“How many builders does it take to build my new yacht?” It sounds like the beginning of a bad joke at a yachtie bar in St. Tropez, but for Brian Benjamin, this situation became an awful reality when the formerly famous Goetz Custom Yachts twice went into receivership during the construction of his new Rogers 82, Aegir II.
Benjamin picks up the story from there. “How the hell are we going to finish this yacht? We looked at the three sorts of options we had come up with at the time. The first was to pack it up and send it to New Zealand. It was in two bits at the time, so it wasn’t that easy. We could send it to Italy, or we could start a boat company and finish it here. So for better or worse, richer or poorer, we chose the third one.” Only a true anarchist would attempt to [re-] start a boat building business that had failed twice in the middle of a global economic recession. “I was advised by everyone that no matter what situation I got myself into, do not buy or start a boat building company. So yeah, obviously I didn’t take much notice there.” Benjamin continued.
From there, Carbon Ocean Yachts was created with managing partner David Lake and Britt Colombo joining forces with several former Goetz employees to first finish Aegir II, then attempt to break into the world of Med style fast cruisers. “It’s our view today that lots of people want to cruise fast, they just don’t have a vehicle to do it in yet. So it’s basically building a high technology boat with a superyacht interior. Everybody thought we were a little bit crazy when we started, but we hope they’ll be suitably impressed.”
Impressive is certainly the thought that comes to mind as you approach the yacht on the Quay. Painted in the same silver metallic paint used by Ferrari, Aegir II is easy to find in the now nearly empty dock space at Hinckley Marine in Newport. With a drop dead date of December 5 to leave for the Caribbean fast approaching, boat builders, sail makers, and the racing crew are buzzing about the boat in preparation for the first sail in racing trim.
I arrive just in time to start loading the sails. Make no mistake; though this may be a fast cruiser, the Hall spar painted in the same silver metallic as the rest of the yacht carries an ample sailplan. The A2 kite takes two people to carry down to the dock. That felt light compared to the Cuben Fiber Code 0 that takes five good-sized crew to haul down. Moving the sails will end up being the most physically demanding portion of the day. Once underway, all of the sail handling systems on the boat are hydraulic. The mainsheet is controlled by a joystick driving a large Lewmar captive winch. Other controls, such as traveler, vang, outhaul and Cunningham are driven by pushbutton from a panel near the helm station.
The primary winches have two foot pedals for clockwise and anti-clockwise control (Lewmar does not make an auto shifting hydraulic winch), and buttons for jib tack and car position. With all of the sail controls hydraulically operated, the deck is amazingly clean, making the light color teak decks look larger much larger than they actually are.
As a proud member of the international grinders union, this is the first time I’ve ever sailed a pushbutton yacht. The crew of 20 is mostly there to move sails around, take them down, and hike hard. The hardest part of tacking the boat is finding a good dry spot on the new rail! Sailing upwind in about 12 knots of breeze, Aegir II was close to her target speed of 9.5 knots.
After a few tacks to check the hydraulic systems, a long beat down the Bay was in order to give us some room to go fast under spinnaker. Simon Rogers, the yacht’s designer was all smiles as she sailed effortlessly under the Pell Bridge, while owner Brian Benjamin wore the look of relief, with this three-year saga finally coming to an end.
Soon Aegir II will begin her racing career in the Caribbean 600, followed by the St. Martin Heineken Regatta. With a preliminary IRC rating of 1.525, hopes are that she will be more than just a contender. “With high performance cars, there are magazines that test them head on and the results are there for all to see. With boats, each one gets built, and the magazines all say she’s great, but nobody wants to test head to head. I’d like to take our boat, a Wally, and a few others and give them to journalists to try out for a week each to see who is really the best.” Benjamin said. With the main competition for this boat seen to be the Not Wally 82, Highland Fling, Benjamin, Rogers, and crew know they have a steep learning curve to climb in a short period of time. “In the end, though, if we never win any races, I’m just happy to have a fast cruising boat.” Benjamin waxes philosophically. Surprised, I asked “So you’ll really see this as a success if you never win a race?” “Hell no!” was the reply with a quick wink.
Additional photos here. – Mr. Rayno.