Building a Sailing Yacht: The Experience of Riccardo Benoni

by Riccardo Benoni, Building Captain of SW96 Ammonite

SW96 Ammonite touched the water a couple of months ago: what were your feelings as you saw her leaving the shipyard?

My wife and I were so high on emotions that we couldn’t do anything but jump with happiness.

Since 2015 the yacht’s owners have granted us their trust and affection to the point that, at the launch of their second yacht, SW96 Ammonite, we felt we were witnessing the birth of “our” first daughter. After four years, one full lap around the world and many stories to tell, we were able to assist them in building a sailing yacht – a second, bigger SWS.

The time in the shipyard has been fantastic. It was our second time around so we knew most of the team, although someone was missing. The shipyard workers, as well as the technical department and the security guys, have been very welcoming and dealing with all of them has been a pleasure and an honour.

SW96 Ammonite_Building experience

How was your relationship with the shipyard workers? Are there any nice anecdotes you can tell us?

The anecdote I can tell you is that we felt accepted. We didn’t feel the cold distance that the “Captain’s respect” sometimes imposes on others, and that was rewarding because it made us feel equal, normal, as we all are.

Another one is related to that Monday morning when I snuck onto the mezzanine next to the boat and I saw for the first time the beautiful paint job on the deck, combined with the hull paint job.

I had no words and I clapped my hands for several minutes. Many shipyard workers stopped, surprised. A few may have noticed a tear from my eyes.

This is the feeling I had every time I walked on board. The deep feeling of gratitude for everybody that had contributed to building another beautiful yacht.

SW96 Ammonite_Building experience

You chose not to repatriate back to Italy when Covid hit South Africa in spring 2020. Why? And what has it been like living in Cape Town for so long?

We felt safe in Cape Town and we felt that leaving Cape Town could have resulted in us not being able to come back, and therefore not being able to continue to assist the owners on the construction of their yacht.

Moreover, we are sailors – we don’t really have a home. Our ancestors are in Italy and this is where our heart is but we are fortunate enough to have enough with each other. Since our daughter was born in august 2018, I hadn’t been able to spend a lot of time with her and my wife. When the owners decided to buy the new yacht, they offered a position to my wife so that we could live together in Cape Town. Lockdown was a blessing for us because we were together and that’s all we care about. Cape Town has treated us very well. We strengthened existing friendships and made new ones.

What will you bring home of this last experience?

Building a sailing yacht during a pandemic is not easy and the SWS team has made a great effort to adapt to these exceptional circumstances. The adaptability of the management and the shipyard workers is something I will take for myself in the future.

SW96 Ammonite_Building experience
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