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A Lady Made In China

An imposing RINA-classed vessel, IAG’s Primadonna created a bit of a buzz at the Miami Yacht & Brokerage Show, find out why.


How did a Chinese-built yacht get an Italian moniker? The story begins a few years ago, when the owners of a growing electronics company called the International Audio Group, with manufacturing facilities in China and offices in London, Macau and Hong Kong, decided to get into the yachtbuilding business.

The boatbuilding venture began in 2007 with the construction of a shipyard in Southeastern China. In order to get things right on the first try, the company decided to hire expertise to assist in the design and production of its first yachts and turned to experienced consultants from Italy.

Andrea Nicolai, a naval architect and engineer who splits his time between Livorno and Zhuhai and had recently worked at Baglietto, accepted the Taiwanese owners’ invitation to come to China to assist in organizing the production facilities and workflow. Nicolai, who aside from directing shipyard operations is also president of marine consulting company Ecomarine Asia, currently supervises the design and construction of the shipyard’s second series. The 100’ Electra flybridge yacht is already under construction in one of the shipyard’s six building sheds.

Construction of Hull 1, so-called Primadonna, a 127’ tri-deck built in solid composite, began in earnest. The first yacht was launched in fall 2010 and conducted sea trials in Asia. Currently, two more of these voluminous yachts, both measuring just shy of 40 meters, are under construction in IAG Yachts’ modern facilities in Zhuhai, located on mainland China not far from the playground of Macau to the south and a ferry-ride away from bustling Hong Kong.

IAG Yachts Director Tim Chang, the son of Michael Chang and nephew of Bernard Chang–IAG Yachts’ CEO and president respectively–was born and educated in the United States, where he studied finance. Tim moved to Asia to assist with the expanding family business. By all accounts, IAG’s electronics business is vastly successful—close to its manufacturing facilities near Shenzen is a resort on a 40-acre lake that includes two hotels for visiting guests, a sauna, a nine-hole golf course and restaurants—so why branch into yachts?

“My father is a boat owner and he loves boats,” he said. “He could not believe that there was no yard able to handle a yacht this size in China,” he said. So Michael and twin brother Bernard Chang decided to invest in producing megayachts for the international market featuring reliable engineering, style and competitive prices. IAG’s first yacht made its Miami debut along with other yachts built in China, including the innovative 76’ NISI, built by Tricon Marine, located like IAG Yachts on the booming Zhuhai waterfront, and the imposing 97’ Marlow Explorer, built at the Marlow/Norsemen factory in Xiamen.

Tim Chang traveled to Miami for the US debut of the Primadonna series with the shipyard’s newly appointed director of marketing, Andrew Chang, a UK-educated marketing executive from Hong Kong. The energetic duo kept busy during the show, hosting a constant flow of visitors. Indeed, the 127’ IAG tri-deck generated quite a bit of buzz, partly because at the special show price of $10.5 million, the fully equipped twin-screw diesel yacht competes price-wise with boats nearly half its size.

Captain Doug Hoogs, who handles sales in the Americas, handled the delicate task of maneuvering the beamy semi-displacement yacht into its spot near the south end of the Yacht & Brokerage Show. The yacht’s wing stations and bow thruster helped.

Hoogs, whose long and distinguished career in the yachting industry included managing numerous new builds and refits, had been touting the merits of this new build for several months already. Yet very little can match the experience of actually walking through and cruising aboard a yacht. And so Hoogs was duly pleased that IAG Yachts agreed to ship Primadonna to Florida so that the American clientele could see first-hand what the new shipyard was able to produce. The RINA-classed vessel, which is certified for unrestricted navigation, was built with charter in mind.

The lower-deck accommodations (two staterooms with twin beds and two with queen beds) are spacious and well distributed around the landing at the bottom of spiral stairs that connect all guest areas. A separate staircase links the crew accommodations to the bridge deck and sun deck, providing separate traffic patterns for guests and crew. Perhaps the most impressive area of the yacht is the exceptionally voluminous full-beam master stateroom. Located forward of the main deck, it boasts phenomenal ceiling height, which accounts in part for the yacht’s imposing presence when seen from the outside. An office, spacious ensuite bathroom with bathtub and walk-in wardrobe complete the suite. Skylights overhead can be dimmed at a flick of a switch. Surround sound and a 46” LCD TV screen, concealed behind a mirror, are suitable additions on a yacht built by the division of an audiovisual conglomerate. In fact, the yacht features top-of-the line sound and video equipment throughout. A sixth stateroom with great views is located on the bridge deck and could easily be converted to a gym.

The captain also enjoys a nice stateroom with high ceilings and ensuite bathroom, just off the wheelhouse. It may be oriented differently on future hulls to allow designers to deepen the wheelhouse a bit, maximizing views through practical vertical windows. The rest of the crew, up to eight people, enjoys attractive lower-deck cabins with small opening portholes.

The vast skylounge featuring a bar and lounge with full entertainment system—which includes a 40” TV, Blu-ray player and iPod docking station—has huge windows and opens onto a private deck that could conceivably become a private owner’s suite. This may be the case on a future hull. That is no problem for the shipyard, which is willing to accommodate owners’ specific requests for a different interior scheme or layout. On this hull, the interior is on the modern side, with fashionable wood soles and horizontal veneer in a matte finish. The galley’s cabinets feature attractive bamboo, contrasting nicely with the full-size stainless-steel appliances.

It is easy to move around the yacht. The protected side teak decks are wide and lead to a Portuguese bridge set with two large sofas and an oval table. This could be the best place to enjoy slow cruising or a private lunch when the yacht is docked stern-to at the marina. The sun deck features an open and flexible plan with few built-in furnishings, other than the required Jacuzzi and surrounding sun pads, plus a bar. Aft is a crane for the rescue tender.

Adding to the yacht’s overall length is a sizable swim platform. From here, a hydraulic door opens onto a lazarette that accommodates a tender and the well-ventilated and spacious engine room beyond. Twin 1,800-hp Caterpillar engines coupled to twin Nibral five-blade propellers via ZF reduction gears give this semi-displacement yacht a top speed of about 18 knots.

There is much more. The yacht’s complete specifications list spans 71 pages. No doubt this yacht is very complete and competitively priced. And so it is expected that the story will continue. ■

For more information, please visit
Or contact:
IAG Yachts (Americas), Portside Yachting Center, Suite D
1850 SE 17th Street,
Fortt Lauderdale, Fla. 33316
Phone: +1 954 643-6386

LOA (max): 127‘8“ (38.9m)
Beam: 26‘3“ (8m)
Draft (half load): 7‘ (2.19m)
Displacement (half load): 218 tons
Engines: 2 x Caterpillar C32 Acert 1,800 bhp @ 2,300 rpm
Fuel capacity: 6,076 gal. (23,000L)
Fresh water capacity: 1,320 gal. (4,996L)
Maximum speed (half load): 18 knots
Continuous cruising speed: 14 knots
Range @ 10 knots: about 2,500 nm
Propellers: 5-blade Nibral propellers
Generators: Northern Lights
Stabilizers: Controllable fins
Gross tonnage: about 356 GT
Classification: RINA C, Malta Cross Hull Mach, Ych (MAC) unrestricted navigation
Hull material: solid fiberglass
Superstructure: fiberglass and foam core
Paint: Hempel pure white
Anchor windlass: Two vertical-type anchor windlasses, model Maxwell VWC 6,000, 4,000w
Passerelle: Opacmare
SatCom: One Sailor TT 3020C Immarsat-C GMDSS terminal
Interior design: Iven Lo, IAG Yachts
Exterior design: IAG Yachts/Yacht Design and
Architectural Services (YDAS)
Engineering: IAG Yachts/REDS
Builder: IAG Yachts