Enigma xk 71m conversion project by Philippe Briand


The 71.4m M/Y Enigma XK conversion project completed at Atlantic Refit Center in La Rochelle, France, has given Vitruvius Yachts an opportunity to showcase the design company’s skills when it comes to a challenging yet rewarding interior project.

Until now, Vitruvius Yachts has been known for its new construction projects, with a focus on the technical capabilities of the vessel, including long range cruising and highly efficient naval architecture in the form of its Briand Optimized Hull. The completion of this conversion project offers a new insight into the team’s ability to rise to complex interior design challenges.

The ex-military vessel, previously named Norna, was built in 1988 by Richards Shipbuilders as a fishery patrol vessel for use in the North Sea. As such, its naval architecture called for a very robust hull that was able to withstand extreme sea conditions. The current owner bought the vessel because he had a vision to convert this once stark and functional ship into a timeless expedition superyacht, equally matched in comfort and robustness, that was capable of tackling all manner of sea conditions, with a very large range provided by the 230m3 (230,000 litre) fuel tanks

Enigma XK is now a powerful, well built vessel, fitted with two 3,000 hp engines powering her up to a speed of 18 knots. Her full tank capacity is providing her with an impressive range of 12,000 nm at cruising speed (11 knots). It was important to the new owner that the conversion was carried out in as short a timeframe as possible, in the most financially efficient manner, without compromising on the quality of the completed vessel while respecting its original essence and character.


A team of experts was called upon to work with Atlantic Refit Center, including Vitruvius Yachts to design the interior conversion, Philippe Briand for the exterior design, and McFarlane Ship Design for the naval architecture. Due to the time sensitivity of the project, many of the processes for design and practical conversion needed to take place in parallel to meet the strict scheduling demands.

Perhaps the most challenging of tasks was to convert the interior of the vessel into a comfortable superyacht that could accommodate 12 guests and 21 crew. Rather than be able to create the ideal foundations and proportions for living space from scratch, as with a new build project, the Vitruvius Yachts team was faced with turning a purely functional interior into something of beauty and luxury. The owner wished to keep the existing plumbing and wiring to limit costs, so this constrained the design team further.

The three most significant challenges for the Vitruvius Yachts team were the low headroom and camber of the vessel, the absence of natural light to the interior, and the lack of social areas on the original vessel.
The 2.5 metres’ headroom between decks is standard on military vessels, and with wiring and other systems taking up valuable space behind the panels and a difficult camber to overcome, the Vitruvius Yachts team executed an impressive revision of the space that resulted in all living areas having a height of 2.0 metres or more.


Philippe Briand, who leads the team of designers and naval architects at Vitruvius Yachts, commented on the challenge: “Refit work is very complex for a designer, as you often need to have a strong appreciation for the design of technical systems and naval architecture. On the Enigma XK project, I worked with a geometer to recreate all the areas of the vessel. Only then can you start doing the detailed work.”

The next challenge was to open up the interior to natural light, as the original design of the vessel had restricted portholes to a minimum. In total, 27 port lights of 1.2 metres’ height were added to Enigma XK during the conversion, which now flood the living space with light and offer much improved views of the surroundings.


One of the most impressive features of the newly converted superyacht is its glass observation room, which provides panoramic views of the ever-changing cruising grounds that the yacht is set to explore. With travel to the Polar Regions available to the owner, this will no doubt be the most popular space from which guests can discover the natural beauty of these destinations without leaving the comfortable, warm cocoon of the superyacht’s interior.

As an ex-military vessel, Enigma XK had little dedicated social space in its previous incarnation. Vitruvius Yachts had the task of converting the general arrangement to something more liveable, which entailed transforming the officer’s mess into a main salon, and adding five spacious guest rooms on the main deck, the owner’s full-beam suite featuring a spectacular skylight and panoramic windows. For leisure, there is now a gymnasium and wellness room, to complement the reception rooms and outdoor open areas with sun protection for dining and entertaining.

The palette chosen for Enigma XK’s interior is a combination of whites and neutral tones, offset by darker woods, to provide a calm and understated setting from which to enjoy the rugged explorer yacht’s adventures to come.


In total, the 26-month conversion project took 280,000 man-hours of work, with 70 tonnes of steel being removed and installed, 35 kilometres of new electrical cables placed, 99 tonnes of sand used to sandblast the vessel, and 13,000 litres of filler used on the hull and superstructure. Still faster and more economical than building a new superyacht of this size, the Enigma XK project will hopefully serve as an inspiration to the many potential owners who dream of building an explorer superyacht but do not wish to wait as long as is necessary for a completely new vessel.

Briand said of the completed project: “We are very proud of the design work for Enigma XK that Vitruvius Yachts carried out on this first of our refit and conversion projects. It has given us an opportunity to explore our skill-set in a new setting, as well as challenging us to work in the framework of an existing vessel. We feel that the interior of Enigma XK carries with her the philosophy of all Vitruvius Yachts: that of efficiency, practicality and balance.”

Atlantic Refit Center is the only refit shipyard on the west Atlantic coast of Europe exclusively dedicated to high quality tailored refits for super- and megayachts from 20m up to 140m in length, as well as complex conversion projects such as that of Enigma XK.



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