Love for Sail

The architect Greg Lynn builds his dream boat.

Greg Lynn
Photographer: Adrian Gaut

There is a reason that boats are referred to as “she”: Men have a way of becoming infatuated with them. Take the architect Greg Lynn. Lynn grew up sailing, and over the past 15 years or so, his practice as well as his teachings at schools like Yale and UCLA have become increasingly informed by the materials and technology of sailboat design. (He says his obsession kicked in around 2000, when he saw a Prada ad featuring Luna Rossa, the brand’s contender for the America’s Cup.) And now Lynn, an avid racer, has finally designed and built his dream boat, a prototype GF42. The G stands for Greg, and the F for­ ­Frederick Courouble, a yacht designer and aerospace engineer who developed it with him. But after months of seeing the plans lying around the house, Lynn’s teenage daughter asked, with a note of derision, “Dad, why is your boat called Girlfriend?” The name, naturally, stuck.

The 42-foot trimaran, which at 5,800 pounds weighs less than the lead bulb required to keep Lynn’s previous boat upright, makes other vessels in Marina del Rey, California, look like bathtubs—which they basically are, by comparison. “Usually, a 100 percent carbon race boat has no interior to speak of,” Lynn says. “It weighs the boat down and accounts for a third of the cost.” Using materials like glass fiber, foam, and epoxy, however, Lynn was able to fabricate a kitchen, three sleeping berths, a bathroom, and what he generously describes as a “lounge” (total weight: 80 pounds), and decked it all out in hot-rod colors. The sleek, elegantly futuristic aesthetic underscores just how outmoded boat design has generally become. “In architecture, we don’t even use words like ‘cabin’ and ‘salon’ anymore. It’s low-hanging fruit to do something good in that industry.”

And Girlfriend is nothing if not a looker. On a late afternoon this summer, she raised eyebrows as Lynn and Courouble took her out for a spin with ­Geoffrey von Oeyen, an architect who used to race on Frank Gehry’s office team and who recently organized an exhibition about sailing and architecture at the University of Southern California, and Oliver Garrett, a contractor who built Lynn’s first residential commission, the Bloom House. Julia Koerner, a young architect who developed 3-D printing technology for the fashion designer Iris van Herpen, was also along for the ride. Lynn, who is exceedingly affable on land, became almost stern in the captain’s seat, though the crew seemed to relish the challenge of getting Girlfriend up to 15 knots (only half of what she’s capable of, apparently), coaxing two of the three hulls out of the water. I wouldn’t exactly call it a pleasure cruise, but it definitely made your heart skip a beat.

Photos: Love for Sail

Girlfriend, Greg Lynn’s GF42.

Photographer: Adrian Gaut

Lynn at the helm.

Photographer: Adrian Gaut

The boat’s futuristic interior.

Photographer: Adrian Gaut

At sea off the coast of Southern California.

Photographer: Adrian Gaut