Dutch-born Gerard Dijkstra is a world-renowned racing sailor, the founder of Dykstra Naval Architects and the creative mind behind the Bestevaer family of expedition sailing yachts. Originally designed to satisfy his own sailing needs, the Bestevaer family with its distinct features is now extended with a motor yacht. Elegance plays a significant role in Dijkstra’s designs. He emphasizes it cannot be captured into words. And then proves himself wrong.
“Most designs in nature meet what we try to accomplish in our work as boat designers. Beautiful, functional design. Take the Albatros, for instance. A fantastic bird to see, determined by technical and physical requirements. The way power, finesse, efficiency, functionality, and aesthetics come together is fascinating. A wonderful collaboration between these components. To me, that’s elegance. Why do you think one of the Bestevaer sailing boats is called Albatros?”
“Elegance is a feeling. An emotion. The appeal of a boat is an important factor in the design process. We also call this the ‘rowing factor’. Would you row an extra lap around the boat to see how beautiful she is? But from a yacht designers’ perspective, elegance never derives from its aesthetics only. It’s the interaction with the functionality that makes a yacht elegant. A yacht that doesn’t sail well can never be beautiful. Neither can a purely functional design. It is the symbiosis of efficiency, technology, and aesthetics. It’s about determining the right priorities. We never try to fit in as much interior volume or as many cabins possible. We choose finesse. Beautiful lines. A sharp bow. A simple shape, rounded corners. But no frills. Unpainted beauty in its simplicity. And at the same time, we create seaworthiness, good behaviour at sea, a good daily average, the ability to speed up under specific conditions and, last but not least, good ergonomics for the crew.”
‘If you look at nature,
you see elegance in its
From an early age, Dijkstra was fascinated by boats. However, his love didn’t start on the water.
“My passion for sailing and sailing yachts began on paper. Actually, it started in my head. I grew up in Amsterdam. We didn’t live by the water, and my parents didn’t sail either. But yachts have always fascinated me. I dreamed away while drawing sailing boats as a boy. The physical sailing started much later. I had an enormous urge to be outside and in nature. I am a romantic, an adventurer, a dreamer. Always been. And I guess I have a pioneering spirit. I like to think freely, off the beaten track. I need that kind of freedom. Nature and sailing give me access to that feeling.”
“From an early age, I’ve been fascinated by people who have had an impact on the world. Roald Amundsen, Ernest Shackleton. Seafarers, explorers who went beyond the social pattern of their era. Explorers that not looked at the established order but went their way. My love for sailing has never disappeared. My performance has changed considerably. I’m no longer interested in competitive sailing. Now it’s more about cruising. For me, sailing is a way to see the most beautiful places on earth. With a boat, you have access to many unique locations where you usually wouldn’t get easily. Not only the destination but also the satisfaction of being there after a long, adventurous trip is such a special feeling.”
‘I like to think freely, off the beaten track. Being out on the water gives me access to that feeling of freedom.’
“What I love most about yachting? The silence. Peace. Life on board. Self-sufficiency. To be in a cocoon with only a few people, while enjoying wide endless views. Being one with nature. To me, it’s comparable with the feeling I get when I walk through the mountains. I guess nature gives me both physical and mental rest. It gives me space and peace to think about things, or just not to think at all. To embrace the moment.
Perhaps his most elegant design is the Bestevaer.
“You know a Bestevaer when you see one. Recognizable by a certain type of structure, a solid hull, efficient underwater ship and rigging. An example of a perfect compromise between functionality and aesthetics for the Bestevaer is the sharp bow, which looks beautiful but also has a function for its seakeeping ability. Yet, it means that the front cabin is smaller than at comparable yachts. For the Bestevaer yachts, we were inspired by the design philosophy of the old commercial sailing cutters from the 19th century. The Tea Clippers too had a sharp bow, perfect sail capacity, seaworthy, and good ergonomics – since they had to be able to sail these large yachts with manpower. And of course, wonderful aesthetics. True elegance.”
“The type of yachts we design is very diverse. And not easy to compare. Initially, I designed the Bestevaer for myself in 1976 and Bestevaer II in 2002. The simple shape combined with rounded corners and edges allows it to be seen as beautiful and pure as it is. The unpainted aluminium, without further frills. Minimum maintenance. Simple and effective. Apparently, this specific combination between its appearance and functionality appealed to more people.”
Recently Dijkstra worked with Eeuwe Kooi on the Bestevaer 53 M/Y
“The collaboration with KM Yachtbuilders is very familiar. I’ve been working with this yard for 30 years now. Before Eeuwe Kooi took over the shipyard, I worked with the predecessor. With both, the collaboration has always been pleasant. Together, we always get to the perfect compromise. Eeuwe Kooi is also a no-nonsense sailor. Our own sailing experience inspires us in how we create yachts. We share the same vision and view on aesthetics and functionality. We never create a show-off just for the marina. So with the Bestevaer 53 M/Y, we wanted to offer the owner the same seaworthiness, oneness with nature and possibilities as the Bestevaer sailing yachts that I designed decades ago. Now you can reach the Fjords without having to struggle against the wind for a week.”