropping, re-stepping and taking down again once filming was complete; she was the first sailing yacht in that part of the canal for 300 years.”
When the Casino Royale team approached Spirit, they knew the Suffolk-based classic yacht builder could create a boat to stand out from the crowd. “Bond is obviously famous for his taste in classic cars like the Aston Martin, so the production team were looking for a quality build. That’s why they came to Spirit,” says Nigel. “Every yacht in the Spirit portfolio is entirely crafted in wood, so they ooze quality and classic elegance. It was a great opportunity to showcase British craftsmanship.”
“Every yacht in the Spirit portfolio is entirely crafted in wood, so they ooze quality and classic elegance.”
Speed and sophistication
Like every other Spirit yacht, the Spirit 54 (actually named ‘Soufrière’, after a dormant volcano on the French island of Guadeloupe) is the pinnacle of elegance. A scaled-up version of the Spirit 52, she is built entirely in wood and epoxy, featuring the company’s iconic mahogany topsides and teak deck, as well as two double cabins with en-suite facilities. There’s also a spacious living area, complete with mahogany dining table and a well-equipped galley.
However, just like every Spirit yacht, looks are only part of the package; behind Soufrière’s glossy wooden exterior beats the heart of a racing boat. At just 8.1 tons, with 40% of that weight in the keel, she’s light for her size. Plus she has a carbon mast, jacked rig and racing sails. “We treat wood as an engineering product. With the right construction techniques, wood and epoxy can build very lightweight, stiff boats. In comparison to our own production methods, fibreglass is heavy,” says Nigel.
Building the Bond boat
Construction of the iconic 007 boat followed the same process as every Spirit yacht, beginning with the hull. The Spirit team laminated Sapele ring frames in epoxy over full-size, computer-generated patterns. They then positioned the ring frames and bulkheads onto a ‘strongback’ – a lengthwise bracing beam, designed to add strength – before the hull planks were glued into position.
“We then meticulously bevelled everything, ready for the first layers of Douglas fir planking to be glued into place with epoxy,” says Nigel. Next, the whole assembly was faired, before the team covered the hull with 3mm Khaya veneers. “We applied the veneer strips in a double-diagonal formation, at 90° to the first layer of planking. They were bonded with epoxy, using vacuum bagging techniques. This creates a super-strong structure,” explains Nigel.
The final stages of the Spirit 54 build saw the hull sheathed with biaxial fibreglass cloth and epoxy. “This created an almost totally waterproof barrier,” says Nigel. “The process also makes the hull even stronger, while providing an excellent base for the topside paintwork.” Spirit Yachts also used epoxy for teak deck bonding and interior carpentry.
“We use WEST SYSTEM products across our whole portfolio and for absolutely everything; we don’t use any other glue or epoxy products at all”
Clearly, epoxy had a critical role to play throughout this build. WEST SYSTEM Epoxy Products were the only ones used, namely 105 Epoxy Resin®, 205 Fast Hardener® and 206 Slow Hardener®. “We use WEST SYSTEM products across our whole portfolio and for absolutely everything; we don’t use any other glue or epoxy products at all,” says Nigel. “WEST SYSTEM products are consistent, industry-standard products that we can trust to deliver the strength and durability we need on every one of our builds.”
A sought-after style
Not long after Soufrière’s debut in the 2006 movie, Spirit Yachts had enquiries coming in thick and fast. “We had about four times our normal yearly enquiries that year. This continued for about 18 months,” says Nigel. “Even today, we still get enquiries from people that have found us via Casino Royale.”
In the decade since the movie hit our screens, Soufrière has been showing her prowess on the international racing circuit. Just last year she placed second in Class 1 Modern Classics, won the ladies’ race and took line honours in the Round the Island race at the British Classic Yacht Club Panerai regatta on the Isle of Wight.
At the end of 2015 Soufrière came back into the Spirit Yachts fold for a freshen up. “We varnished the hull and generally took care of any wear and tear. She’s held up really well over ten years,” says Nigel. “That’s all thanks to her robust construction.”
Today, the Spirit Yachts team can be found preparing to launch two new additions to their portfolio: the Spirit 47CR and 55CR, which focus on luxurious leisure sailing with the performance for racing when needed. “We’re really excited about the new cruising range,” says Nigel. “It will be ready to launch this autumn.”
Find out more about Spirit Yachts’ 007 yacht via their website.
You can also learn more about Spirit Yachts’ brand new 47CR and 55CR here.
To see how WEST SYSTEM Epoxy Products can help you build a boat that’s licenced to thrill, visit the West System International website.
Images: Casino Royale© 2006 Danjaq, LLC & United Artists Corporation.