Nautor’s Storied Swan Yachts Set the Industry Standard—Here’s How They’re Made

From first sketch to final sail.

By Danielle Cutler 11/04/2019

Last year marked 20 years that the Finnish sailing-yacht builder Nautor’s Swan has operated under the ownership of Leonardo Ferragamo, passionate sailor and son of designer Salvatore Ferragamo, who bought the yard with a group of investors in 1998. Pekka Koskenkylä started OY Nautor AB in 1966 in Pietarsaari, Finland, by building a design by the noted naval-architecture firm Sparkman & Stephens: the 36-foot racing Swan 36 featuring a fibreglass hull. Nautor launched the first Swan 36, Tarantella, in 1967. (The storied sailboat was moored at the yard’s docks on a recent visit.)

By 1968, British sailor Dave Johnson was winning races and garnering acclaim for the new shipyard, which to the present day has built more than 2,000 vessels between 36 and 131 feet, from performance cruisers to serious racers. New models include the Swan 78 shown here—which debuted just last year—as well as the ClubSwan 36, Swan 65, Swan 98, ClubSwan 125 and Swan 120, the last being the latest. All are designed and handcrafted at the renowned—and recently renovated and expanded—Boatbuilding Technology Center (BTC) facility in Pietarsaari.

Witness a Nautor racing yacht under sail at any of the races and regattas in the Swan brand’s ever-increasing lineup.


Sketching out the next model
Photo: Courtesy of Nautor

Germán Frers, who has designed Swan sailing yachts for 20-plus years, works with the rest of the Buenos Aires-based Frers Naval Architecture & Engineering team, shuttling among Argentina, Italy, and Finland. As we said goodbye at the airport last summer in Helsinki after a freezing-cold sea-trial in the Baltic Sea aboard the first Swan 78, which he designed, I asked where he was off to next. He replied, “Roma! For the regatta!”


The Swan 65’s deck
Photo: Courtesy of Nautor

You can see the size of this yacht in relation to the craftsmen standing on the wooden framework of the plug of the deck. Like the rest of the models in this series of yachts, the midsize Swan 65 is an oceangoing blue-water yacht that was conceived as either a family-crewed boat or one managed by a professional crew to be used as a racing, cruising or casual-use vessel.


A Swan 78 foam-cored glass fibre hull
Photo: Courtesy of Nautor

The hull of this Swan 78 sailing yacht is made of foam-cored glass fibre, reinforced with epoxy as well as carbon-fibre unidirectional reinforcements. It stands at the ready in the shed for Nautor’s boatbuilders to start placing insulation, laying cable and fitting out the yacht. Nautor’s Swan vessels are known for their solid seafaring and safety record.


Sculpting the deck
Photo: Courtesy of Nautor

A robotic milling machine extends the reach and precision of the human arm to sculpt the plug of the yacht’s deck.


Placing the furniture
Photo: Courtesy of Nautor

Craftsmen carefully hoist and place the hand-built furniture into the hull, which already has the system’s wiring and plumbing installed. Nautor employs a “teak hunter” who handpicks the wood that will be used for veneers, which are stitched onto the plywood, foam-core furniture.

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