Alasdair Locke


On board Kathleen Anne with Alasdair Locke

Alasdair Locke tells Risa Merl about his enduring love for 39-metre Feadship Kathleen Anne, and the joys of owning his own distillery

Some yacht ownership love stories are passionate flings lasting a few years until it’s on to bigger and better boats; others stand the test of time. The story of Kathleen Anne and her owner Alasdair Locke is the latter: he’s stayed true to the 39-metre Feadship for nearly 15 years.

Even longer than his steadfast ownership of Kathleen Anne is his vast experience in the shipping and oil services sector. From his early career in investment banking to founding multiple oil-related companies, he has been a pioneer in his field for 50 years.

Accolades in his career include being named Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 1999 and Grampian Industrialist of the Year in 2001, and he received the International Business Achievement Award from the Scottish Business Achievement Awards Trust in 2007. In the longevity of both his career and yacht ownership, as well as his new venture producing Eight Lands organic vodka and gin at his distillery in Scotland, Locke seems to have enjoyed a reliable kind of success.

For a man who has built a career in shipping and spends his downtime relaxing on board his yacht, his roots are decidedly un-boaty. “My parents weren’t at all interested in boats,” says Locke. “But I have always liked the sea.”

ED HOLT - ALAMY The 39m tri-deck has a lot more space than Locke’s old boat yet fits into the best anchorages 

ED HOLT - ALAMY The 39m tri-deck has a lot more space than Locke’s old boat yet fits into the best anchorages 

His father was an officer in the British Army, a job that had his family stationed all around the world from the UK to Canada and Germany to Asia. When Alasdair was young, his family moved to Canada, travelling there by ocean liner. He remembers being in awe of the enormous ship and enjoying the transatlantic voyage.

While his family moved around the world, going as far as Singapore and Hong Kong, Locke went to boarding school in the UK and would visit his parents during school holidays. “I had a very happy childhood and it was very interesting going to these different places,” he says. “Now I’ve been living in the same place in Scotland for 30 years, which is certainly a change from my early life and early career.” Locke splits his time between here and his home in London.

After graduating from Oxford University with degrees in history and economics, Locke started out as a banker. In 1974, he began working at Citibank in London in a role that was related to shipping and oil services. After Citibank, he worked briefly for a specialist shipping merchant bank. “I realised it wasn’t really what I wanted to do,” says Locke. “I was always more interested in the business side of things than banking itself, and I wanted to work for myself.”

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Interiors are decorated in a mix of contrasting light and dark woods. Bannenberg & Rowell designed Kathleen Anne’s interiors

He founded his first business, the Abbot Group, while living in Singapore in 1990. “It’s what you would call a boutique investment bank these days, but it was all to do with putting together and investing in ships, rigs and things related to the shipping and offshore oil industry.”

Abbot Group was listed on the London Stock Exchange from 1995, and in 2008 it was sold (for a reported £906 million) to Turbo Alpha. In 2009, he sold his remaining interest in the group and stepped down from Abbot Group and on to his yacht Kathleen Anne, which was launched the same year.

“My wife persuaded me to go organic a long time ago – we’ve been an organic estate for more than 25 years”

But Kathleen Anne wasn’t his first Feadship. Previously, he owned the 30-metre La Masquerade (now La Mascarade), delivered by the Dutch builder in 1997, and purchased by Locke in 2001 on the brokerage market.

The yacht featured exterior design by Frits de Voogt and interiors by Terence Disdale. “[Feadship CEO] Henk de Vries told me it was the most expensive boat he built per metre at the time,” says Locke. “She was a beautiful little boat, but as the kids grew up and the family got bigger, it was too small for us, which is why we needed to build a bigger one.”

Of his long-time ownership of Kathleen Anne, Locke says it’s easy to stick with the same boat when you design your ideal yacht from the start. “We knew what we wanted and where we wanted to go,” he says of his brief for Kathleen Anne. “We wanted to use it as a floating holiday home, going around to different parts of the Med. We didn’t want an enormous boat because that would limit the places you can go.”

One of Locke’s favourite cruising grounds is Croatia, and, as he points out, if you have a 50- to 60-metre boat, it can be harder to get into interesting anchorages. He also didn’t want a large, impersonal set-up. “I don’t want too many crew – I like to know who my crew are,” he says. “We’ve had the same chief engineer since the boat was built, our current captain has been with us a long time and in 15 years we’ve only had three different chefs.”

Because it would be a family yacht, safety and seakeeping were of the utmost importance, and he found this reliability in the build pedigree at Feadship. Guido de Groot designed Kathleen Anne’s exterior. “We didn’t want an imitation classic – she had to be reasonably modern, but not futuristic,” says Locke.

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Croatia, Greece and Sicily (left) are favourite cruising destinations

To make her stand out from classics, they went with stainless steel instead of wood caprails, which are also easier for his crew to maintain. He chose Bannenberg & Rowell for the interiors. “I knew Dickie [Bannenberg], and I liked their style.” His brief to the UK-based design firm was for something comfortable and not too garish – it should be neither English country house nor blingy, Locke specified. The warm and welcoming interior is decorated in a mix of contrasting light and dark woods, white carpets and colourful soft goods for a bit of flair.

Locke and his wife, Kathleen, for whom the yacht is named, have been married 30 years. The couple and their family – blended by children from previous marriages and now with five grandchildren – have used Kathleen Anne liberally since her launch. Besides Croatia, their favourite destinations include Greece and Sicily. “The Aegean Islands in Greece are beautiful and you can go late in the season,” he says. “And I had never been to Sicily until a few years ago – we were bowled over by the islands off Sicily.”

In recent years, Locke has made Kathleen Anne available for select charters, only a handful per year, managed by Hill Robinson. He likes that it helps keep the crew fresh and that they are able to earn tips. “But it’s still very much run as a private boat with a few charters rather than a charter boat,” he says. “I’m reasonably fussy about who goes on.”



“We didn’t want an enormous boat because that would limit the places you can go”

Though Kathleen Anne has long-range capabilities, Locke doesn’t necessarily plan to put her sea legs to the test. “I don’t think we will ever take it much further than the Med,” he admits. An exception to this is the time he brought the yacht to the UK, and he says he also would love to take her to Norway one day to explore the fjords.

He’d also like to visit Patagonia, but with a charter yacht rather than Kathleen Anne. “We brought the boat to the UK one season and took her right up the Thames and cruised under Tower Bridge, which was fabulous,” he says. “We could just fit her into St Katharine Docks.”

After visiting London, Kathleen Anne travelled up to Scotland. The Hebrides are known for beaches that could be mistaken for the Caribbean, albeit with cooler seas, and it’s on one of these beaches that Locke’s family and his crew hosted a cricket game to be remembered. “We had an Australian first mate and chef at the time, and we had a picnic and played our own mini Ashes of England versus Australia,” he says with a laugh.

Locke owns a large estate of more than 2,400 hectares in the Scottish countryside, which has an organic livestock farm. “My wife persuaded me to go organic a very long time ago – we’ve been an organic estate for more than 25 years,” he says. About seven years ago, his stepson, Alex Christou, who is Kathleen’s eldest child, convinced Locke to make better use of the land. “He said ‘The estate doesn’t make money’ – he had a vision to make it sustainable,” says Locke. “I said I’d do it provided it would be a proper business.”

Despite being in the heart of whisky country, Locke and Christou made a conscious choice to do something different and make gin and vodka. It was also a practical decision. “Whisky you need to leave for nine years, and it’s so much more capital intensive, but with gin and vodka, you can sell it immediately,” he says.

And with that, Glenrinnes Distillery was born, producing Eight Lands gin and vodka, which are made using Scottish spring water and wholly organic ingredients. The distillery and its products are organic certified through the Scottish Organic Producers Association. Production started in 2019, which wasn’t the ideal time with the state of the world, but considering that, they’ve done exceptionally well: Eight Lands has won 27 awards so far.

V&A building, Dundee

HUFTON CROW The V&A Dundee, where Locke served as chair of fundraising 

HUFTON CROW The V&A Dundee, where Locke served as chair of fundraising 

Since selling Abbot Group, Locke has continued to stay busy in the oil and gas world. He became chairman of Hardy Oil & Gas in 2012, and he founded the Motor Fuel Group, the UK’s largest owner of petrol station forecourts, of which he serves as chairman. In 2017, he also became the non-executive chairman of the oil well decommissioning service Well-Safe Solutions and is the major shareholder.

Beyond his work life, he’s active in charities related to education, including the Access to Excellence programme established by Wadham College at the University of Oxford. The campaign works with schools to identify high-performing students who might need a financial leg-up. “Education is the best thing we can do for the next generation,” he says. Locke also served as chair of the fundraising committee for V&A Dundee, the museum’s first major site outside of London.

While Locke says he’s probably finished with starting big businesses, he thinks it would be “boring” to retire. His chairmanships, charitable work and Eight Lands business should keep him busy until that day comes. And in his spare time, he will keep cruising on board Kathleen Anne. “She’s been looked after extremely well and she does what we need,” says Locke. “So why change anything?”

Eight Lands cocktails to enjoy on board

Bottles of gin

Eight Lands co-founder Alex Christou shares two drinks to try using his brand’s gin and vodka


A delicious and luxurious style of champagne cocktail. The French 75 has many suggested origins, but it was made famous at Harry’s Bar in Paris in the 1920s. We thought we’d give Harry, who hailed from Dundee, a version using gin from his Scottish roots.


35ml Eight Lands Organic Gin;
15ml fresh lemon juice; 10ml sugar syrup Brut champagne

Stir gin, lemon juice and sugar syrup over ice to chill. Strain into a champagne coupe. Top with champagne and garnish with a lemon triangle.


Made famous in the late 1990s by Sex and the City, the Cosmopolitan hails back to the 1930s. Our version takes cues from recipes both old and new, showcasing the flavour and texture of a premium vodka with the right balance of citrus to complement.


40ml Eight Lands Organic Vodka; 10ml Grand Marnier; 10ml fresh lime juice; 10ml cranberry juice

Shake all ingredients over ice. Strain into chilled Nick & Nora cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime wedge.

Kathleen Anne is available for charter with Hill Robinson, hillrobinson.com

First published in the April 2024 issue of BOAT International. Get this magazine sent straight to your door, or subscribe and never miss an issue.