Yacht owner Udo J. Vetter launches a ’round-the-world cruise on his classic, steel-hull Perini Navi

Udo J. Vetter takes the helm during the 2019 St. Barths Bucket. 

Udo J. Vetter was getting toward retirement age when he decided that he wanted to sail around the world. Then, he says, he had a vision: “One day I woke up aboard a plastic charter boat, looked outside and there she was: a Perini Navi.”

That boat was Liberty, sistership of the 151-foot (46-meter) The Aquarius, which the German entrepreneur and pharmaceutical executive now owns. She became his first large yacht in 2016, after a lifetime of sailing and owning smaller vessels.

While some buyers may have smirked at a 1990 build, Vetter specifically wanted an older Perini: “It’s a lot easier to fix a steel boat in faraway places like Papua New Guinea than an aluminum one, which immediately limited me to the older generation of Perinis,” he says.

To bring the specifications up to date in preparation for the yacht’s ’round-the-world cruise, The Aquarius spent six months on the hard for a mechanical overhaul and an upgrade to her navigation and communication systems.

“Things like watermakers and pumps are hard to replace or repair when you’re miles away from anywhere,” Vetter says. “We also gave her a new coat of paint, refreshed the interior and relaid the teak decks. So, it was mix of a cosmetic face-lift and more nuts-and-bolts stuff.”

Vetter originally planned to start his circumnavigation in winter 2017-18, but Hurricanes Irma and Maria put the departure on hold. He remained in the Mediterranean for another summer season and took part in last year’s Perini Navi Cup off Sardinia, Italy. It was his first superyacht regatta, and he chose to compete in the cruiser-racer class, which has staggered starting times and a handicap system.

The Aquarius under a full set of sails in the 2018 Perini Navi Cup in Sardinia, Italy, her owner’s first superyacht regatta.

“We start first, which means we’re the slowest boat in the fleet,” he joked at the end of the event, in which The Aquarius placed last. “But because we take longer to go around the course, we can enjoy the sailing more than everyone else.”

Perini Navi has come a long way since The Aquarius launched nearly 30 years ago. First came the transition to aluminum construction, then carbon-fiber rigs and the diversification into motoryachts. Today, the E-volution sailing yachts and Voyager motoryachts in build are expected to demonstrate the Italian brand’s prowess yet again.

“There’s a big design step happening now at Perini that will take the evolution still further,” Vetter says, “but I’m more of a classic guy. I like the wood interiors of The Aquarius and especially the way her sheerline rises up towards the bow, which you don’t see on the more modern boats.”

After participating in this year’s St. Barths Bucket, The Aquarius headed south to explore the islands of Colombia before transiting the Panama Canal. The owner’s party returned to Europe from Panama City while the crew took the boat to Costa Rica, then up the West Coast of the United States and Canada to San Diego, Seattle and Vancouver. Most recently, Vetter was back on board and the yacht was continuing north toward Juneau, Alaska.

At the end of the summer, The Aquarius was scheduled to return to San Diego for her 30-year survey, which should take several months. The owners plan to join her for Easter in Baja, California. Their leisurely world tour should then take them to the South Pacific, Fiji and New Zealand in time for the 2021 America’s Cup in Auckland. 

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2019 issue.


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