Vela is a new custom-built phinisi yacht that was launched in August 2022. This beautiful six-cabin yacht is owned by the eco-minded team behind Nirjhara, a sustainable hideaway hotel designed around a waterfall in Bali. Combining century-old tradition and modern naval design, Vela was conceived by an American engineer and built in South Sulawesi by the renowned Konjo boatbuilders, using locally sourced ironwood and teak.
At 164 feet in length, Vela is one of the largest phinisis on the water. It is also one of the narrowest, with an elongated sleek hull and double keel that gives the boat weight under the waterline. Designed by naval architect Tresno Seery, son of the late Patti Seery who is credited with pioneering the luxury phinisi charter industry, Vela is hydrodynamic, efficient and stable. Its weight and stability are reinforced by its masts and rigging, among the tallest of all phinisis, while boasting the largest sail surface of nearly 7,000 square feet of sail.
Vela’s interior offers a comfortable setting with a generous dose of traditional Indonesian craftsmanship. Each of Vela’s six suites is tastefully appointed with Italian fabrics and furnished with locally produced custom teak furniture sourced from sustainable forestry. Every en-suite bathroom is equipped with Philippe Starck-designed fittings and features handmade terracotta produced in Ubud, offset with smooth marble. The interiors, created by a Parisian interior designer, are bright and airy, with a generous dash of colour. Chic accents include ceramics from Gaya in Ubud, fabrics hand-dyed with plant-based indigo dye from East Bali, and Italian fabrics from Hermès and Dedar Milano.
Onboard Vela, there are a host of added wellbeing boosters: sun salutations take on new magic with sunrise yoga and meditation classes, an outdoor gym can be set up on deck daily, while an expert therapist will be on hand to offer massages and other beauty rituals, including signature treatments from The Retreat (Nirjhara’s spa). Whether guests choose to sail, make the most of crystalline waters with diving, snorkelling, water-skiing and stand-up paddle boarding, or head ashore for island hiking, birdwatching, secret-beach barbecues, and more, Vela offers the best of adventure, refinement and safety.
According to Robb Report, Vela is “a sea wolf in sheep’s clothing. It might look like an early 19th-century wooden phinisi used to transport spices and textiles across the Indonesian archipelago, but the vessel is an eclectic mix of traditional and modern.” Vela is a yacht where old meets new, and east meets west.
Vela’s boutique hotel ownership ensures fine attention to detail and the feel of a discreet floating villa at sea. The owners’ aim was to build a boat that feels like it belongs in Indonesia but to standards that are more comparable to a superyacht in the Mediterranean. The owners, Dimitri Tran and Adrien Porter, first stepped aboard a liveaboard phinisi in 2016 during a family charter to the Komodo National Park. Two years later, they cruised the crystalline waters of Raja Ampat, yet both charters left them underwhelmed and feeling like they could do it better.
When it came to the design and build process, Vela’s owners chose to use the traditional Bugis-Makassar boatbuilding technique. Vela was custom-built by hand on the beach in South Sulawesi with only limited tooling. Once complete, the boats are pulled by hand into the