Back in the early ‘60s, Buehler Turbocraft was one of the first to use Hamilton waterjets. The brand became a household name when its boats appeared in the James Bond movie Thunderball and undertook an epic expedition up the Colorado River. Buehler also engineered precision components for the aerospace industry, but following defence cuts under the Nixon administration the company sold off its marine division in 1971.
Fast forward over 40 years to John Clapot, a Swiss graduate of international relations & economics who gave up his job as a luxury brand manager with Ralph Lauren to pursue a full-time career as an entrepreneur in the yachting industry. He acquired the rights to the Buehler Turbocraft brand in 2011 and set about gathering a design team (including former employees of Espen Oeino International) to re-launch the company.
Their first concept was the Thunderclap 38 (last image), an 11.5m fast runabout/superyacht tender that combined retro lines with contemporary styling motifs and the latest engineering. The exterior design exuded style and grace with a wrap-round windscreen and distinctive fashion plates that recall the intake ducts of an Audi R8 that could be finished in anything from varnished wood to metallic copper or carbon fibre.
“It’s been a long but exciting journey since then,” says Clapot. “I was given an innovation grant in Switzerland to develop a second 39-foot model we've called Silverfin. Halfway between a traditional lobster boat and a small explorer yacht, it offers the benefit of both types, while remaining faithful to the innovative nature of the Buehler brand in terms of styling and function.”
Silverfin is a cheeky reference to a novel of the same name by Charlie Higson, the first in the Young Bond series that depicts Ian Fleming’s superspy as a teenager in the 1930s. With a top speed of 21 knots, the single-engine yacht is expected to sip a modest 10 litres of fuel per hour at cruising speed for a range in excess of 400nm, thanks to its extremely efficient semi-planing hull.
Whereas Thunderclap was meant to built of wood using cold-moulding techniques like the original Buehler boats, construction on Silverfin has started using GRP and lightweight composites for a weight of just over 6 tonnes fully loaded. Appendages are also being tested that streamline the flow of water over the propeller to further improve propulsion efficiency.
The exterior styling blends classic lines with seaworthy purpose. Although the deckhouse and raised pilothouse makes it unsuitable for garage storage, it could be stowed on the deck of an explorer-style superyacht. Featuring a spacious aft cockpit, interior dinette/lounge and forward cabin, the extended range means it could happily function as a chase boat or “mini explorer” for overnight trips away from the mothership.
Attempts to revive the Buehler brand will face some tough competition from rivals such as Wajer Osprey, J-Craft and Van Dutch, not to mention the flurry of collaborations between boat builders and automotive marques such as Mercedes, Aston Martin, Bugatti and Lexus. But Clapot believes the Turbocraft heritage of style and innovation has what it takes to make a difference when Silverfin makes her debut at the 2018 Cannes Yachting Festival.
“Silverfin is basically a new type of craft,” he says, “developed for owners expecting the best possible mix of design, comfort and experience.“