BOAT REVIEW Wind Spirit – LSB 24m Expedition Ketch

Sailboat Reviews
Words by Lawrence Schäffler. Photography by SubZero Images.
OUR RATING
4.5 STARS
Performance
Economy
Handling
Value
Build Quality
Specification
MODEL DETAILS
MODEL Wind Spirit – LSB 24m Expedition Ketch
DESIGNER Arnaud De Marignac
BUILDER Lloyd Stevenson Boatbuilders
CONSTRUCTION Cold-moulded multi-layer strip-plank yellow cedar encased in E-glass and Kevlar
SPECIFICATIONS
LOA 24M
LENGTH (Waterline) 22M
BEAM 5.6M
DRAFT 3.8M
DISPLACEMENT 50000kg
ENGINE 1 x John Deer 280hp
FUEL CAPACITY 6000L
HIGHLIGHTS
  • Her eco credentials – clever design for a minimalist footprint
  • Construction – seriously strong to handle extreme sailing
OBSERVATIONS
  • Very comfortable interior – if you’re going to visit obscure destinations, you may as well do it in style

Crafted by Auckland’s Lloyd Stevenson Boatbuilders (LSB) and launched in September 2022, the 24m expedition ketch Wind Spirit is an exceptional vessel which impresses on multiple fronts, but it’s her ‘design-for-purpose’ philosophy that’s most fascinating.


The ketch was commissioned by an European gent – an adventurous, highly-experienced sailor whose design brief can be paraphrased thus: “extended, off-chart, autonomous cruising, visiting some of the most remote places on the planet, especially in the high latitudes. Often sailing solo.”
Wind Spirit is the embodiment of that ideal. And some.
She was penned by Arnaud De Marignac – a Swiss designer based in Mauritius and himself a vastly experienced bluewater sailor. I caught up with him in Auckland while he was commissioning the yacht, before delivering her to Brest in France (via Cape Horn) over the Xmas/New Year period.
Quite a daunting maiden voyage, you’d agree, and guaranteed to be a stern test not only of De Marignac’s design but also of the ketch’s build and her innovative technology. He’s not been around the Horn before but isn’t concerned about what it might throw at him: “this is a very strong boat – definitely built for heavy-weather sailing.”

Designer Arnaud De Marignac, below.

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His confidence stems from her 50mm, cold-moulded, yellow cedar, strip-plank hull – six longitudinal and diagonal layers encased in an e-glass skin – with a liberal use of Kevlar in high-load areas. Consider the bow, for example.
Given the owner’s desire to explore the icy latitudes, the yacht’s equipped with a one-metre sacrificial bow section, backed by a watertight bulkhead. “Ice is obviously a concern,” says De Marignac, “but actually the owner’s more worried about hitting a semi-submerged container. With a heavy impact the bow will crumble but the hull’s integrity won’t be compromised.”

Wind Spirit, ready to take on the world.

Shorthanded sailing
Fractional ketch rigs are somewhat unusual in an era that leans to sloops with square-topped mains, but it makes perfect sense, says De Marignac, for someone who’s likely to be sailing shorthanded – or even solo – on a 24m vessel.
“A ketch offers a decent sail plan distributed across smaller sails that are easier to handle. The rig also makes it easier to balance the loads on the sails and keel/rudder – and a balanced boat reduces the electrical load on the autopilot. A ketch rig also helps to keep the boat more manageable if she loses her rudder.”

Despite the conservative approach, the deck-stepped carbon masts and booms (Hall Spars) carry a diverse sail wardrobe that will cater to all conditions – a main, two jibs, mizzen, mizzen staysail and a code 0.
To manage them all Wind Spirit’s deck carries 17 large, Harken winches – and if you’re guessing that most are electric to facilitate shorthanded/solo sailing, well, you’d be wrong. The owner prefers ‘true’ sailing and savouring the elements – and as everyone knows there’s nothing quite as satisfying as taming a demonic sheet in a full gale on an angled deck awash with green water. Only three of the Harkens are electric.
This ‘manual-winch-true-sailing’ ethos could also be viewed as slightly odd given that Wind Spirit is pretty much a fully-electric vessel, with only the 280hp John Deere diesel on the debit side of the carbon emissions ledger. But there you go.

Wind Spirit is powered by a torquey 280hp John Deere diesel.

An electric boat
Two drivers, says De Marignac, shaped the owner’s insistence on an electrically-oriented vessel: “he is deeply aware that many of the places Wind Spirit will be visiting are pristine ecological environments and he wants to leave as few ‘fingerprints’ as possible. Secondly, it’s about common sense – he’s an avid believer in the reliability and efficiency of modern electrical technology.”
On an obvious level this belief is evident in the 3m rubber dinghy with its 10hp (equivalent) electric Torqeedo outboard (it lives in the stern garage). But look more closely and you’ll find plenty of examples of the yacht’s overwhelmingly electrical infrastructure (240-volts AC, as well as 12-, 24- and 48-volts DC). All superbly and seamlessly integrated, and all overseen by an ever-alert CZone system.

Wind Spirit‘s timber interior exudes warmth and comfort.

There’s the oven and induction hob, the fridge, freezer and water maker, the dive compressor and the electric bow and stern thrusters (these retract into the hull to reduce drag). Many of these accessories run on 240-volts AC (through an inverter) fed by a large bank of lithium-ion batteries. In keeping with the owner’s eco-preferences, the boat doesn’t carry a generator, nor any petrol or gas.
Instead, supplementary battery charging comes from an array of solar panels and two Watt and Sea hydro-generators. These underwater units are mounted near the trailing edge of the keel. Again, to reduce drag they have clutches which can be disengaged when not on charging duties, allowing their propellers to freewheel.

While the CZone orchestrates much of the boat’s electrical systems, ‘grand central’ is the high-performance B&G touch screen. “The technology is wonderfully integrated and gives the skipper an enormous amount of freedom to attend to various tasks around the boat,” says De Marignac. “It’s true, autonomous control – ideal for solo sailing.”

Building Wind Spirit
As the designer and owner’s agent, how did De Marignac end up selecting LSB to create Wind Spirit? Serendipity, he confesses.
“I investigated numerous boatyards around the world – mainly in Europe but also in the US. That process included a few facilities in New Zealand, but Lloyd Stevenson Boatbuilders wasn’t on my list – I wasn’t even aware of it.”
He only heard about the company once he’d arrived in the country (around four years ago) and decided to drop in for a visit. “I liked what I saw – the people and the culture – but especially the depth of the company’s timber and composite construction expertise. The choice was obvious – and the rest is history.” The boat took three years to build.

Wind Spirit‘s exceptional strength begins with her six-layer strip-plank hull construction.

Peter Brooking – LSB’s project manager for Wind Spirit – says the build was a little unusual for the company. “We pride ourselves on our timber construction track record, but six layers of cedar strip was a first for us. Her sheer size was also a challenge – initially when creating enough room in the shed to accommodate her bulk – but again when turning the completed hull the right way up.”
Accessing the cedar wasn’t an issue, he adds, because it comes from a sustainably grown, managed forestry resource. “I think that dove-tailed nicely with the owner’s environmental sentiments.”

Venturing into inhospitable spots scattered around the planet – places typically renowned for their icy, shrieking winds – you’d be forgiven for assuming that the vessel’s interior would be a no-frills, utilitarian affair. Indeed, as De Marignac himself points out, “she’s an expedition yacht, not a superyacht.”

Well, in this case the line between utilitarian and luxury is a little blurry – and definitely sits on the luxury side of the equation. As you’d expect from a builder with LSB’s timber credentials, the vessel’s interior is superbly executed with precision joinery that accentuates the flowing lines of De Marignac’s design.
The warm tones of the naturally finished anegre wood paneling creates a snug ambience and the careful orientation of the timber’s grain draws the eye to the interior’s symmetry. The anegre’s warmth is also complemented by the grey floors – vinyl but with a timber pattern – very functional and hard-wearing, but aesthetically attractive.

“Our chaps were in their element – it was obviously a challenging project because of the detail and the level of accuracy it required,” says Brooking, “but I can confidently say they rose to the task and enjoyed it immensely.”

A hint of the kind of cruising Wind Spirit will pursue comes from the sturdy, stainless steel grab rails below – they’re everywhere – and let’s face it, they’ll be needed when negotiating the vessel’s length and large spaces in a chaotic sea.
But for me the clearest indication of her future programme is her galley. It begins with the secure, U-shaped station for the chef (convenient bracing), underscored by the robust fiddle rails on the hob and the expansive stainless-steel surfaces (thoughtfully designed to capture any stew escaping from the chef’s serving spoons).

Utility with precision and style.

And note the joinery’s rounded corners – much kinder on the body. There’s even a full-height, glass splash-back behind the sinks – that will keep dirty dish water off the unsuspecting crew sitting around the nearby saloon table.

How does she go?
The accompanying sailing images were taken in very light wind and obviously aren’t representative of Wind Spirit’s abilities. But De Marignac is more than delighted with her performance. “She quickly proved her credentials during commissioning. In a 20-plus-knot wind on the Hauraki Gulf we cruised upwind at a little over 10 knots. I didn’t really expect that from a 50-tonne boat.”

A ketch offers a decent sail plan distributed over smaller sails that are easier to handle.

He’s likely to get a lot more wind crossing the Southern Ocean and rounding Cape Horn, but I’m confident Wind Spirit will take it all in her stride.
Congratulations LSB, on a fine creation.

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