Building a superyacht in super-fast time has paid off for Yachting Developments.
It is pretty much an international rule of thumb: a 30m custom superyacht, built to a high standard, takes about two years, or a little longer.
It doesn't seem to matter if the yacht is being built here in New Zealand, in the emerging economies in Southeast Asia, in the United States or in Europe.
To build such a vessel in just over a year is unheard of, verging on the ridiculous. To do so while having a three-week break over Christmas and while working just three full weekends of overtime is, one would have thought, simply impossible.
Yet Kiwis have something of a reputation for doing the impossible and, more often than not, doing it rather well. And there is no doubt that tough times focus the minds and harden the resolve.
Just over a year ago, not many customers were looking for the sort of vessel in which Hobsonville boatbuilder Yachting Developments specialises: namely 30-odd-metre, composite-construction, custom-built sailing superyachts.
For a start, we were in the middle of a worldwide recession and orders for superyachts of any sort were at a multi-decade low. Next, the vast majority of superyachts are not sailboats, they are motoryachts. Third, most of the world's sailing superyachts are built in aluminium, not composite.
So come the beginning of 2010, it is fair to say the Yachting Developments order book was fairly bare.
Then, out of the gloom, came a glimmer of light. A European owner was looking for such a yacht but there were a couple of catches: the boat was probably going to a European yard (in part because it was far closer to the owner's base) and it had to be ready by mid-2011.
A visit by the owner's representative and a look over one of Yachting Developments' previous yachts, the award-winning Bliss, took care of the first, a lightning visit to London by Yachting Developments' managing director, Ian Cook, launched a commitment to meet the second.
Commitment is one thing and delivering quite another. Cook is the first to admit that although he was the one who made the commitment, it was the attitude of his staff and management that made meeting that commitment a reality.
He says everyone instantly understood just how important the job was to their own and the company's future and what building such an advanced vessel in such a time frame would mean.
"The whole team bought into the project," he says. "Their attitude throughout the build was incredible.
"Everyone worked really hard but, more importantly, they all worked really smart. I think everyone thrived on the challenge and they all have a lot to be proud of."
The yacht, now named Antares III, was launched early last month and was immediately praised highly by its new owner, who had flown down from Europe for the launching.
It is clear the fast build time has not compromised the quality of the construction or the finish.
Highly experienced in the construction of such vessels (if not quite at this speed) and with plenty of suitable space in their Hobsonville yard, the Yachting Developments team were able to build Antares III "in parallel". This means the hull, superstructure, teak deck and interior were all built simultaneously using in-house draughtsmen and super-accurate CAD-CAM programmes (to ensure all the components meshed seamlessly together when required).
Antares III was also built to stringent Germanischer Lloyd and MCA classification requirements. Cook says the use of composites means the vessel is both incredibly strong and yet 25-30 per cent lighter than a similar vessel built in aluminium.
In Antares' case, the composite structure features post cure epoxy E-glass, carbon and kevlar and high-strength foam-sandwich technology. The hull also has a kevlar outer skin for increased impact resistance.
The precision with which Antares III had been built was replicated at her launching, to project manager Patrick Yeoward's amazement.
Yeoward, the owner's representative who had been so impressed with Bliss just over a year before, found himself just as impressed again.
"When the weather turns and you can't see from one end of the boat to the other, you could be forgiven for thinking it is all going to go wrong.
"But no. With increasing wind and driving rain, that yacht was launched, on time. The rig stepped, on time. The boom loaded, on time. And moored up, on time.
"They say that things run like a Swiss watch, well that will have to be rephrased to a 'like a Yachting Developments launch'," said Yeoward.
With her sea trials now done and the owner holding the keys, the plan is for Antares III to take advantage of her "South Pacific build location".
Cruising is planned around the islands before she heads to her new home in the Northern Hemisphere.
There she will no doubt perform as another floating advertisement for the capability and "can do" attitude of both Yachting Developments and the New Zealand marine industry.
Displacement: 99.6 tonnes (lightship)
Sail area (upwind): 453 m2
(Reaching): 554 m2
(Downwind): 800 m2
Yachting Developments is a privately owned New Zealand company, headed by managing director Ian Cook. Founded 20 years ago, it now employs 140 staff.
The company has been based in the Hobsonville marine precinct for the past five years and has generated over $130 million of exports. It has also won numerous international superyacht awards for craft such as Bristolian, Bliss and Silvertip.
Projects under way include the major refit of iconic 40m J Boat, Endeavour, and the construction of a new Warwick-designed 30m sailing catamaran.By Mike Rose