Pedigree and Precision
Australian-made Palm Beach Motor Yachts have become a name synonymous with high-quality customised boats aimed at the seriously discerning owner, as a raft of awards can testify.
Among the Palm Beach 45’s accolades are several for Best New Powerboat at the prestigious Newport Boat Show, something that greatly pleases Australian owner and racing yachtsman Mark Richards. The America’s Cup veteran spent a lot of time in the US where this workboat-style sports cruiser is popular, so selling an Australian-designed and -made version back to the Americans brings a smile to the dark-haired Richards. “We get all kinds of customers, but they are people who really want quality,” Richards tells me as we sit on his newest model, the Palm Beach 45. The company has sold 90 boats during its 19 years in operation – a major achievement for this boy from the shores of Sydney. Growing up in the northern waterside suburbs with the names of Palm Beach and Newport, it’s hardly surprising the young Richards turned to the sea for a living.
Training as a shipwright then moving into the elite ranks of professional sailing brought success and plenty of trophies along with global experience. He founded Palm Beach Motor Yachts in 1995 on the picturesque tree-clad shores of northern Sydney. Like any small business start-up, it began as a low-key affair as Mark’s professional sailing commitments allowed, but by 1999 blossomed with the launch of the Palm Beach 38 and the establishment of a larger factory in Berkley Vale, an hour north of Sydney.
Building on this success, the popular PB 50 followed in 2002, along with an entry level 32 footer. The burgeoning American market dictated larger vessels so the 38 and 32 were discontinued as his team, which includes designer Andy Dovell, returned to the drawing board. Also on the drawing board at that time was a 98 foot super maxi named Wild Oats XI which kept Richards busy as owner Bob Oatley reached deep into his pockets in a bid to win the 2005 Rolex Sydney- Hobart Race, as Richards explains. “We are at the top end of yachting with Wild Oats and this level of expertise has filtered into Palm Beach motor boats – from the whole way of thinking down to the ultra-modern levels of construction used.”
Having sailed with Richards – I was aboard Wild Oats XI for her inaugural event, the 2005 Big Boat Race when we went head-to-head against the similar Reichel Pugh 98 design, Alfa Romeo – I saw first- hand his precise management style. Running a 98-foot supermaxi efficiently with 19 crew tests the very best; something this lean and well-tanned Sydney-sider continues to do with a smile, but he stresses it’s a team effort. “You can’t run a yacht like that without the very best people and that is the same with the 60 of us at Palm Beach motor boats.” The company has shipwrights, metal workers, carpenters, electricians, mechanics, laminaters, upholsteries and more – all the work is done in-house. With each boat built to the customer’s particular specifications, Richards and his team can provide whatever they want, right down to the propulsion system – which can be a traditional shaft drive or the more efficient POD drive.
To read all of this article pick up a copy of the 2014 Mar/Apr issue of Asia-Pacific Boating magazine, or buy it online from www.magzter.com