I can’t imagine Bob Dylan had today’s boat industry in mind when he penned ‘The Times They Are A-Changin’ in 1964 but he might as well have done. Who’d have thought this time last year that Ferretti would be struggling to pay their monthly interest bills, Fairline and Princess would be laying off staff, and you’d be able to find a berth on the South Coast without joining a five-year waiting list? These are worrying times but in a strange way they are also exciting times as yards are forced to compete ever harder for their customers’ attention.
Take this month’s cover story, pitching a 43ft Sessa against a 44ft Windy. A decade ago this would have been a laughable comparison. At the time, Sessa were a competent but unassuming builder predominantly of small, mass-produced sportsfishers, while Windy were the acknowledged masters of beautifully built, rigorously engineered, premium priced sportscruisers. The result would have been a foregone conclusion – Windy obliterates Sessa. These days it’s anything but. In the space of a few short years Sessa have transformed their reputation from mainstream also-ran to one of the most progressive yards in Europe. A revolution that started with the C52 was fomented by the award-winning C46 and is now being cemented by the C43. Nor does it show any signs of abating. This year’s C65 looks set to be their most striking new sportscruiser yet, and on p18 you can see their plans for a whole new range of equally innovative flybridge yachts. No doubt Sessa are also feeling the pain of these leaner times but I’m convinced that it is new product like this that will help reinvigorate the market. Does this mean that Sessa’s new C43 has reversed the established order by beating the Windy Chinook into second place? Turn to p44 and find out for yourself.
As if that wasn’t surprise enough for one month, the British Quicksilver team are on course to attempt a new world water-speed record on Lake Coniston next year (p8). Given that they have been promising to have a crack at it for the best part of a decade, my immediate response was to look up at the sky for signs of low-flying Gloucester Old Spots. Then again, I did much the same when Richard Noble told me he was going to build a supersonic car capable of breaking the sound barrier. Ever heard of Thrust SSC? Thought so.