This article was originally published by SuperYacht Industry | Volume 3 | No. 4
As a Belgian industrialist and philanthropist with a strong Chinese connection owner Guy Ullens knew exactly what he wanted: A stylish yacht capable of fast passages and long periods of autonomy with a contemporary, bright interior. Red Dragon, defined as a true work of art, was born.
The 52m performance cruising sloop is the 24th sailing yacht and the fourth over 50m built by Alloy Yachts, New Zealand. Construction began in March 2006 and she was deliver ed to her owners, Guy and Myriam Ullens, in February 2007. In broad concept, Red Dragon is similar to the 52m sloop Kokomo, launched from Alloy Yachts in July 2006. The main deck presents an unbroken vista from the aft cockpit, through the saloon/bar/dining area all the way to the forward wheelhouse, with the principal helming position situated on the fly bridge deck above. In the detailing, however, and the interior treatment, Red Dragon breaks new ground and presents a unique and distinctive project.
Unbroken Sweep of Curved Glass
The flybridge sloop is the 16th Dubois Naval Architects yacht built by Alloy Yachts. Inside and out, the Red Dragon project has been redefined. The lines are contemporary, with a near plumb bow, subtle sheer, sweeping low-profile couch roof and an extended aft deck flowing buck to an elegant transom that slopes down to just above the waterline. The line of the coach roof extends into a long overhang, floating virtually unsupported over the aft cockpit. The hull is finished in anthracite grey with a snow white superstructure. A vivid red covestripe provides a handsome accent against the dark hull and establishes a theme repeated on the boom.
Set into the covestripe in Chinese characters is the name Red Dragon. Further attention to detail is evidenced in the fact that the aft face of the boom exactly mirrors the angle of the transom. The dark windows of the coach roof wrap all the way around in an unbroken sweep of curved glass. The cockpit side windows slide up and down at the touch of a button to allow the breeze to waft through, or provide protection from the elements as required. Previous yachts of this class have had the engine air intakes concealed behind louvers, which became part of the exterior styling. In its pursuit of clean, uncluttered design, Red Dragon has found another solution. The louvers are absent entirely and the air intakes are totally concealed within the recesses that accommodate the tinted glass panels along the side of the coach roof.
Overall Purity of Line
Perhaps the most obvious absence is any exterior timber. The ‘traditional’ varnished teak cap rails are replaced by an aluminium cap painted in the same anthracite grey as the hull. The effect is simple and contemporary, with the hull topsides presenting a continuous plane that curves into a seamless cap at the deck. Not only will the crew rejoice at avoiding an endless round of varnishing, but the visual impact is totally in keeping with the overall purity of line that the design team has sought to achieve throughout the yacht. Most components of the deck hardware package were built in-house.
The sail plan includes the fullybattened mainsail and three headsails, all furling on Reckmann hydraulic units and compromising a large reacher, a 100 percent blade and staysail. The crew tender and an array of water toys are stowed in a garage in the aft lazarette, which can be accessed through a hatch in the aft deck, or through a large watertight door when the transom folds out to create a boarding/swim platform. For ease of manoeuvring, Red Dragon features bow and stern thrusters. The bow and stern thruster units are of the same power with the same diameter tunnels. The captain commented: “The specification was that the yacht must be able to get off the dock with ease against a 25 knot beam wind. In calm conditions, the yacht should be able to go sideways under the thrusters at 4 knots.”
The Wilmotte & Associates interior perfectly complements the exterior styling with its spare, simple lines and subtle detailing. Wilmotte & Associates have an existing relationship with the owners through designing contemporary museums and art galleries. They came to the project with a fresh perspective, never having done a yacht interior before. The ambience they created is quiet and calming and elegant in its simplicity. The colors are muted and, combined with the light pouring in from the large surrounding windows, a tremendous sense of space is achieved.
This sense is heightened by the impression that much of the furniture is suspended in space, separated from the floor and walls with light spilling from concealed recesses under and around the cabinets and wardrobes. Shelves, for example, which might ordinarily butt into corners on three sides, or at least two, seem to levitate from single attachments. The wall paneling, using matt varnished blonde oak with the grain exposed, is laid in large rectangular panels with either vestigial or no architraves to outline doors. On some walls, the only element to distinguish a door is the brushed stainless handle. In contrast, occasional panels feature bold horizontal strips of tabu timber laid in tight relief, adding depth and texture. The flooring is similarly light, with pale charme laid in 110mm wide planks.
After boarding via the extending passarelle, or across the double articulating stern boarding platform, guests proceed across the extensive aft deck. This can be left clear for an evening promenade with cocktails at sunset, or used as a large sun-deck with guests reclining on stylish freestanding loungers. Guests can also access the yacht via a hydraulic side-boarding stairway on the starboard side.
From the aft deck, guests descend two steps down into the aft cockpit, which is protected overhead by the flybridge overhang and can either be opened or closed on the sides by raising or lowering the curved glass side-windows. Further protection can be provided with clear strataglass panels closing off the aft face of the cockpit. The cockpit has an alfresco dining area for ten and a lounging area with free-standing chairs arranged around a low coffee table.
Entry to the main saloon is through custom-built sliding stainless steel and glass doors. The saloon features a formal lounge across the width of the superstructure with formal dining along the starboard side and a bar along the port side. A dramatic centerline staircase descends from the forward end of the saloon to the guest accommodation area on the lower deck. This stairway is a new design element.
Its central placing not only creates distinct zones – bar, dining and saloon – on the main deck, but also creates a strong sense of connection between the ‘public’ entertainment areas of the yacht and the guest suites below. The wide stairway flows aft directly into a spacious companionway with three guest suites and a gymnasium situated on either side. The companionway terminates at the full-beam owners’ suite furthest aft.
The guest suites feature mirror-image double suites port and starboard with a third twin-bed (plus Pullman) suite on the port side opposed by a fully equipped gymnasium to starboard. The gymnasium includes a Pullman berth, if an extra bed is required. All the guest suites have individual climate control, ensuite bathrooms and full access to the Kaleidoscape entertainment system with its vast library of movies and music. A day head is also situated off this companionway.
The owner’s suite spans the full beam of the yacht with a large bed on the centerline flanked by waist-high dressers and with generous full-length wardrobes on either side of the entryway. At the foot of the bed, a narrow cabinet contains a large pop-up LCD TV monitor. The large bathroom is behind the aft bulkhead with a sensual freestanding bathtub set athwartships and separate toilet and shower cubicles on the port and starboard sides. The feeling of internal spaciousness is enhanced by furniture that appears to float unsupported with light spilling from under and behind the cabinetry. A stunning sense of light and space…
Faux Leather Desks
The wheelhouse is on the maindeck, separated from the saloon by two automatic sliding doors set into the forward bulkhead. Custombuilt pantograph doors give access to the port and starboard side decks. The comprehensive instrument and electronics control panels and displays are set into pale grey stitched faux leather desks on either side of the service companionway which descends down the centreline.
The companionway opens onto a landing with the captain’s double ensuite cabin to port and a fully-equipped laundry to starboard. Down another level, the companionway opens directly into the large galley, which is finished in stainless steel and glacier white corian counter and cabinet fronts. Following the L-shaped counter is a headhigh suspended pot-storage rail. Inset into the counter is a large rectangular chilled stainless steel plate for preparing pastry. The galley is equipped with custom ‘step-in’ refrigerator and freezer, induction cook tops and wok and a commercial-style Hobart oven.
Twin Helm Stations
Across from the galley on the port side, is the crew mess with seating for ten and a full array of ship’s monitors and alarms. Access to the engine room is from the crew mess. Forward of the mess are four crew cabins, each with two bunks and ensuite bathrooms. The crew cabins are also equipped with access to the yacht’s entertainment system, Brookes & Gatehouse 2020 sailing displays and the aft two cabins also have SeaTouch system monitors. At the forward end of the crew companionway is an access ladder to the foredeck.
Access to the flybridge is by two flights of stairs leading up from the port and starboard sides of the aft cockpit. The teak treads appear to float on narrow columns and terminate at pneumatic powered sliding glass hatches which open onto the flybridge deck. The flybridge is dominated by the twin helm stations, with engine and thruster controls duplicated at each station and the sail controls congregated on a central panel. Aft of the helm stations are two L-shaped bench settees ranged around low coffee tables. A bar is ranged athwartships across the aft side of the flybridge and behind the bar is an expansive sunbathing deck. A bimini sun-awning can be erected to provide shade over the flybridge if required.
Culture of Excellence
Owner Guy Ullens is a Belgian industrialist and philanthropist with a strong Chinese connection. His father and uncle were both senior diplomats in China. Guy and his wife Myriam have built one of the world’s largest private collections of contemporary Chinese art. In 2007, the Ullens Centre of Contemporary Art opened in Beijing in a modern facility created from a converted munitions factory. The French architects, Wilmotte & Associates undertook the design of the centre – and went on to create the interior design of Red Dragon.
“New Zealand has a culture of excellence, which is fantastic. Led by Tony Hambrook, Alloy Yachts has been a part of building that culture. When you see the yard booming and doing exceptional pieces like this one, you understand why they are so successful. I look on Red Dragon as a work of art”, says Ullens.
The Ullens previously owned a Dutch-built 140ft Dubois Naval Architects sloop, which they acquired from its original owner. They decided they wanted something more powerful, with a more contemporary interior and able to be self-sufficient at sea for extended periods.
“When we bought the previous Red Dragon (formerly African Queen) it was a big boat, but when we used it around the world we found that in terms of autonomy and speed there were limitations. Red Dragon answers all the issues we had before. We kept Red Dragon within the limits that allow us to go through Panama and Suez. But it is big enough to do 300 miles a day at sea, which allows us to get around very quickly, if necessary. We have sufficient tankage to enable us to cross the Pacific Ocean without stopping, which was important as well.
In terms of the interior, the previous boat was finished in mahogany, which we found to be quite dark. We wanted something more contemporary and brighter. Mimi (his wife) was looking for the right colour and we were walking on a beach one day in Antigua when we found a large piece of driftwood. She took one look at it and said, ‘That is the colour we want for Red Dragon’. So we took some pieces and sent them to Wilmotte & Associates and that became the foundation for the interior. Working with Alloy Yachts, there was a small team working intensively on the interior. The joinery is exceptional. The atmosphere is contemporary, but very relaxing and a little bit minimalist.
We hope to be on the boat for three months a year. We enjoy diving, fishing and watersports. We have equipment on board for kayaking, waterskiing, dinghy sailing and so on. This yacht creates an extraordinary environment for entertaining friends and family as well contacts in the arts and business. They can come and join us for long weekends, or short vacations. People are so busy and time is so precious that if you create opportunities to combine business with pleasure, they will grab them.”