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December 9, 2023

Modern Classics: Retro Yachts Inspired by the Golden Age

We look at two yachts that have drawn inspiration from the elegant vessels of the 1920s and ’30s.

By Miriam Cain

Whether it’s a restored yacht or a retro replica, there is something about the way yachts used to be designed in days of yore that remains attractive even to a modern yacht buyer.

The enduring appeal of a classic yacht evokes to this day the glamour that yachting held in the Roaring Twenties and into the ’30s. It was during this golden age of capitalism that household names like Astor, Rothschild, Vanderbilt, Woolworth and Morgan threw off the shackles of class and aristocracy, and built ever-larger motor yachts on which to spend their summers.

For sport, they also built iconic racing yachts to view from aboard these grand dames, primarily during the J Class era from 1929 to 1939, just before World War II.

[See also: A Comprehensive Guide To Luxury Superyacht Charter]

Sadly, only a few of these classic yachts still survive (Talitha G, Haida, Endeavour and Nahlin being among the most famous). These days, those that survive have generally been lovingly and painstakingly restored and refurbished by their custodians, but more recently a number of replica yachts inspired by the classics have also made their mark on the current fleet via a combination of classic design and modern amenities.

Here we take a look at two of the yachts that have drawn inspiration from the elegant vessels of the 1920s and ’30s, and ably demonstrate that it’s not age that makes a classic, but beauty.


With her bright yellow funnel, clipper bow and midnight black hull, the 295.6-ft Nero is widely considered to be the finest new classic afloat. Inspired by the iconic lines of the Corsair series of yachts built in the early 20th century by JP Morgan, she marks a perfect crossover between traditional design and modern amenities.

Her interior detailing showcases artisanal skills with stunning features such as an Edwardian-style sweeping staircase and a large, handcrafted teak sky lantern, all echoing the nautical designs of her predecessors.

Having undergone significant refits in both 2016 and 2021, Nero features further design and craftsmanship highlights that leave her feeling both contemporary and elegant.

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[See also: The Great Edventure: The Best Educational Charter Yachts]

nero yacht aerial view
Nero was inspired by the iconic lines of the Corsair series of yachts built in the early 20th century by JP Morgan / ©Courtesy of Burgess
Nero yacht dining table
Interiors strike a balance between modern design and Nero’s design heritage / Courtesy of Burgess

Interior designer Laura Pomponi has managed to carefully pay homage to Nero’s design heritage, but with a fresher, more modern appeal. Her stunning duplex master suite features a large lounge, study, master cabin, his and hers bathrooms, and private access to an observation lounge.

A host of superlative amenities include an all-new state-of-the-art gym on the sun deck, where guests can enjoy spectacular views while working out with the qualified personal trainer in the crew.

Nero also offers her guests a beauty salon for an array of treatments from the crew beautician and masseuse, a resistance pool, a large whirlpool and a wide range of water toys that include a 32-ft custom Corsair tender. Nero is glamour personified.

Nero features design and craftsmanship highlights that leave her feeling both contemporary and elegant / Courtesy of Burgess

Nero is available to charter through Burgess Yachts from $497,000 per week, plus expenses, for up to 12 guests,


The period between the two world wars is often referred to as the premier decade of superyacht racing. This was the age when the fashion was to have one’s own sail racing team, and yachts like Endeavour, Velsheda and Shamrock V, all three of which survive and still race today, became the ultimate status symbol.

Designed in 1934 for the purpose of winning her owner Harold Vanderbilt an America’s Cup, Ranger was another of the 10 J Class yachts built in the 1930s. Unlike the other three original J Class yachts mentioned above, in her original form Ranger no longer exists, but her replica was built in 2003.

[See also: Into the Ice: Onboard Ponant’s Luxury Cruise in Antarctica]

Ranger is a replica of a legendary J Class racing yacht

Also named Ranger, she was the first Super J with the luxurious refinement of a bygone era but built to modern standards. These second-generation yachts are really the reason that there is even such a thing as a J racing scene.

Built to strict J Class Association performance rules and recently refitted with new technology, Ranger features state-of-the-art navigation, hydraulics and rigging, all of which allow her to carve through the waves at a much faster pace than her ancestor would have.

Her classically styled mahogany interior with Art Deco detailing is a true re-creation that is aesthetically almost identical to its forebearer, while boasting all the luxurious comforts expected in a superyacht.

Privately owned, Ranger will vie for her position with the J’s at the World Championship, set to take place during the 37th America’s Cup period in 2024.

[See also How Much Does it Actually Cost to Charter a Yacht?]

This article appears in the 30 Nov 2023 issue of the New Statesman, Winter 2023/24

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