3 Aug 2012
Bringing sailing superyachts back to the US
America has a rich heritage when it comes to sailing yachts – in designing, building and racing – and this year’s homecoming of the America’s Cup competition to US waters has brought both excitement and attention to US sailing. This passion has not translated into construction of sailing superyachts in the US, however, and particularly not so in recent years.
Of the 934 delivered sailing yachts in the world, only 77 were built in the US (an eight per cent market share compared to the country’s total superyacht market share of 16 per cent, according to SuperyachtIntelligence.com). Only two of these 77 were built in the last decade, both from Hodgdon Yachts (47.2m Sheherazade, delivered in 2003, and 30.2m Windcrest, delivered in 2006). Currently there are no sailing yachts (by our definition, of 30m and over) under construction in the US, although there is a semi-completed hull of the 45m K-IV at Derecktor.
Yet American sailing superyacht owners are not in short supply. Reviewing the nationalities of owners with superyachts at events such as the St Barths and Newport Buckets and Superyacht Cups shows a predominance of American-owned but European- or New Zealand-built superyachts. Some of the most high profile sailing superyacht owners – Jim Clark, Tom Perkins and Joe Vittoria, for example – are Americans who have owned non-US built vessels. A great number of sailing yachts undergo refits in yards around the country, so why not build them here, too?
At the American Superyacht Forum conference, both in 2011 and this year, it was raised by Martin H Redmayne of The Superyacht Group that the US should be focusing more of its efforts to bring sailing yacht construction back to the US. “America used to build some superb sailing boats,” he said in May last year. “You need to think about sailboats as being a good marketplace for the future because Americans will see the number of boats coming to America are increasing around the next two years [for the 34th America’s Cup].”
Hodgdon Yachts is looking to buck the trend, however, and find a new project. At this year’s Monaco Yacht Show, the Maine shipyard will be presenting a 50m modern classic sailing yacht concept that would become the longest sailing superyacht constructed in the US since 1930 (El Boughaz I, 53.3m). Ed Roberts, sales and marketing director for the shipyard, talked with SuperyachtNews.com about the idea behind the concept and the opportunities for superyacht builders in the US to embrace the sail market:
“The idea of the 50m concept is to promote sailing yachts in the size category in general, not just to promote Hodgdon Yachts. We are working with a couple of designers on concepts in this size bracket to promote alongside our own design. I don’t think it is an issue about translating [our skillset from smaller sail projects] into larger yachts. Sheherazade and Antonisa [launched in 1999] are two of the nicest sailing yachts that have ever been built.
Roberts emphasised that the experience in motoryacht construction in the US is a highly valuable asset for sailing superyacht construction that should not be ignored:
“There is something different about vessels of 30m and over where the traditional segregation of sail versus power goes away. I think being a big yacht builder transcends [divisions between] sail and power, and there are a number of builders who do both. At 60m, you are into hotel services at that point, whichever type of yacht it is, so the vessels have more in common than not. And material can be considered a second-tier categoriser; if you can build a 70m yacht in aluminium, you can, in all likelihood, build both a powerboat and a sailing yacht.
“There has been a mystique developed that you have to go to Europe to build a large yacht, both for motor and sail. I think we have not done a great job of conveying that there are high quality shipyards in America. I think we have a major awareness issue but we will get there,” Roberts concluded.
American Superyacht Forum website
Hodgdon Yachts profile | Hodgdon Yachts website
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