‘THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN’
bought Latinou, but she was important as a way of getting to know the industry and for understanding how a large yacht is operated.”
As the Yersin concept began to take shape, Fiat and Dumarais turned their attention to selecting a suitable shipyard. They visited various superyacht builders in Europe, but because of the unusual nature of the project, all of them were discounted as too inflexible, or too expensive, or both. Finally, they approached the commercial Piriou shipyard in France on Brittany’s Atlantic seaboard. The family-owned yard has launched more than 400 specialist working vessels, including ocean-going tuna purse seiners required to remain at sea for weeks at a time, but had never built a vessel like Yersin.
François Fiat’s fascination with all things nautical began when he was growing up in the port city of Marseilles, France, where as a boy he enjoyed watching the maritime traffic. His early heroes included the single-handed sailor Alain Gerbault and the marine conservationist Jacques Cousteau. (Coincidentally, what’s left of Calypso, Cousteau’s famous research ship, is sitting on the hard at the Piriou shipyard after a restoration project fell through.)
Another influence was Tintin, the comic-book hero created by the Belgian cartoonist known as Hergé. In fact, the exterior styling of Yersin by Pierre Jacques Kubis in France owes much to several fictional ships that appear in the stories. In “The Shooting Star,” Tintin traveled to the Arctic aboard the Aurora to recover a meteorite. Like Yersin, the vessel could carry a seaplane on her aft deck.
The yacht is named after Alexandre Yersin, the Swiss French physician, bacteriologist and explorer whose research into the diphtheria toxin and discovery of the bacillus behind the bubonic plague in 1894 earned him international recognition. Yersin spent some 50 years in Indochina, where he also introduced quinine trees for the treatment of malaria. He eventually settled in Vietnam and dedicated the rest of his life to the local people. The yacht Yersin’s motto, “You are not truly alive unless you keep moving,” is attributed to her namesake.
“The big question was whether we would be able to build such an unusual vessel,” says CEO Pascal Piriou. “The risk was to start with a research or explorer vessel and end up with a toy—and we’re not toy builders.”
The relationship turned out to be made in heaven. Accustomed to diesel-electric propulsion and working to the demanding safety regulations prescribed for commercial vessels, the workers at Piriou had not only the expertise, but also a willingness to venture beyond their comfort zone.
“When I started looking at what they’d built, I realized I could see something of Yersin in all the boats they’d launched,” Dumarais says. “These guys live and sleep steel, and they certainly know how to work it. We just had to realign those skills.”
In addition to her research and expedition amenities, Yersin has plenty of superyacht comforts, including a 12-seat cinema, indoor Jacuzzi, library, gym, massage room and hammam. She also has a sophisticated IT network to provide guests with audio, video, and technical and scientific information about the ship and her location via charts, sonar images and weather forecasts.
The interior layout has cozy, intimate, multifunctional spaces with plenty of handholds, rather than full-beam lounges that might prove difficult to negotiate in a seaway. Two modest dining rooms are on the main and owner’s decks, but guests are also expected to dine with the crew in the self-service canteen. The bright, contemporary décor is a mix of white lacquer surfaces and light and dark wood paneling. All the interior materials are certified in accordance with the safety criteria required for passenger ship classification.
“It would be hypocritical of me to say that when you have a lot, you necessarily want to give away a lot,” Fiat says when asked if a sense of philanthropic obligation drove him to build Yersin. “It’s a personal choice. At this stage in my life I want to do something for myself, but also share it with my family and others. I’m certainly not trying to buy my place in paradise.”
LOA: 251ft. 3in. (76.8m) BeAm: 42ft. 7in. (13m) DrAft: 14ft. 5in. (4.4m) COnstruCtiOn: steel & aluminum DispLACement: 2,000 tons GrOss tOnnAGe: 2,200 enGines: 6 x Caterpillar generators (diesel-electric) prOpeLLers: 2 x azimuthing Schottel pods fueL: 105,668 gal. (400,000L) WAter: 21,133 gal. (80,000L) speeD (max.): 15 knots speeD (cruising): 11 knots rAnGe: 15,000 nm @ 11 knots CLAssifiCAtiOn: Bureau Veritas, Ice Class 1C, SOLAS