Design Brief: The Botin 55.

Spirit of Tradition Sailing Vessel Botin 55 - Designed by Botin Partners

The Botin 55 features a modern racing hull and a couple historic references on deck. But where does integration of the truly classic meet the modern?

It’s been an active Spirit-of-Tradition yacht building season here in Maine, with many builders launching many interesting boats. There’s a pair of modern-classic yacht tenders, just launched at Hodgdon’s in Boothbay Harbor, that look like they’ve somehow motored in from Venice’s Grand Canal. And then over at Front Street Shipyard in Belfast, there’s Sindbad, a classic Norwegian Trawler getting a 21st-century refit. 

But what’s piqued the most interest in some sailing circles, is a controversial new 55-footer, currently coming together at Brooklin Boat Yard, in Brooklin Maine. This daysailer/racer is designed by Botin Partners, who work out of a sea town called Santander, on the north coast of Spain.

And this modern sloop has been labeled by the yard as a Spirit-of-Tradition racer — labeled the BP-320 — reveals new challenges as Spirit-of-Tradition design gets explored and goes global.

Racers First. Modern Classics Second.

It’s worth noting that Botin Partners was started by the talented Marcelino Botin back in 1995. Botin, along with fellow designer Shaun Carkeek, rode the IMS regatta wave in the Mediterranean Sea that started at the turn of the millennium. Botin partnered on many seriously fast boats, including Zurich and Pepsi . And Botin has experimented with an idea in Spirit-of-Tradition design before. Namely, his personal 72-foot vessel Toroa, launched in the summer of 2017, that was also built at Brooklin Boat Yard.

Classic elements are hard to find on this 72-Foot “Toroa.” She’s all about her all-racing heritage.

What’s interesting about both the 55- and the 72-foot boats, is how Botin crafted the basic hull shapes from familiar weapons in his modern race-boat design arsenal. And then juxtaposed those choices with selected classic idioms. Both hulls are lifted almost directly from absolutely modern hull-design parameters from the Class 40 or Volvo 70 arenas. And then these hulls are less-carefully topped with traditional design elements.

Toroa has proved to be an absolute monster: achieving 25 kts planing speeds is enough to get us excited by her unique looks and her all-out performance capability. It remains to be seen how Botin’s BP-320 will perform, but we are also eager to see her launched — her modern style and design parameters look wonderful and exciting.

At least to our eye, we see Botin making little concession to the classic design themes that dominate the Spirit-of-Tradition designs here in the United States. At most there are tiny nods to classicism, like the straight-forward concave sheerline or the round portholes on Toroa’s hullor the boxy, relatively simple superstructure on the 55. Maybe one could argue that the varnish or the use of natural woods is what makes these boats Spirit-of-Tradition. But that’s a bit of a stretch.

Teak decking and varnished carpentry details are found on all kinds of boats and in all manner of styles, but if that is only what sets a vintage style, then this places the design bar cynically low. True Spirit-of-Tradition values pay cohesive homage to traditional elements throughout the entire design, hull and decks. This is discipline that insures how a modern design becomes Spirit-of-Tradition. With a few changes in hull shape, those traditions could have been honored on the Botin 55: Why not simply rake the transom aft instead of forward or ease the sharp turn at the “chines”, or maybe introduce some hollow to the waterlines and flare in her bow sections?

How about letting her stem curve ever so slightly?

That’s the kind of boat that will never look dated, yet still be as fast, if not a bit more well mannered, than the current design.

A Differing Sense of “Classic Design.”

We think what’s happening here is playful experimentation on a theme, and when great ideas come from parts of the world we’re always going to observe different tastes. Admired European designers, like Hoek Design and Botin may be less afraid to take big leaps from classic shapes and features. European consumers may be more comfortable with wider expressions of what Spirit-of-Tradition sailboats could be. That’s kind of exciting in some ways. But we would always propose a fair and balanced measure to gauging a design’s mission, even if the result is disagreement. If the Botin 55 is aimed for spirit-of-tradition racing here in New England, particularly in the design opinion hotbed of Nantucket Island, then it will be an interesting sailing season for her owners.

The Botin 55 looks like a well-planned and exciting design. She will undoubtedly be fast and fun. We can’t wait to see her sailing. Where the Botin 55 barely misses the spectrum of modern-classic designs won’t be an ideal abstraction. It will be a serious challenge, and it we will soon see a time for organizing the debate for how a Spirit-of-Tradition yacht is born.

Our two cents is, the Botin 55 is a two-thousand teens raceboat with a varnished cabin trunk. She’s just the kind of boat we would love to see at our Camden Classics Cup this July. And we look forward to her probably crushing the rest of the contemporary boats racing the “All-Modern” division.

Because it is in this “All-Modern” division, that this Botin 55 belongs.

We look forward to a deep and passionate discussion on how the Spirit-of-Tradition genre will evolve in the coming 2019 racing season.

Botin 55 Specifications

Length on Deck: 16.8 m 55 ft.
Length Waterline: 15.7 m 51 ft. 6 in.
Beam: 4.27 m 14 ft.
Draft: 3.0 m 9 ft. 10 in.
Displ (approx): 14.5 tonnes 32,000 lbs
Weight of bulb (approx): 5012 kg 11,050 lbs
Sail Area: 153m2 1645 ft2
Engine: 75 hp Volvo Saildrive