“Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives.”
~ William A. Foster
This is a difficult post for Linda and me to write. But events in the past few weeks together with the urging of many of our friends and clients (often one and the same) have forced the issue, starting with the William Foster quote above sent to us by one of our owners.
The two of us have spent over 50 years together, cruising more than 250,000 miles under sail and power. We have been designing and building boats for others for more than 40 years. During that time we have learned that there is no “perfect boat,” rather there are a series of tradeoffs that can be incorporated into the design to change the outcome. With the passage of years and ever-changing designs, we have sought the Holy Grail of cruising, the perfect blend of tradeoffs that optimize comfort and safety at sea together with life at anchor. This goal will likely never be fully met. The closest we have come is with our FPB series. We are consistently driven by the goal that every boat represents subtle but continuous improvement. We’ve succeeded because of our business model, modern communications, and something that is lacking throughout the marine industry: a love for the sea and thousands of hours evaluating, experimenting, and designing in the real world.
Wind Horse, the FPB prototype shown above, is anchored in Graciosa Bay in the Canary Islands with two of our sailing designs, Moonshadow and Interlude. Between them, these three yachts have accumulated more than 300,000 sea miles and four circumnavigations.
We know that we have disappointed many people by closing the FPB order book and retiring. We would have preferred that the business continue, but could not find a formula with which we felt comfortable lending our name. We have left a void in the market that others will try to fill. We wish them success. But when other designers and builders begin to use “FPB-like” in their sales pitch, the situation changes and we are duty bound to comment. This post is our response.
None of the design concept material of other companies we have reviewed to date shows an understanding of the difference between aesthetics and function. Said another way, while some boats may try to look like an FPB, they do not incorporate the critical mix of design features that give the FPBs their unique cruising performance paradigm. We have not shared our underlying design concepts with any other group. From a technical perspective this is probably impossible, since the parametric design spiral we use starts with our experience at sea, and every decision we make is colored by that. Thus, they are not “FPB-like” or an evolution of the FPB concept.
If you are thinking about a new build, let us offer a few words of advice about how to evaluate the yachts you are considering:
Be clear about what you want to do with the yacht, and the risk profile of the areas in which you may cruise.
Do a long passage, not just a short sea trial, aboard any type of boat you are seriously considering. Make sure that you experience at least force six but preferably a gale, both up and downwind.
Get to know some of the owners well enough so they will give you honest feedback (very few people will tell you what they really think, if it’s negative).
Assure yourself of the financial viability of the parties with whom you are dealing, and protect yourself legally to the extent possible. This is not an easy business. One only has to look at the recent demise of the Oyster Yacht company for an example. New buyers often get burned by promises that are not kept.
Be sure there is sufficient room for spares, consumables, toys, and bos’n’s gear.
And when possible, it is always better to buy a good used yacht than to take on the risks, costs, and often frustration of a new build.
This subject is covered in much greater detail in our Offshore Cruising Encyclopedia, Second Edition, pages 1043-1085 (download a free copy of Offshore Cruising Encyclopedia here).
Which brings us to a topic we are reluctant to discuss, yet feel ethically obligated to do so, since our silence could be taken as a sign of acknowledgment.
We’ve been contacted by a number of people in the last few days about a mailing regarding a new design offered by Todd Rickard. While we parted ways with Todd because of a disagreement over the FPB 78 design and specification, we still wish Todd all the best in his new endeavor. We do, however, need to clarify a few things:
1. Todd’s design is in no way a “continuation as well as a true progression” of the FPB Series. This Nigel Irens design represents Todd’s ideas, not ours. It is not remotely close to an FPB.
2. There are claims made about Todd’s involvement with the FPB program. He worked with us during the first 12 boats on marketing and as owner liaison. This spanned the FPB 64s and 97 FPB. To be completely accurate, he was not involved in any of our design aspects.
If you are interested in what we think of as our ultimate voyaging designs in the larger size ranges, take a close look at the FPB 78s and FPB 70s, five of which will soon be cruising, all having been purchased by prior FPB owners. These represent what a lifetime of voyaging, design, and building yachts all over the world has taught us and our owners– for the FPB 78 and 70 are very much a collaboration between us. And while they will no longer be built, they will provide you with a yardstick by which to judge others.
We will see you out there cruising.