Nature has been a lifelong influence on Jasper Smith’s life. Holidays spent exploring the stunning Welsh Brecon Beacons and sailing off the Isle of Wight are favourite childhood memories. His passion for the natural world was further fuelled by the inspiring adventures of his heroes, Jacques Cousteau and Bill Tilman, the latter an English explorer and mountaineer, who sailed from Bristol to Greenland and Patagonia aboard an elderly 1906 Bristol Channel pilot-cutter.
However, the real turning point in his life was a six-month stint spent sailing a 16m ketch from Australia to Alaska via the most remote parts of Kamchatka. It was a revelatory voyage that left its mark on Jasper Smith and laid the foundations for Arksen.
“The memory of that time is still very much alive inside me,” says the British serial entrepreneur and videogame company founder. “That was 20 years ago. I have done other cruises and been to other remote areas since but I still really wanted to do something like that first voyage and go even further north. But then looking around me I realised that there was nothing that fitted what I needed: a boat of between 70 and 100’ with a long range that would let me stay out at sea for three or four months at a time”. He continues: “And that’s without even considering the environmental impact aspect as the most remote routes take you through marine areas with very fragile ecosystems that are also the most vulnerable and exposed”.
This stumbling block got Smith thinking and eventually produced a range of aluminium yachts of 70 and 85 to which he then added another of just over 100’. Content-wise the three craft could well be described as explorers but in terms of line and form, they in reality embody a new aesthetic and design language. This should come as no great surprise given the involvement of Humphreys Yacht Design. Keen sailors themselves, Rob Humphreys and his son Tom have essentially rewritten the design rules for this kind of vessel which had become something of a cliché.
“When I asked Rob and Tom to come up with something unusual two years ago,” Smith smiles, “I could never have imagined it would be this original”. Rob Humphreys continues: “We come from the sailing world and that means our approach to design involves analysing every single aspect involved, particularly in the case of racers”. Efficiency is the main focus for the latter craft but is a much broader ambition than striving for just a few extra knots of speed. In the case of the Arksen range, in fact, it resulted in the design of waterlines and a hull that requires far less powerful propulsion to deliver the same performance.
The result is, of course, lower fuel consumption and emissions. “Naturally enough, performance is a central factor but we are also conscious sailing yachts need to be safe and controllable in even the most complex of situations,” adds Tom Humphreys. This highly flexible approach paid off – and how! – with the Arksen range. “The initial brief was very clear. A long range and big load capacity were the cornerstones for the project’s development,” continues Tom Humphreys. At that point, the focus shifted to equally important considerations regarding safety in sea conditions of all kinds. “That was where the idea came from to design hulls that would be able to surf in big seas or to be very comfortable even at higher latitudes,” adds Rob Humphreys.
The Design Unlimited-created interiors were also designed to be extremely flexible to mirror another pivotal aspect of Jasper Smith’s concept of the Arksen formula: philanthropy. All Arksen owners join the Arksen foundation and pledge 10% of their vessels’ annual sea time to scientific projects. It is an ambitious move but Smith is determined to do all he can to preserve and protect the oceans and their ecosystems.
This explains why the interiors of each of the three models are modular. In practical terms, it means it only takes a few short steps to turn them into research laboratories. Each hull is also designed for a 50-year life cycle and once the vessel has been decommissioned, the materials used can either be reused or recycled. A radically new approach for the yachting world born of Jasper Smith’s passion to open up the sea to a new generation of more responsible sailors who, like him, both love exploration and want to protect the marine environment.