“Rugby was my first love, it definitely wasn’t sailing,” says Nick Burgess, captain of the 29-meter Southern Wind S/Y Nyumba. Growing up in a small village on the south coast of England, Capt. Burgess messed around with boats — canoes, kayaks, and even sailing dinghies — but he wasn’t one of those yacht club kids competing in races. “Sailing is something I fell in love with later in life at university,” he says. “But I never thought I could turn it into a career. It was only when I started living and working in other parts of the world that I realized this was something you could do in the long term.”
The penny dropped for Capt. Burgess when he was backpacking in Fiji. He remembers quite vividly watching a catamaran sail up and a couple launch a tender off the back, motor over to the beach, stride up to a beach bar, and order some beers. “I went up and asked them, ‘what do you do? Where have you come from?’” he says. “They were crew, and they explained what they were doing, who they worked for, and how it all works. It’s only then did I think, ‘OK, I can turn my newfound love of sailing into a career.’”
Capt. Burgess’s first job in yachting was as a deckhand on a 24-meter sailboat, then later a 36-meter ketch. “I never worked on huge boats, always in the 80- to 120-foot range,” he says. After five years, Burgess progressed to the position of captain. He worked for Nyumba’s owners on their previous boat — a 22.5-meter custom sailing yacht — and served as build captain for Nyumba, which is the third sailing vessel for the owners. “They have a lot of experience and had a big input on how they did and did not want things to run on deck,” Burgess says.
With a dark gray paint job, titanium deck hardware, and a streamlined GT-style coach roof, Nyumba certainly stands out from the previous yachts in Southern Wind’s SW96 series (she is the fourth hull in the series). Penned by Nauta Design, her exterior is sporty and dynamic, yet clean and balanced. Nyumba’s transom opens to reveal an extra-large swim platform forming a 8.9-meter “beach club” that’s accessible from the deck through composite stairs.
The deck is as uncluttered as can be, with the owners requesting that all deck equipment be ergonomically positioned for ease of use, as well as for guest safety and comfort. Jib sheets are hidden in an enclosure to keep the deck visually clean and aid in safe operation, and the owners requested shorter sun pads to increase the size of the maneuvering area. The mainsheet traveler was also pushed as far aft as possible; it’s set aft of the crew companionway, which is styled to look like a mini version of the sleek GT-style coach roof, while the twin helm positions have been brought farther forward for better visibility.
What’s found below Nyumba’s waterline really sets her apart though. She’s the first sailing yacht of less than 30 meters LOA to implement a high-voltage energy storage system and be powered by a serial hybrid propulsion system, which extends her zero-emissions operations. “Ten kilowatts is all that’s needed for the hotel load, so as long as you’re hitting 10 knots of speed, you’re making it,” says Yann Dabbadie, yard technical manager. “It’s a change from trying to get a half-knot faster to trying to get more kilowatts generated.”
Nyumba means “home” in Swahili, and the interior, also by Nauta, is fittingly comfortable with oiled teak veneers and splashes of color provided by African-print fabrics by local artists. An unusual design feature is a vertical carbon ladder in the forward owners’ cabin that ascends directly from the bedroom up onto the deck. It was specifically requested by the owner’s wife, says Capt. Burgess.
The owners have a deep love for sailing and are extremely hands-on. “They are always driving the boat or trimming the sails, even more so her — she drives the boat way more than he will.” Fortunately for them, Nyumba is a nimble performer. Even if she wasn’t built to be a stripped-down racing boat, she could hold her own on the racecourse, should the owners ever wish to race her.
“The joy of commissioning a yacht in Cape Town, South Africa, is there’s never really a lack of wind,” Burgess says. “On the first day, we had 20 knots of wind. And she performed fantastically from the first moment. We topped out at 15.5 knots, and I think the true speed and performance is still to come.”
This article was originally published in the September 2023 issue of Dockwalk.