There are seldom boat designs that let you stand there, frozen, watching with awe and excitement, leaving you speechless. The Vismara V62 Mills is such a boat, at least the SUPERNIKKA has a drastic impression on myself: She is so breathtakingly beautiful, from every angle, her lines are well balanced but aggressive and extreme at the same time. She is an absolutely beautiful and exciting boat – from the first moment that I watched her on YouTube I was bewitched. What is the story behind her?

This. Is. It! Vismara V62 designed by Mark Mills.

I am happy that her designer, Californian-born Mark Mills, agreed to talk to me on the phone about the V62 design, his approach in conceiving the boat´s attractive design and the collaboration with the Italian yard Vismara. I find Mills in a relaxed and talky mood and not wanting any of his precious time, instantly began to go through my set of questions.

“I like to be in control of all creative aspects of yacht design.”

NO FRILLS | Lars Reisberg: “Mark, please tell me how and why you´ve decided to become a naval architect? Where did you study and what have been the principal steps of your career?”

Mark Mills: “Oh, that is a bit if a long story, I fear: When I grew up back in California I didn´t had anything to do with sailing or yachts at all. I love airplanes and airplane design. I wanted to become an aircraft designer. When my family moved to Ireland my parents registered me in a yacht club without my knowledge and this is finally how I got to sail. I loved it and over the time I realised that instead of an aircraft designer who is just a small part of a huge team in becoming a naval architect I would be able to work on my own without this big overhead. This was very attractive for me, so I did it.”

Mark Mills (left) at tSUPERNIKKA´s launching day with her owner and Alessandro Vismara (right) with his wife. “That means you like to be the boss?”

Mark Mills: “No, not in this sense. I would say I like to be in full control over all creative aspects of what I do. You see, at least when it comes to hull design – I really don´t care that much for the colours of the cushion, but when it comes to the shape, I´d like to be responsible and in control.” “Where did you learn the tools of the trade?”

Mark Mills: “Oh, that´s a pretty much ordinary and straightforward career I would say. I acquired a Bachelor of Arts in the US and later studied Naval Architecture in Southampton. But I won´t say that this did such a great impression on me. The real school I went through was the people I´ve met along the way, the sailing I did and the experience I gained. I didn´t found the education at the Universities that much valuable for myself, I must admit. It was more the people.” “Mills Design Company is, as far as I know, only working on performance yachts, mostly race-connected and in the high-priced semi-custom and custom/one-off level. Where lies the attraction in accepting just jobs of this kind? Why no production boats, cruisers for example?”

Mark Mills: “Well, in most cases you are right. But we´ve also done some production boats as well but always with a strong affection for racing yachts. That is what I love to do. But anyway, I am a service provider and I can be hired by everyone. For example, a number of years ago we did pitch at Beneteau for the First 30. I would also enjoy working with the larger production boat companies, you just have to find a project or niche where your set of skills matches theirs.”

“SUPERNIKKA is an incredibly successful yacht.” “Let´s talk about V62 SUPERNIKKA, Mark. She is what I would say the most beautiful yacht I´ve seen in years. Her lines are just breathtaking. When and how was the V62 born? What was the general idea behind this yacht?”

Mark Mills: “Oh, thanks for the credits. I like SUPERNIKKA very much as well and I agree that she is a special boat for sure. In fact, the V62 SUPERNIKKA was my first collaboration with Vismara yard and I was hired in 2013 by Alessandro Vismara to come up with some ideas for a client of him who wanted to acquire his own racing yacht. Up to this point this owner had three designs of Alessandro Vismara, but together they decided to take the next step …” “… which became SUPERNIKKA. What was the design brief on that boat?”

SUPERNIKKA bears some very tempting lines. An exciting hull shape from every angle.

Mark Mills: “Yes, absolutely right. The briefing was simple but in it´s own sense complicated: The owner wanted a yacht that had to be optimized for the Mediterranean. Which is a thing for itself, because sailing in the Med means that you ought have to have a boat capable of performing in a light breeze as well as in strong winds, a boat that should be fast on a reaching and running point of sail but has to be as well powerful in beating upwind. Which is not very easy to combine, you know? Racing boats are normally very specialized on one particular thing. If you for example look at the IMOCA LINO or Class 40-boats, these are downwind yachts which are usually terrible in sailing upwind …” “… I know what you mean. So, SUPPERNIKKA had to be a good allrounder then?”

Mark Mills: “Absolutely yes. Which by the way is exactly what I love to do. You see, I hate being bad at one thing even when I am good at all the others. Making a design that can sail fast on one point of sail but being slow on another – even if this boat is just participating in downwind races – can feel a little wrong to me. So in a certain way, the design brief on the V62 was exactly what I loved to do. But another aspect was making my work harder: The owner wanted a fast racing yacht but at the same time a fully cruising-capable yacht on which he could go out on leisure sailing with friends and his family.”

More star than a ship: The interior design of V62 Mills “Why makes it working on the design harder?”

Mark Mills: “Because cruising means you´ll need a proper equipped interior. Stuff like joinery, stowage, a galley. In short: Weight. But with a racing boat we like to be as light as possible. So in brief, that was the task with V62 SUPERNIKKA. But in the end I think we´ve done a fantastic job, the yacht is incredibly successful and besides her winning the races she participates she is also an incredibly nice cruising yacht. All in all three boats have been built and sold up to now and recently with Vismara we´ve come up with a V67 that has a similar design balance.”

“The V62 SUPERNIKKA is a pretty straightforward racing yacht design after all.” “Can you explain the main features of the V62-design and give some insights into her construction? What makes the V62 unique in your eyes?”

Mark Mills: “Well, you see, first of all I would state that I think the V62 is a pretty straightforward racing yacht design. I don´t think that there is too much of special things in her construction. You see, that is also the reason why I like working with Vismara – instead of fancying new technologies, materials and other bling-bling-stuff, they focus on the job and want to deliver a serious product to their clients. That´s also my approach: I´d like to come up with ideas that work out in the first place. So, speaking of SUPERNIKKA, the boat is really balanced I would say. I think in naval architecture it is always about balance. The boat is very good in what it was meant to be good: She is a terrific racing yacht for racing both inshore and offshore and a good cruiser. As with all boats, you try to narrow down the wetted surface and have a long waterline – this makes a boat fast in light winds. Then, in stronger winds, when the boat heels, your hull shape will increase wetted surface, add stability and enable the boat to go fast as well. This is what we´ve done with SUPERNIKKA as well.”

Wide stern, notice the hard chines positioned well above water line. “She has a very wide stern with some 5 metres width and the boat also features some very nice hard chines …”

Mark Mills: “… take a look at the chines, that´s an interesting detail, because we´ve come up with a nice solution here. Adding hard chines in the stern usually improves downwind performance and the tendency to plane. But in going upwind, hard chines will make the boat slowing down. So the height of the chines is critical. In SUPERNIKKA we´ve decided to have them put a bit higher and it works pretty well.” “What about the appendages on V62?”

Mark Mills: “Again, pretty straightforward I would say. You see, we do not follow any fancy trends. For example, we went for a single rudder blade just because there is no need to have a double rudder-solution here. As long as the blade is submerged at any heeling angle you are fine with it. By the way, in the latest Wally Cento the boat was built with a single rudder instead of the proposed double bladed-design. Again, I think people love the boat partially because she is a down-to-earth design. She is beautiful because she works. We don´t have to go on a certain fancy style.” “Your company has over the years after V62 had a long tradition in submitting designs to the Vismara-yard in Italy. What makes Vismara and the people behind this company special? Why is Mills plus Vismara such an unbeatable formula?”

“Vismara yard delivers the most Bang for the Buck.”

Mark Mills: “First of all I would say that the relation between the builder and the designer is very important for the outcome of any project. Both have to fit the needs of a client. There are clients who for example just don´t care about technological stuff or material and other clients need a builder that is also submitting new ideas to a project in terms of technology or production techniques. So I find it to be one of my jobs to introduce to my clients a builder that generally fits the needs of the client because it is always a different solution for every new customer. The Vismara yard and Alessandro Vismara in particular have been a good choice in this sense: Because they care about their customers and try to answer all of their question in the right way. In the end, the finished product is always a very enjoyable boat – with a very, very reasonable price tag.”

Very small lateral surface, slim appendages and a classic single rudder “Can you be more specific in this respect?”

Mark Mills: “Well, you see, one-off yards tend to come up with more extreme solutions which for racers is part of the game. A new material here, a new production method there. It is a cost driver and the boats become more expensive all the time. This sort of disconnects us from the sailing world ever so much. Even in the relatively high-price segment of racing yachts, the boats become very, very expensive. Vismara yard on the other hand has a very different approach. As I said, the boat is pretty straightforward in the design – so it is in the production and material. She is made from Carbon fibres and foam core. The yard used material and methods which are reasonable – and delivered a very cost-effective product. The do what they do with the budget in mind. Besides, Vismara has a long standing tradition in making high performance yachts.” “Vismara is also known for making the boats in carbon fibre …”

Mark Mills: “… which in my eyes is the best solution when it comes to building yachts like these. GRP or E-glass will generally make the boat much more a heavy weight. Carbon on the other hand delivers less weight and at the same time will be much more rigid, which is a definitive must-have with performance boats. By the way, for boats this size, the relative cost of the material like carbon fibre is of less and less concern as this is not such a big driving factor in the budget. I would say that carbon fibre in combination with foam material is way the best solution for a racer cruiser and this is what I like best about Vismara: They are always striving to get the most boat for the client at the most cost-effective and efficient way.”

Flat. Sleek. Fast. A work of art. “Which applies as well to the interior design, doesn´t it?”

Mark Mills: “Yes, absolutely and this is where Vismara also has it´s strengths. They do have a very, very good design office that is specialized in using available space and come up with great solutions for utilizing the inner volume of a yacht. They also doing it in a very smart way and they have done a great job with SUPERNIKKA´s interior.”

“SUPERNIKKA is pretty much the perfect yacht for me.” “Mark, you have sailed in the V62 already, what is it like to be on your design for the first time and having her sailing as a real boat in real water?”

Mark Mills: “I can tell you, for me it is always like a rollercoaster ride. On the one hand I am happy to having the project finally hitting water, on the other hand I always am nervous until I know it will perform. There is always a sense of anxiety within me although I know that this is unreasonable. Anyway, SUPERNIKKA was performing just awesome, until now she has won many races and two of the three Maxi World Championships in which she participated.”

Winning almost every race she participates at: The V62 SUPERNIKKA “What would you change on the V62-design if you had been given total freedom?”

Mark Mills: “You never finish. That´s because boats are always about finding the right balance. So, would I change the hull shape? Maybe a bit. Would I change sail plan or other things? Well, there are some minor details, of course. But in general I must say that the V62 is pretty well done and very well balanced. She does what she is supposed to do in a very, very satisfactory way. I wouldn´t change too much” “You have done some extraordinary projects so far in your career and Mills designs are regularly seen on winning positions ins races all over the Oceans. What is your most beloved design of them all if you look back?”

Mark Mills: “You always love all of your children, as the saying goes and therefore I like all of my designs. Although some of them are sticking out, yes. I like the Maxi 72 ALEGRE very much and the 40 IRC TIAMAT is also a pretty nice boat, as well as the Wallycento TANGO. And in this part the SUPERNIKKA is also a boat which sticks out very much. So, these would be among my most beloved boats. By the way, it is a special joy for me to see that the V62-concept has generated some offspring: Currently the Cape 31, a smaller development of the SUPERNIKKA hull style is built in South Africa and I think this is wonderful. Especially for me as a designer, seeing things work out fine is good, but seeing them taking new shapes, new direction is a great achievement.”

A true Mediterranean racing boat, V62 will do fine offshore as well

Thanks so much, Mark, for spending some time with me on the phone sharing these intimate insights on the incredible V62 SUPERNIKKA racing yacht!

All pictures with kind permission of Mark Mills.


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