By Kenny Wooton, YI editor-in-chief
There is a building sense—although not a consensus—that the days of ignominy about owning a yacht are over. Post-financial crash, it still may not be cool for a CEO who downsized his company or whose share price is gagging to arrive in paparazzi-rich Nantucket on a sparkling new superyacht, but there is a feeling afoot that the world is emerging from those dark days.
The devalued ruble isn’t helping, the Chinese still haven’t figured out the boating thing and some European economies are in the tank, but at least Americans are back in the game and yards are taking orders again. Happy (or at least happier) days are here again.
When the fault slipped in 2008, the yachting industry was in the middle of the greatest boom ever. Things were so hot, there were stories of a secondary market for build slots for owners who didn’t want to wait until they were on life support to see their next boat. Yards that had never built on spec were starting hulls—many of which then proceeded to languish. Some yards saw worse with clients walking away from partially finished projects. A swelling supply of brokerage boats clogged the pipeline.
With demand for new boats finally on the upswing again, maybe now’s the time to snap up a spec hull and get on with it. Delivery windows are starting to stretch out, surely not to the level they were pre-crash, but enough that a fresh order from paper can take two or three years to splash. A spec hull can get you into your next boat in half that time.
Yacht owners are a funny lot. Even though many large yachts nowadays are built on pre-engineered series hulls with customized interiors, some owners can’t get their heads around the idea of picking up the process midbuild. I respect the notion of commissioning a full-custom build and the creative rewards of directing a project from concept to completion, but like so many of us these days, I’m a total FedEx type. I’d rather have what I want yesterday-ish, not three years-ish hence. Picking up a spec project midbuild allows you to indulge your tastes and desires in a fraction of the time.
Builders such as Westport in the United States and several builders scattered about Europe and Asia are in the spec-build game. If you need an example of a successful adoption project, look no further than the cover of our May/June issue. Heesen’s 47-meter (154-foot) Elena was started on spec and was fairly far along in the process when an owner locked on. As you’ll notice from the story, he got a spectacular boat in a fraction of the time he would have starting from scratch, and he was still able to tailor her to his tastes.
Heesen builds full-custom yachts, but always starts two or three yachts a year in its 47-meter (154-foot) displacement and 50-meter (164-foot) semi-displacement series. Those hulls are available in various stages of completion for a willing—or impatient—owner to take on. As a project proceeds, Heesen will commission an interior by a top designer, as the yard did with Elena, and an owner can get into his new boat that much quicker.
For an instant-gratification guy like me, that could be the best of all worlds.