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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

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