Made in England: why the world's best superyachts are being crafted in the UK

By Dominique Afacan | 11 Jun 2018 | Wealth, Speed

While the UK may appear an unlikely hub for superyachts, Tempus explores why the industry is booming here at home

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* The superyacht market is booming like never before here in UK, employing almost 5,000 people and last year generating a whopping £615m in turnover. [Image credit: Pendennis shipyard]

While Britain may not be the first place that springs to mind when we picture superyachts and sailing holidays, here’s the thing – while the notoriously rainy country may not boast the best climate or cruising grounds, it builds yachts like they’re going out of fashion. And they’re quite good at it, as it turns out. The UK superyacht market employs almost 5,000 people and last year created a whopping £615m in turnover.

Anthony Sheriff, CEO of Plymouth-based Princess Yachts, thinks England’s naval history might have something do with it. “Our 30m yachts are built on the same patch of land where Sir Francis Drake took the British naval fleet off to conquer the Spanish and the French,” he says. “The mock-ups of our boats are built in the ropery that was used by the British Navy. So even our day-to-day business of making new and innovative boats is steeped in the past. We can’t turn left or right without running into our naval history.” Princess now has a pretty powerful fleet of its own; it expects to build nearly 300 yachts this year alone – and it’s also set to release a sexy new line of high-speed all-carbon-fibre boats developed in collaboration with BAR Technologies – part of the British team in the America’s Cup.

Down the road in Poole lies Sunseeker. Once famed for its compact and speedy performance boats, its yachts have been steadily growing in length in recent years, responding to an audience for whom size matters more and more. Formula 1 star Eddie Jordan is one of the company’s high profile repeat owners who sold his beloved Sunseeker Blush last year. The 47m yacht has room for 12 guests and 10 crew as well as a spa pool, fold-down balconies and floor-to-ceiling windows. It’s perhaps the perfect show boat to demonstrate the potential of this British brand, which will be sponsoring the Fifa World Cup in Russia later this year.

Related: The winners of the World Superyacht Awards have been revealed

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* Cornwall-based shipbuilders Pendennis is currently celebrating its 30th anniversary and this spring is set to launch a 42m sailing yacht. It’s also busy refitting a 1915 classic schooner titled Mariette. 

And it’s not just fancy motoryachts that the UK is good a making – its top manufacturers can do mammoth sailing yachts, too. Just ask Pendennis, the Cornwall-based shipbuilders currently celebrating its 30th anniversary. This spring, the company will launch a 42m sailing yacht – it’s also busy refitting a 1915 classic schooner, Mariette. Mike Carr, the company’s CEO, believes Britain’s success owes much to superior craftsmanship. “British craftsmanship and design is at the forefront of our industry, being recognised on a global level,” he says.

Interestingly, many of the world’s most celebrated craftsmen, yacht designers and naval architects are based in Britain, too. There’s Bannenberg & Rowell, responsible for the pale timber and carbon fibre interior of 65m Galactica Star and the slick exteriors of 70m Feadship, Joy. There’s Tim Heywood, a veritable celebrity in the superyachting world, responsible for the elegant lines of 115m Pelorus. And of course, there’s Andrew Winch, who designs jets and houses alongside groundbreaking superyachts such as Cloud 9. The list goes on.

While many of the key designers are based in or around London, the shipbuilders tend to gather along the South Coast. Carr believes the location of Pendennis in Falmouth could actually be a draw for the company’s high net worth clients. “This beautiful corner of England can provide anonymity and relaxation,” he says. “The high standards of luxury accommodation supported by Michelin starred or award-winning local restaurants mean that we are more than able to cater to the expectations of discerning superyacht owners.”

Read the full article inside the latest issue of Tempus Magazine, out now