AA: When did you first start working with Ian?
TD: I first worked with Ian on his barge in France. He was a great lover of France and to pursue his love, he built himself a riverboat designed by the late, great Jon Bannenberg that he could travel Europe’s canals with. There were eventually a few changes he wanted to make. He said Bannenberg was too busy to modify it and hoped that as an ex-Bannenberg pupil I might be able to wave a similar magic wand at it. Which I did, but then he hit on the idea of building a 50m yacht. We started with the idea of what his ideal 50m boat would be and went from there.
JB: I knew Ian as a charterer with us at Burgess. He chartered once or twice a year, had a great time, tried to buy a couple of the boats that he chartered and was not successful. And then one day he said to me “maybe we should just build a boat” so we started to look and see what was out there.
JB: He particularly enjoyed the build experience. He also realised – as did we – that the way that he’d approached it going in saying that he wanted the biggest, best quality boat that he could get for his money, meant that he had struck a really good deal.
TD: Ian’s philosophy was that he was in a strong position to drive a hard bargain because the market wasn’t saturated at the time.
JB: He said “right, let’s have a look at this and see if we built another one if we could sell it for a profit”. We looked at it, crunched all the numbers and concluded that we could, so he contracted a second 50m. We carried on building and as we were building it became clear that we could sell these boats for a profit. So we kept going.
AA: And he made quite a good profit, didn’t he?
JB: Yes, absolutely, and the success came as a surprise to him.
TD: He certainly got a boat for free … probably more than that.
AA: Did he have to compromise on anything to keep costs down?
TD: It is really important to stress that this was no way a cost-cutting story. For Ian, each boat was his boat until such time that he sold it. He was a strict quality man, he wouldn’t take a second-rate thing just for the sake of trying to make a profit. It was a case of “if I’m going to be stuck with it, it has to be perfect”.
AA: What can other owners learn from Ian?
JB: A lot can be learned from Ian. People don’t often want to declare what they want to spend when they approach a yard because they are worried that they will be charged the top of their budget no matter what. I think it is better to go in and tell people what you want to spend and then really push it home.
TD: Ian was a very nice guy, but he was tough in negotiation. Be stubborn on what you get for your money. Don’t compromise.
For the full interview with Jonathan Beckett and Terry Disdale, subscribers can view Issue 14. To subscribe, click here.