Cigar Aficionado

Yachting, like life, is full of compromises. Do you sail for comfort or for speed? Do you dream of family cruising or fantasize regatta victories? Does your image of boating bring pictures of traditional teak and shiny bright work or space-age design? The Swan line of yachts by the Nautor Group goes a long way to reconciling all these whims.

Sometimes likened to street-legal Ferrari, Swans are among those anomalies of design that manage to marry seemingly divergent characteristics without much trade-off. With their signature wedge-shaped decks and flattened hull profiles, Swans look from the outside like a rapier cutting through the water. Below deck, the boats are all about lavish cruising: wooden interiors polished to a satin finish and all the amenities of home. And neither does the rapprochement of styles forsake high standards of safety.

Made in Pietarsaari, Finland, since 1966, the first Swans were designed by the legendary firm of Sparkman & Stephens. From 1980 on, Argentine naval architect German Frers has been at the drawing boards, using computer analysis and tank testing to create production yachts with much room for customization that rival tailor-made boats in terms of the latest sailing innovations. High-tech materials like carbon fibers and Kevlar sails are now available, but the decks still show the time-tested teak -- now cut to exacting length with computer-aided tools. And the aesthetic values are always there -- Swan has never made an ugly duckling.

Swan's dedication to racing shows in programs that pit its different length boats -- models range from 45 feet to 112 -- in regattas with handicap rating systems that allow them all to compete. The culmination is in the biannual Swan Cup, raced in the heavy mistral winds off Sardinia's Costa Esmerelda, where cruising owners are welcome along with serious competitors. Thanks to Leonardo Ferragamo's being a major stockholder in the Nautor consortium, that five-day sailing pageant matches high seas with high fashion.