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Yachts International - May 2003

Written by Jamie Welch

Auspicious Debut for a Semi-Custom Yacht - Yachts International, Reprint from May, 2003

Westport shipyard principals shy away from journalists and photographers and credit the yard's 427 workers for quietly building a 164-footer on spec while splashing three 130', three 112s and two-or-three 98s annually. That leads an inquisitive reporter to wonder if the shipyard has something to hide. With regard to Westport, that's precisely the case.

"We have a good recipe and we want to keep it a secret," says Westport President Daryl Wakefield. "I could half-jokingly use the example of Kentucky Fried Chicken, because nobody has ever stolen their recipe. I don't want to sound evasive but we have a system that works well and a lot of people are trying to copy it, which is fine, but we don't want to help them too much."

There's no need to summon the executives, quiz the long-tenured workforce or challenge the marketing reps at this Pacific Northwest builder: the boats do the talking for them. Take one of their boats out to sea and you'll know what I mean.

And prospered. Today the Pacific Northwest is in some ways the expanded Viareggio of the United States--a megayacht building hub unequaled on the continent. The Jack Sarin-designed, 98' Golden Delicious, which was launched in 1988, was the first to sport a Westport nameplate. For the past 15 years the yard has been improving the formula, growing its workforce and expanding facilities.

The Westport 98 was built at Westport's Hoquiam, Washington yard 20 minutes up the Chehalis River from the original shed. She's the little sister to the Greg Marshall designed 130' and 112', which Westport launched in 2000. After leasing the 50,000-square-foot shed the company hired Phil Beirnes, the previous owner of North-coast--a yard that had commissioned Westport as its hull builder since the 1980s. Beirnes had tired of the bean counting and politicking that shipyard execs are often saddled with, and the people at Westport were savvy enough to take this talented industry veteran and put him to work doing what he likes best--building boats.

In Miami last February, as Beirnes stood on the flybridge of the Westport 98, his matter-of-fact tone didn't diminish from his eyebrow-raising story of how, one year earlier, he was left with an empty boatyard, four primary molds and no workers. "I just had to go make it happen," he says calmly. "I went out and hired a crew and found the right people to do it."

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