The UK has seen the sixth consecutive year growth in revenue for the superyacht industry. The fall in the pound has helped, though a third of superyacht owners are actually based in the UK, the exchange rate means there is much more bang for your buck. Whilst there has been a rise in new build this year, the biggest growth has been in refit. The trend for restoring luxury items that people become emotionally connected to seems to have migrated into the superyacht industry. Owners are now looking at rebuilding, refitting or restoring their superyachts rather than trading up and this has the advantage of retaining the memories formed travelling across the seas, in these luxury floating palaces.
We went to talk with the experts at Pendennis to learn more about this luxury trend. The Pendennis Shipyard stands proudly on an outcrop of land that juts out from Falmouth, down in Cornwall. A very pretty part of the world, with great views, particularly from the Greenbank Hotel where we stayed. Our drive down from Surrey in the Alfa Romeo Giulia had been a delight, as once you get past Stonehenge, it’s all rolling hills and picturesque valleys. Pendennis Castle is just down the road, on the tip of this isthmus, and the bay itself reaches up into Harbour Village. Pendennis are also celebrating their 30th anniversary this year.
Pendennis Shipyard was started in 1988 by the well known yachting businessman Peter de Savary and has bucked the trend affecting most British shipyards by both succeeding financially and expanding their facilities dramatically in 2015, adding an enclosed 7,564 m² non tidal wet basin, part of a £22 million investment in the premises. They are the British leaders in bespoke superyacht refit and custom build, with the ability to undertake sail and motor yacht projects on boats up to 100 metres. In fact their accolades are impressive, winning best refit at the Boat International World Superyacht Awards and best refit at the International Superyacht Society Awards in 2017.
I met with Mike Carr, joint managing director, a naval architect who joined Pendennis in 1989. His knowledge of the superyacht industry is encyclopaedic and he is very proud of their track record for completing very complex projects and their award-winning apprenticeship scheme, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. Since 1998 they have trained over 220 apprentices and boast a 90% retention rate following graduation.
The tour of the shipyard was fascinating, moving from one enormous hangar to another, housing some of the most incredible sailing and motor yachts ever built. It’s one thing to see these ships in the water, but quite another to walk around them suspended in the air, admiring the entire hull and exquisite lines. Each hangar is a clean room, with its own air filter to ensure that any painting or varnishing is immaculate and dust free. A feat in itself when you think of all the carpentry, fibreglass and sanding that is required, all performed manually by skilled artisans. They even paint every yacht by hand, this is bespoke craftsmanship on a monumental scale.
They were asked to elongate one ship so that water toys could be stored at the back, rather than at the front where they had to be carefully manoeuvred to the stern each time they wanted to use them. This required cutting the ship in half and adding a new five metre segment, reshaping the hull, the deck and the cabin accordingly. I’m not sure if I can think of a better example of bespoke remodelling than this. The skills, knowledge and time required were impressive to say the least and the yacht looked immaculate sitting up there on the dry dock above me.
Weirdly enough Pendennis also built the Lords Cricket Ground media pod, constructed in Falmouth then dismantled and reassembled at Lords. It was even awarded the 1999 Stirling Prize, by the Royal Institute of British Architects. Last year they refitted the Mariette, a 1915, 42 m classic twin master schooner, its fourth refit in 7 years at Pendennis, and restored the 1950s 33 m Benetti ‘Odyssey III’. The year before they completed a year’s refit on the motor yacht Aquila, the largest privately owned yacht refitted in the UK, revitalising all five deck levels. The average size yacht in the yard in 2017 was 55 m, that’s just over 180 feet, these are big boats.
The shipyard was akin to a museum of superyachts, with numerous examples of different yacht styles, from sailing to motorised. In 2009 Pendennis presented a new build, Steel, a 55.02 m luxury yacht, with the interior design created by Liebowitz & Pritchard and they are now turning their attention to creating more new bespoke builds to fill the gaps in between seasons. It is currently for sale at around €27.5 million and available to view in Falmouth. Pendennis have refitted superyachts such as Constance, Aquila, Lionheart, Lady K, White Star, and remodelled (redesign of the hull and superstructure) the Audacia, Adela, Illusion, and the M5. They have also rebuilt (rebuilding the vessel from hull up) A2 and Malahne. Restoration projects include Shamrock V (J-Class yacht), Malahne, Dona Amelia, Fair Lady, Adela, Heavenly Daze, and Odyssey III, stripping back years of wear to reveal their inner beauty, whilst retaining the original character and heritage.
They have many British clients, but around 35% are American, so this British shipyard is highly regarded all over the world, in a competitive market. They pride themselves on looking after the yacht owners and crew too, providing a secluded base from which to relax and enjoy the best this beautiful corner of England provides. They will also organise accommodation and concierge service for crews to make the experience a luxurious home from home. There is even a private onsite helicopter pad, though it was the travel hoist that most impressed me, able to lift 640 tonnes.
Mike Carr shared his profit margin with me and there is no room for error. Pendennis survives by providing an extraordinary service, with world leading computer aided design, exterior and interior outfitters, joiners, engineering, craftsmanship, superior knowledge and skills at competitive prices. No wonder they have such a high customer retention and return rate. They also have Pendennis Palma, started in 2011, servicing yachts in the Mediterranean, with access to a facility that provides 70,000 m² ground surface, 35,000 m² surface mooring, 6 pits for deep draft sailboats, a 5,000 m² workshop, a high flow gas station and 5 travel lifts. The future seems rosy for them too, they are looking to invest even further in new technology, such as innovative new scanning equipment to speed up their processes.
Pendennis and the superyachts that emerge from their yard are a tribute to the people that work there, it is a luxury niche brand that shares a passion for craftsmanship with a love of quality and detail. The collection of yachts before me were testament to the extraordinary and unique market position that Pendennis occupy. A company that brings together so many historical trade skills in ship building, refitting and restoring based in such an advantageous location down in Cornwall. They are trusted and respected by the largest and most luxurious superyacht owners in the world and have earned their reputation as the first port of call for skilled refits.
They have many new projects in the pipeline, including both prestigious sailing yachts and motor yachts and it will be fascinating to see just what new and seemingly impossible tasks they will be asked to undertake next.
Take a look at their site to see some of the incredible superyachts in their portfolio.