American businessman JR Ridinger was ready for a new yacht to accommodate his friends and expanding family. He had other criteria as well, and his search ended in a place he didn’t expect: Viareggio, Italy, where Rossinavi had begun construction on a fast, all-aluminum, 207-foot (63-meter) motoryacht it called Project Vector.
“My wife and I decided we were of an age and stage of our lives to make the next big boat move,” Ridinger says. “We had the means but could not find a brokerage boat on the market that fit the bill.”
JR and Loren Ridinger are veteran yacht owners. Their criteria, in addition to increased guest space, included speed and a shallow draft for the Bahamas.
“If I am in Cat Cay and see a storm coming, I want to beat that storm and haul ass back to Miami,” Ridinger says. “I want a yacht capable of making at least 21 knots.”
Project Vector reportedly will be able to hit 28 knots, allowing Ridinger to add another fast toy to his life (he enjoys snow skiing, riding personal watercraft and car racing). His first boat was a 27-foot Carver. He moved through some other boats including a Hatteras before purchasing a Feadship. He currently owns the 155-foot Trinity Utopia III.
“Frankly, I had never considered an Italian-built boat,” he says. His longtime captain was also skeptical, so Ridinger sent him and his engineer to Rossinavi. “They came back convinced the yacht would be exactly the right thing for us,” he says.
Ridinger also did his own due diligence. “I did not see any skeletons in the company’s closet,” he says. “I feel I am good at seeing opportunities. This yacht made sense from every angle, mathematically and every which way.”
As Project Vector’s construction continued in Italy, Ridinger discussed the project in Fort Lauderdale. He was dressed in a black T-shirt, blazer, jeans and aviator sunglasses. On his silver ball-chain necklace were pendants that resembled dog tags with diamond bezels. On his wrist was a gold chronometer with a nautical blue-and-white leather strap. His T-shirt displayed an “S” logo and the phrase “Convert Spending Into Earning.”
“I am a triple Pisces,” he said with a wink, suggesting strengths of empathy and intuition that some astrologers say border on psychic abilities.
The Ridingers founded Market America in 1992 out of their garage in Greensboro, North Carolina, and later acquired Shop.com for online sales. Now in its 25th year, Market America is a global company that helps individuals become entrepreneurs who earn residual incomes (or, as the company calls them, “unfranchise owners”). The “S” on Ridinger’s T-shirt stands for “shopping annuity,” a cash-back program on Shop.com. “I call myself an economic evangelist,” he says with a smile.
Ridinger did not always want to be a businessman. As a young man, he dreamed of being like Jacques Cousteau. Ridinger had an early career as a marine biologist working at Sandy Hook Marine Labs. “One day on assignment, I was washed overboard from a government marine assessment boat,” he says. “I survived … I count myself extremely lucky.”
Over the years, the Ridingers have enjoyed much luck, including having homes in Florida, North Carolina, Connecticut, New York, the United Kingdom, the Bahamas and Puerto Rico. They are drawn to the water and yachting, a sport they share with business associates, family and friends.
“We totally merge our life with boat life,” he says. “I believe strong relationships are cultivated over boating: Being on the sea is an equalizing factor. Through the course of business, boating and personal life, we have been fortunate to meet many interesting people including famous athletes, artists and musicians. We kind of collect people ... we are ‘people people.’”
Meeting the Rossi family cemented the Ridingers’ decision to pursue their dream yacht at Rossinavi.
“What captivated me was that their family business culture was similar to mine,” he says. “Our respective businesses are entrepreneurial with strong family ties. My wife and I are in business together, along with her brothers, sister and our children, much the same way the Rossi family works together.”
When it came to making the numbers work, Ridinger says, Loren handled negotiations with Claudia Rossi. “The two women came to a meeting of the minds,” he says.
Upon delivery, Project Vector is expected to be christened Utopia IV, the Ridingers’ perfect paradise afloat.
The 207-foot (63-meter) motoryacht Project Vector, designed by Rossinavi in collaboration with Team for Design’s Enrico Gobbi, takes its style cues from the Italian automotive industry. Similar to a sports coupe, the yacht looks and is fast for her size. “I wanted to create a timeless yacht with shapes and details that are unaffected by time or fashion,” Gobbi says.
“Her interior aesthetics are understated, clean and contemporary with neutral appointments,” Gobbi adds. The color palette is primarily white, beige and blue. All the marble is sourced from Carrara, and the fabrics and other interior materials will come from Italy, too.
Rossinavi says the yacht will debut at the Monaco Yacht Show in 2018.
Project Vector is “a fast boat with hydro jets planned for the Caribbean and shallow enough draft for port cities in Miami and the Bahamas,” says Federico Rossi, COO of Rossinavi.
Rossinavi was founded in 2007 upon the legacy of Claudio and Paride Rossi, who fabricated metal starting in the 1970s and built coastal boats while subcontracting for superyacht yards in the 1980s. Today, Rossinavi builds superyachts in the 130- to 230-foot (40- to 70-meter) range.