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ShowBoats International - March 2012 - Black Gold

Written by Louisa Beckett

Yachts International - Westport 112

Representing an evolution of a classic: The Westport 112's new alternative layout adds a fifth stateroom and international appeal to this proven yacht.

In the tumultuous superyacht world with high-profile custom yacht launches, changes of ownership, corporate reorganizations, occasional receiverships and triumphant revivals, it seems like Westport gets lost. This privately held Pacific Northwest shipyard has quietly operated by the same principles for 47 years: Develop a series of successful yacht designs, blueprint them, spec them out fully with high quality equipment and build them in fiberglass, quickly, on time and on budget. Change orders, which can slow down the construction process and add to the yacht's price, are frankly discouraged.

"We are fortunate that we have some great clients who trust our better judgment," says Westport Vice President Phil Purcell. "We take the guesswork out of it. It's all about predictability — it's an aviation industry model."

Nevertheless, behind the scenes, Westport is continually evolving its five-yacht series (which ranges from 85 to 164 feet) to adapt to changing marketing demands. "We're always making little tweaks," says Purcell.

The Westport 112 Raised Pilothouse Motoryacht is a case in point. To date, the shipyard has launched more than 50 hulls in this series since it was introduced in 1994, currently building three a year — proof enough that the model is a huge success.

Several years ago, Westport designer Taylor Olson made a subtle alteration to the yacht's transom, reducing both its curviness and rake, and subsequently picked up more usable volume and an additional berth in the aft crew quarters. The first Westport 112 to have the new styling was hull #7741m which launched in 2010. Purcell and his team were pleased enough with the new transom to make it standard for all future 112s.

The 2011 Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show saw the world debut of a much bigger design change for the Westport 112: the on-deck master version. This new interior layout, offering an alternative to the main-deck "country kitchen" galley with an on-deck master stateroom forward, was designed in-house by Westoprt with the goal of expanding the yacht's market to the international community. "Americans like the big country kitchen. Europeans and Middle Easterners like to have more separation between owners and crew," Purcell explains. In addition, the new arrangement will appeal to older baby boomers who don't want to have to negotiate stairs to get to a stateroom on the lower deck.

The first Westport 112 to feature the on-deck master, hull #7741, was launched back in 2010, but it was snapped up by a Middle Eastern owner sight unseen. That's why it wasn't until October 2011 that the Westport 112 On-Deck Master was formally introduced, in hull #7744. The verdict was almost instantaneous: The first day of the Fort Lauderdale boat show, experience owner Troy Ducharme, whose previous boats included three Pacific Mariners (a brand now owned by Westport), walked on board the yacht and bought it. But he kept the purchase a secret and, later in the day bought his wife back to surprise her with her new toy.

Ironically, considering the international intent of the design change, hull #7744's new owners, who have christened their boat Black Gold, are Americans. But Ducharme confirmed that he prefers the on-deck master configuration to the country kitchen layout, which bodes well for future sales in the U.S. as well as overseas.

Black Gold's new master suite is both timeless and elegant, thanks to the artistry of Westport interior designers Amy Halfman and Theresa Francis and the craftsmanship of stonework guru Jeff Homchick. The entry lies at the end of a port-side corridor leading forward from the salon and dining area. Raising the stateroom a level from the traditional layout allows for large, frameless windows that offer better views. Warm sapele woodwork and furnishings, all built in-house by Westport, frame the California-king berth. There is an impressive amount of drawer storage for a yacht of this size, as well as a corner office desk.

The master bath is a few steps down, replacing the traditional layout's VIP stateroom in the forepeak. While this bathroom is not his-and-hers, it appears to be even larger than the original, incorporating a stunning onyx double shower, two sinks and a walk-in wardrobe. Despite the old VIP stateroom's removal, the new layout has five staterooms to the traditional 112's four. This seeming magician's trick sent us back to take a closer look at the two versions' arrangements. The answer was clear: The space occupied by the full-beam lower-deck master suite in the original yacht has been neatly divided into a queen berth stateroom (the new VIP) and a good —size bunkroom, each with en suite bath. Aft are mirror-image twin staterooms, but Westport agreed to convert them to queen berths at Ducharme's request.

The only sacrifice made by the new layout appears to be in galley space. Black Gold's galley is still located on the main deck, but it occupies less than half of the space of the original 112's country kitchen. Still, it has all the equipment a chef needs to cook culinary masterpieces, including full-size appliances like a 48-inch Sub Zero refrigerator/freezer and Dacor range with convection oven. What is really missing here is the dinette and entertaining space, which is not to ever owner's (and yacht chef's) taste. For those owners who do enjoy cooking aboard in the company of family and friends, Westport still offers the original layout.

In addition to the on-deck master, Black Gold is a showcase for everything that has made the Westport 112 successful for nearly two decades: a well-laid out engine room, a main-deck utility space that houses a pantry, a laundry room, a wine cooler and an A/V closet, a huge flybridge with Jacuzzi and a panoramic pilothouse. It is amazing well equipped and truly turnkey, right down to the Wedgewood china nestled in dedicated cut-outs in the buffet drawers. "I didn't have to buy anything but the food," says Ducharme. Not all the equipment on board is the most expensive on the market, but, as Purcell points out, that is not the yard's objective. "Our intent is to deliver the most proven," he says.

What drew Ducharme back to Westport is the builder's excellent after sales service. "If there's something wrong with the boat (covered by warranty), they always fix it and never send you a bill," he says.