Common Issues With Nautor's Swan Sailboats

Common Issues With Nautor's Swan Sailboats | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Daniel Wade

August 30, 2022

Sometimes in the sailing world, there are boats that go through a lot of problems. For example, there are some common issues with Nautor’s Swan sailboats.

While not every boat is perfect, some issues can be overlooked. So what issues are common with Nautor’s Swan sailboats?

The structural integrity of older model Swan sailboats are the biggest concerns sailors face if they decide to purchase one. Other issues include high prices, lack of comfort on the inside, and a lot of these boats were meant for multiple people to handle on deck. These are considered racing boats.

The Swan 57 is famous for a lot of these issues and are still present today if you happen to find one. The problem is, people do not want to spend the money on them to fix the issues and some brokers will refuse to buy one.

According to sailing experts, issues with structural integrity is a major red flag for any boat no matter what the brand is. While this is present in older model Swan boats, you should always be on the lookout for your boat and check for cracks with routine maintenance.


Table of contents

Biggest Issues with Nautor’s Swan Boats

Not all Nautor’s Swan boats turned out to be bad pieces of work. In fact, these are some of the most beautiful sailing racing yachts in the industry. These are classics, but a few did not make the cut in that regard.

Nautor’s Swan had to go a different direction in the 1980’s after they went through multiple disagreements and failed designs. The problems are likely here today in some of those older models because sailors do not want to spend the extra money to fix them.

Structural Integrity

Around 1977, Nautor began producing the Swan 57 with teak decks being an option to add. After a handful of models, they started noticing problems.

The structural support was not correct and the boat could not handle stress accordingly. The floors were either not designed properly (Sparkman & Stephens) or not put together correctly (Nautor), leaving sailors at risk while at sea.

Nautor and Sparkman & Stephens discussed what went wrong, but both parties blamed each other. This led to the downfall of their partnership, even after putting together plenty of quality sailboats before that.

High Prices

Depending on the brand of sailboats you are looking for, there is going to be a vast difference in prices. This also depends on the type of sailboat, the size, and what the boat is made out of.

Nautor’s Swan sailboats are known to be high in price since they are a sailing performance yacht. The problem is that many older versions of their models are expensive because they are more collectible than anything else.

Boat prices average to be $300,000 for some Nautor’s Swan models. However, the work that needs to go into them could greatly increase this price.

Lack of Comfort

While the newer Swan sailboats have a lot more luxury on the inside, the older models did not. A lot of sailors mistook these yachts as a nice family boat that went fast. Just because they are big does not mean that they were designed to be a houseboat.

These boats were meant for racing, so the interior is lacking in a lot of ways. With just a few bedrooms and a dining table, it really had bare bones when it comes to comfort here. Even though you could make some adjustments on board, keep in mind that this is another cost and time you have to put in to make it more comfortable.

Need a Crew

As mentioned, sailors were drawn to the beauty of these boats since there was nothing like it during that time. You could argue that a lot of impulse buys went into effect when a lot of sailors did not know what they were getting into. While the deck is appealing and the outline makes it easy to move around, it is taxing to do it all by yourself.

You need a crew to handle these boats, especially the Swan 57. Trying to handle it by yourself is an impossible task, as you need to be somewhat athletic and need a hand or two.

Tips on Buying a Nautor’s Swan 57 Sailboat or Any of Them

Nautor is still an excellent company when it comes to the quality of their boats. The problems arise when you look at the older models that they still have on the market. You need to take serious caution if you plan on purchasing one of these.

In fact, some brokers have tried to talk sailors out of buying an older Swan to help them avoid issues. While you should always proceed with caution when buying a used sailboat, you need to take into consideration what the history of the boat is.


Your budget is going to be a driving force on what you can afford. The problem is, it does not stop at the initial purchase price for a Swan 57.

You will need to have the ability to work on this boat yourself or hire someone to do the maintenance for you. Even if you find a cheap one for $100,000, you should expect to throw another $50,000 to $100,000 just to make it work.

First Few Hulls

If you happen to get your hands on one of the earliest models of the Swan 57, you need to seriously consider avoiding it. These are guaranteed to have structural issues if they have not been previously corrected.

These boats in particular tainted the reputation of this brand for many years. It is indeed a story they wish they could forget.

Out of the 49 that they built of the Swan 57, there are likely a few out there that were not sent back to the yard to be repaired. If it is indeed an original, it is more for looks than a sailboat.

Teak Decks

Another issue that stands out is the teak deck, if it has one. If it does not, then you can simply look at the current quality of the deck and see what to do with it.

Replacing the teak deck is going to be quite an expensive task. If they have to be replaced, you are looking at anywhere between $50,000 to $100,000.

For a boat that might be worth double that cost, you have to really consider if it is worth putting in the extra time and money. Most of these boats had the decks replaced, but some did not make it back to do so.

Location of Generator

The location of the generator is nowhere near the biggest issue in comparison to the structure of the boat. However, it is important to point out minor issues and how it affects the quality of your time on the boat.

Oftentimes, previous owners have installed the generator aft and is noisy to the staterooms for guests. If you can find one that has it installed midway through the boat around the galley, this would be more ideal. While the sound is never going to go away, at least your guests will thank you for not having it right outside their rooms.

Centerboard Models

While there are not many of these out there, the centerboard models are even rarer than the first builds. This is the shoalest draft they offered, coming in just above six and half feet with the board up.

A lot of sailors wanted the shoal draft so they could explore shallow waters. The other models’ drafts were just over nine feet. This prevented a lot of sailors from navigating where they wanted, which was a shame since this boat in particular was much easier to steer than other boats.

Condition of Engine

The original engine to the Swan 57 was a 73 HP Perkins, which was a quality option at the time to power this racer boat. If the engine is still there, you should have a professional look it over since it is over 30 years old.

If the engine has been replaced, it still does not hurt to have someone inspect it. Over the 30 years that this boat has been in existence, you would have to rely on previous owners and hope that they did the proper routine maintenance on it. It is bad enough that the structural integrity is in question, so a second opinion here would be a good bet.

Sails and Mast

Whether you find the ketch or sloop varieties of the Swan 57, you should check the condition of both the sails and the mast. This is especially important if they are original to the boat since the structural integrity had issues.

If the boat could not support the structure, then the mast could definitely have some issues too. This means you definitely need a second or third opinion on a boat like this.

Various Upgrades

As if this boat did not have enough problems, you have to factor in any upgrades electrically to make this work. This could be adding marine radios, navigational systems, and basic lighting.

Since the galley and living spaces are lacking what they need, you would likely have to make adjustments to make it liveable. This would make the costs higher for an already risky purchase.

History of Nautor’s Swan Sailboats

Pekka Koskenkyla was the founder of Nautor back in 1966 when he had a passion for building high performance sailing yachts in Pietarsaari, Finland. The interesting part is that these boats were being built in a place that sees below freezing temperatures for several months out of the year.

Koskenkyla needed the help of Sparkman & Stephens to build his dream of high performance sailing yachts. The first yacht they put together was known as Tarantella, which turned out to be a great success and one of the earliest fiberglass boats.

This boat paved the way for their continued success since they found a way to make the boats lighter and steer better. From then on, Koskenkyla named his company Swan for its ties to being elegant and strong. It is also a fairly understood word among English, Scandinavian, and German languages.

Sparkman & Stephens went on to design the next 1,000 Swan yachts that were sold from the yard. These included the timeless Swan 38 and Swan 47 models. Other Swan models they successfully built include:

  • 40
  • 41
  • 411
  • 43
  • 431
  • 44
  • 47
  • 48
  • 55
  • 67
  • 76

In 1977, the company would take a negative turn of events. The company began building the Swan 57, which is where Nautor and Sparkman & Stephens had their falling out in the partnership.

There were arguments about the design and the build, which both sides blamed each other for the mistakes. The floor had framing issues that seemed to be difficult to fix. A lot could be argued for each side, but everyone can agree that this was a failed project.

From 1966 all the way to the Swan 57 in 1977, Sparkman & Stephens were the only boat builders for Nautor. After they went through a lot of heated discussions, they agreed to finish the 49 models of the Swan 57 and they never worked together again.

Nautor had the help from another quality boat builder Ron Holland from 1978 to 1981 to continue production of other boats. He helped design five boats and 300 units total. Some of these were famous installments from the Nautor brand, such as the Swan 37, Swan 39 and the Swan 42.

After that, they found German Frers and have collaborated with him since that time to today. He has been responsible for the quality and integrity of the Nautor brand and has pushed the limits for years.

Frers has helped Nautor save their face when they needed it the most. With his unique perspective on a handful of designs, he has helped them reach new heights than ever before.

First Look at a Swan 57

Olin Stephens was the man behind this boat’s design, whether you want to blame him for the mishaps or not. It was a weird coincidence that this particular boat had issues when all of the previous ones had minor or none at all. However, he still designed one of the most elegant yachts at that time and it still has beauty no matter how badly it performed.

The Swan 57 showcased the classic rocket ship feel on the stern, low freeboard, good sheerline, wide decks, and a raked bow. If it is in good condition, these are some of the sexier yachts from that time that would light up any museum or marina in the right condition.

If a sailor did not know the history of these boats, they likely would jump on a deal like this. In most cases, brokers have been upfront about these boats and what they are capable of doing.

Over 30 years since the boat was introduced, the Swan 57 would likely still be one of the more attractive yachts in a marina. This boat is a different breed of class and is not your typical cutter, making it a unique design in history.

Common Issues With Nautor's Swan Sailboats
Daniel Wade

Daniel Wade

I've personally had thousands of questions about sailing and sailboats over the years. As I learn and experience sailing, and the community, I share the answers that work and make sense to me, here on Life of Sailing.

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