VOYAGE Yachts and VOYAGE Charters are not like other companies. In an alliance that has launched and delivered some 280 boats since 1995, the family enterprise encompasses boatbuilding, yacht sales, marina operations, marine-technical service and charter management. In 2002, the VOYAGE 440 was the first multihull to win Cruising World’s top Boat of the Year award. Now, 20 years later, the company’s flagship VOYAGE 590 has won Best Charter Boat in the same contest.
Robin and Jo-Ann Downing are the owners and directors of VOYAGE Charters BVI and along with their three children and their spouses, they also run Soper’s Hole Wharf & Marina, the adjacent full-service West End Boatyard, and the sale of all new and used VOYAGE yachts. Robin was formerly the lead boatbuilder at VOYAGE Yachts in Cape Town, South Africa, where he remains a partner. VOYAGE Charters is the sole dealer for VOYAGE Yachts.
In 2022, as in 2002, CW’s Boat of the Year judges were impressed by VOYAGE Yachts’ new-boat testing regime. Other companies typically run quality-control tests by dipping their newly launched boats into a pool and spraying them down for leaks. By contrast, every new catamaran built by VOYAGE Yachts is tested in emphatically real-world conditions; it sails on its own bottom from the notorious Cape of Storms across the Atlantic Ocean for more than 5,000 miles to the VOYAGE Charters base in Tortola. Once there, the new yacht undergoes final commissioning at the family-run service yard, correcting any faults revealed in the shakedown before handover to the new owner.
The VOYAGE 590: Six Sumptuous Suites in 60 Feet
Robin Downing’s conception for the VOYAGE 590 was a tall order to fill: six private en-suite cabins of equivalent scale, the requisite quarters and working equipment to retain two top professional crew, and state-of-the-art power-management systems to keep the spaces cool and quiet in the tropics—all in a boat with satisfying sailing performance and fetching good looks. Downing ultimately found the right partner to work out such knotty design problems, Cape Town yacht designer Phil Southwell.
“Phil has a fantastic brush,” Downing says.
The 590 is solidly built of two principle parts: the hull the deck, each hand-laid and vacuum-bagged glass fibers over closed-cell PVC foam core. Vinylester resin in the outer skin coat protects the boat against osmotic blistering. Interior furniture is pressure-laminated veneer over marine ply and composite structures.
It’s not only the private cabins that are well-designed to accommodate 12 guests, but also the open-plan public spaces. Four separate areas provide guests with the room to spread out separately or to gather socially, whether in the weather or protected from it. The flybridge design allows guests to join in the fun of sailing the boat—or to have nothing whatsoever to do with it.
From Smart Tech to Quiet Comfort
The VOYAGE 590 comes in one of two packages: electric or diesel propulsion. In both versions, the boat is engineered for uncommon comfort and efficiency.
“This is a very techie boat,” says Ed Sherman, Boat of the Year judge and longtime education director of the American Boat and Yacht Council.
Again, Downing had set a tall bar for his design team: All six guest cabins must be air-conditioned without running the generator at night. How did they crack that nut? With a 43-kilowatt bank of lithium batteries, powered by two 16-kilowatt gensets. Frigomar variable-speed air-conditioning units deliver the efficiency to make it possible. “They’ll come down from 10,000 Btu to 3,000 Btu,” Downing says. “They don’t start and stop. There’s no ramping up. So, instead of running the genset 24/7, it typically runs four to six hours during the day when guests are off the boat.”
For ultimate quiet, VOYAGE Yachts offers the 590 with Bellmarine/Transfluid electric propulsion—and double the battery capacity.
The VOYAGE 590: For Sailing, for Investing, for Living Aboard
Since Hurricane Irma decimated the BVI charter fleet in 2017, VOYAGE Charters has experienced more demand than it’s had boats available. To fill that gap, the first 10 VOYAGE 590s have been sold into the charter fleet, as will the next five or so. “But there’s a growing market for a liveaboard version,” says Peter Jones, who manages yacht sales for the company. Look for that version with a larger owner’s cabin, and fewer cabins overall, toward the end of 2023.
In the meantime, VOYAGE Yachts and VOYAGE Charters have shown us what refinement can come from repeatedly working a design problem over and over again till the right answer shows itself.
VOYAGE 590 SPECS
- Length Overall: 57’6″ (17.60 m)
- Waterline Length: 57’2″ (17.50 m)
- Beam: 28’5″ (8.66 m)
- Draft: 5’3″ (1.60 m)
- Sail Area (working): 2,175 sq. ft. (202 sq. m)
- Displacement: 60,186 lb. (27,300 kg)
- Displacement/Length: 139
- Sail Area/Displacement: 22.7
- Engine: Two 80 hp Yanmar diesels or Bellmarine/Transfluid electric
- Designer: Phil Southwell and VOYAGE Yachts