We're throttling up says Westport's Daryl Wakefield
Daryl Wakefield, president of Westport Yachts says the American shipyard has re-hired workers and is developing a new line after the company's recent acquisition by one of their own customers, Gary Chouest…
"It's time for a new generation of Westports," Wakefield said to SuperyachtNews.com exclusively at the Monaco Yacht Show.
"When our previous owner decided to retire, the news trickled through the industry and I think people thought we were shutting our doors," he said. "That was never the case and never the intention."
Wakefield has confirmed that the yard currently has eight yachts in build, three of which are already sold, and two more that will start build within the next couple of months.
“The market was difficult for everyone in superyachts for the past few years, but we also stopped developing new product,” Wakefield said.
“Our previous owner, Orin Edson's view was that the yard was going to belong to somebody else soon, so he didn't want to point us in any particular direction," he said, "so we pulled back on any new developments during the past few years.”
With the new deal, which Wakefield has described as a “dream come true,” he’s “bringing the throttles back up.”
The company is investing in new product development and upgrading the old models: this is a yard that has, on a model of building for speculative clients, delivered 53 34m models, 12 of their largest 50m yachts and two versions of their 40m.
“It’s time for the next generation of yachts,” Wakefield has said, clearly passionate about the positive future of the US NorthWest firm, which currently has 400 employees, up from a low point of below 300 over a year ago.
“We’ve always said that ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, but we have a lot of customers who tell us they aren’t ready to go to a tri-deck or a 40m boat, but they want a little more room," Wakefield said.
"Our 34m W112 is famous for the country kitchen, but we don’t feel it works with the on-deck master stateroom, so we’re developing a new model sized between the 34m W112 and the 40m W130, which we’re cutting the tooling for in October.
"Barring any unforseen obstacles, we should be delivering a completely new Westport model in two years.”
Westport’s client base is heavily American, though they also have an unconfirmed number of superyachts in the Middle East, two in Australia and New Zealand and one in Singapore.
At it’s peak in the mid-2000s, Westport was building as many as 18 yachts a year; the 10 in the pipeline they have this year is up from their low-mark of 6 a couple years ago.
Westport attended the Monaco Yacht Show in haste, as the Chouest purchase came last in the year, but Wakefield was clear in his European ambitions.
“We’ve not done the best job educating ourselves on what’s right for the European region, so we’re raising our game there,” he said.
Wakefield insists that the new ownership will not change the company’s core proposition of offering the most boat for the dollar.
“Everybody’s looking at costs and margins: You can go to the grocery store today and buy just about anything and the package is the same size but the quantity within the package is less and the price is the same,” Wakefield said.
“We obviously can’t do anything like that—we can’t leave out an engine: Material prices are going up and obviously our guys aren’t coming in and asking for a lower wage—and I don’t blame them!
"So we are constantly looking at ways to provide a better value at a lower cost; sometimes we’re successful; sometimes you have to tough it out.
"We’re always looking for how we can give the customer something that he didn’t have before in a way that saves cost in the manufacturing process.”
Westport will have a big presence at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show 30 October 30 – 3 November, with 10 boats in the show in a mix of yard and brokerage showings.
“That’s our Super Bowl… it’s a great show for us,” Wakefield said.
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